We are indeed, saved all and entirely by the sovereign grace, by His relentless grace alone. Charles Spurgeon who was known as the Prince of Preachers from England said once, “We see a golden thread of grace moving through the whole of the Christian’s history, from his election before all worlds, even to his admission to the heavenly rest”
The book of Jonah portrays this from the Old Testament perspective. Too often, Jonah is viewed by many only as a children’s story of the storm, the big fish, and the city’s revival that took place many years ago.
Even in the city of Nineveh, which was a place of utter hopelessness, His relentless grace is shown.
As Jonah 2:9 puts it well, “But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!”
Not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his sovereign good pleasure. Our only hope today is to turn to God’s mercy and to be spiritually transformed by his sovereign power.
1. Protesting: Running Away from God.
Jonah is identified as “the son of Amittai.” He was from Gath Hepher, which was about three miles north of Nazareth. Jonah was a well-known and well-respected prophet. He will be a modern-day celebrity preacher.
Then, God commissioned Jonah to prophesy to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. What does Jonah do? He disobeys.
God wanted to reveal His relentless grace to lost and needy people, and Jonah wanted no part of it! Jonah feared God’s compassion would spare the Ninevites on their repentance.
Verse 9, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” He is trying to run from God by going into the sea and leaving the dry land, the one who made it all? How absurd! No one can run from God as He is sovereign over all things.
Jonah is a hot mess. But don’t be too quick to judge. Think about your own life. Who hasn’t run from God? We are all Jonah. Jonah is not an anomaly. He’s the norm.
The good news today is this; No one is outside the need of God’s grace. Though our sin is uglier than we can ever imagine, and his grace is greater than we can ever hope for. Our sin there are many, but his grace is even more.
2. Praying: In Desperate Cry for Grace.
What happens to Jonah? The fish swallows up Jonah. Christ himself singled out and appealed to the historicity of Jonah being swallowed up (Matt 12:39-41).
How long was Jonah, “in the belly of the fish.” (Jonah 1:17)? As the verse later explains, “Three days and three nights” which points to the historical nature of Christ’s own burial and resurrection!
Now, this seems as though a judgment from God, His relentless grace even in this act. The fish became the way to preserve Jonah for the future ministry God had for him.
Charles Spurgeon said it this way, “The Lord’s mercy often rides to the door of our heart upon the black horse of affliction.” Sometimes God has to shake us to awaken us.
What does Jonah do? In his last moments, he remembered God and prayed to him. Jonah clings in desperation to the grace of God.
Much like Jonah, we as Christians are to place our trust in the sovereign goodness of God in suffering.
The grace of God in our lives is the most precious thing we can cling to.
As the hymn, “Grace Greater than Our Sin” puts it very well,
Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
3. Preaching: The God of Second Chance.
Verse 1 says, “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,” Remember, this phrase appears twice in the book, here and at the beginning of chapter 3. The Lord simply repeated his command.
The last time Jonah had heard the word of the Lord, he got up and made a run for it, in the opposite direction. This time he obeys.
If you want to sum up the theme question for Jonah is this, “What is likely to happen when people repent.”
Verse 4, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” What? Is that all you got? In Hebrew, the message was only five words long.
Jonah’s message is purely negative and unconditional. Jonah had just experienced the relentless grace and goodness of God in his own life and turned around and gives a graceless message of God after experiencing the grace of God.
Our God is a miracle-working God! Do you believe that?
The Ninevites believed God and responded! The Assyrians responded to the message with genuine repentance. “God saw their actions” He forgave them and withheld His judgment.
God’s offer of grace extends to all races in all places. You and I can never outrun the grasp of His infinite, glorious, relentless grace.
4. Pouting: The Sovereign Compassion of God.
After a triumphant revival took place in the previous chapter, you would expect to see the same or even greater things come afterward!
Well, that is not the case here. What pleased God displeased Jonah. Jonah hated what God had done.
In this prayer, we find a reversion to the “old Jonah” who ran away from God. If his prayer in chapter 2 had expressed a desire for life, his prayer in chapter 4 Jonah asked for his life to be ended.
Not once, but twice he expresses this preference for death rather than life in verse 3 and verses 8!
Jonah sank into a selfish state of mind. Why is Jonah so depressed? Nineveh’s redemption had depressed him. Bad theology can lead to despair.
The book of Jonah ends abruptly with these words. And there is no mention of Jonah, whether he returned home or remained in Nineveh.
At the core of the book is summed up in God’s question. The issue is that of His relentless grace and kindness. God longs for the salvation of His creation rather than the damnation of their souls.
The Grace of God Lavished Over Our Souls
So, what is the story of Jonah about? God is willing to do whatever it takes to bring us back to Him. That is why He sent his Son begotten Son Jesus to purchase us by His blood.
The story of Jonah has many lessons in and of itself, but the bigger story it points to is the story of Jesus.
By God sending his only begotten Son Jesus Christ, he has saved us from all consequences, and in its result, he has brought us to a vital relationship with himself. Salvation is then deliverance, preservation, from any danger.
There’s nothing that will save us from such eternal punishment except a saving faith in Christ by the grace of Almighty. By His wound, he reconciled to man. By his resurrecting power, he came out triumphantly and strong.
So, what are you doing with this great message as stewards of the gospel? We must share this relentless grace of God to the nations.
Like God’s sovereign compassion he had for lost people, we must love those people who are hard to love. And we must give the greatest gift of all, the love of Jesus found in the gospel!
As Paul Washer said it well, “You are a steward of every moment. Choose wisely what you do today.” For only one life, twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last. Attempt great things for God and expect great things from God.
May we be found faithful. Not running from God like Jonah. Let us stay on the course, focus on the task that is set before us. Let us not waste our lives.