On Jan 25, 2015, pastor John preached from Jonah 4:1-11, God’s Compassion for the Lost. Continuing mini-series on core values: today it’s devoted to the city: we’re whole-heartedly committed to the people where God has placed us to love and serve. In our text, we see that the heart of this devotion to the city is the compassion that God has for the lost. Compassion is a deep-seated feeling of love, pity, sorrow and sympathy for others that moves you to bring about the best circumstances in their lives. God does this for us in Christ: He bears our griefs/carries our sorrows to reconcile us to God through faith in Christ. And His compassion is directed to the undeserving. So, when Nineveh repented, God showed them mercy which angered Jonah. God has compassion for sinners, and wants us to bring His Word to the lost not to condemn, but that they might escape judgment. Main idea of the text: God call us to share His compassion for the lost by sharing His Gospel with them. 3 points:
1. Jonah’s objection to God’s compassion
a. v. 1 - Jonah angry because God has mercy on Nineveh; this is why he refused to go to Nineveh: he knew God was a compassionate God who relents concerning calamity. This is a liturgical formula found in places like Ex 34:6-7. That passage goes on to say that this God of mercy will also by no means clear the guilty! God: perfect justice and mercy.
b. Jonah is angry because he is asked to preach to one of the great enemies of Israel, the brutal the Assyrian Empire, who had oppressed Israel. To Jonah, they don’t deserve mercy:
1) Jonah has a wrong attitude about mercy. Mercy is not giving people what they deserve. Dig deeper: Wouldn’t we feel the same if God showed mercy to someone who oppressed our family, friends, etc.? To understand mercy, we must look at the cross of Christ, where perfect divine justice and perfect divine mercy meet. The justice we deserved is laid on Christ so that we can get what we don’t deserve: forgiveness of sins, everlasting life.
2) Jonah has a wrong attitude about sin. He minimizes, rationalizes and justifies his sin, and magnifies the sin of others, and blames God for his disobedience: Dig deeper: Jonah was a holier than thou hypocrite. Are we like that sometimes? We must call sin “sin,” and call people to repentance, but with gentleness and respect (see 1 Pet 3:15)
c. Dig deeper: we are Jonah: We extend mercy to those that we think deserve it. We minimize and rationalize our own sin and magnify the sin of others. This prevent us from understanding and sharing God’s compassion. But God in His grace determines to teach us:
2. God’s object lesson about His compassion
a. Jonah leaves city, and builds shelter for himself, wanting God to destroy Nineveh. But in vv. 6-9 God shows compassion to Jonah yet again. The shelter he built––the work of his hands–was insufficient (didn’t have a roof). God provides sufficient shelter in the form of the plant to shield Jonah from fiery sun. Dig deeper: the work of our hands insufficient to shield us from fiery judgment of God. Just as He provided a large vine to shield Jonah, so He provides Christ, the true vine, to cover us from judgment through His shed blood on the cross.
b. But in v. 7 God appoints a worm that attacks the plant/it withers, then He appoints a scorching east wind and the sun beats down on Jonah’s head. Jonah begs to die! Lessons:
1) God has mercy on whom He will. We just go, and He takes care of the mercy.
2) God’s absolute sovereignty. He appoints a plant, a worm, an east wind. Dig deeper: God’s sovereignty comforts us and gives us confidence in the mission He sends us on.
3) v. 10 - Jonah more concerned about a plant and his comfort than thousands of people falling into fiery judgment. Dig deeper: Are we more concerned about our comfort than the lost? The root is an attitude of self-centeredness—absorbed with our self-interest at the expense of others. Keller: “…self-centeredness… is at the root of the breakdown in relationships between nations, races, and classes, and individuals.” And he goes on to note that Jesus invites us to “begin centering everything in your life on Him, even as He has given himself for you.” His compassion will then be born in our hearts and move to touch others with it. (see 2 Cor 5:14-21)
3. We must share God’s compassion for the city
a. In vv. 10-11, If God has such compassion, and has extended such compassion to us, how can we not extend His compassion to others?
b. How do share God’s compassion w/lost?
1) Recognize this is God’s compassion, not ours. We don’t possess this kind of compassion in and of ourselves. Dig deeper: pray that God gives us His heart of compassion.
2) Recognize that you are just as much in need of God’s mercy as others. Jonah failed to understand that he was no better than the people of Nineveh.
3. Recognize just how high the eternal stakes are. People all around us may be “good” people, but if they don’t know Christ, they are headed for eternal doom. Our hearts must break for them! Spurgeon speaks of why we must be compassionate to the lost: “…what calamity under heaven can be equal to the ruin of a soul? What misery can be equal to that of a man cast away from God, and subject to his wrath world without end!...”
4. The BLESS initiative, a good way to put compassion in action.
- B- Begin with prayer. Ask God how to bless people around you.
- L- Listen. Don’t talk, but listen to people, their struggles, their pains. To do that, you need to make yourself known to people!
- E- Eat. Invite folks to lunch, dinner, coffee. It helps build relationships.
- S- Serve. If you listen and eat with people they will tell you how to love them and you’ll know how to serve them.
- S- Story. At right time, share the story of how Jesus changed our life.
c. Dig deeper: that all sounds great, but, as one source puts it, “engaging in compassionate service is hard…[it] implies establishing relationships with people who are needy, flawed, and disappointing—just like you, just like me. Ministering to the needs of others isn’t glamorous; usually it’s an expensive, time-consuming, exhausting, emotionally draining, and, many times, thankless endeavor, not to mention sometimes frightening and dangerous. The Lord Jesus never said that Christians should love their neighbor as themselves only insofar as they could stay safe, comfortable, and detached. Many Christians today, especially in the West, need to be stirred from their “cocoons…”
Conclusion: We’re devoted the city because God is devoted to the city—God loves broken people ! He calls us now to share His compassion—His deep-seated feeling of love, pity, and sympathy for the lost in such a way that it moves us to bring the Gospel to them. Let us turn to Christ, renounce our sin. Pray He work in us His compassion for others so that they would know that we genuinely love them, and because we love them, we want to share with them the greatest good news of what God has done in Christ for them.