10th Sunday after Pentecost
August 2, 2015
“See Jonah Pout”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. This morning is the final sermon in my four week sermon series on Jonah. The first week was entitled “See Jonah Pass.” The second week the sermon was “See Jonah Pray.” Last week’s sermon was called “See Jonah Preach.” Today’ sermon, based on our First Lesson, is entitled “See Jonah Pout.”
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
In 1921, David and Lisa Flood answered God’s call to the African mission field. The Floods arrived in the Belgian Congo and hacked their way into the country’s interior. But not a single village would allow them to enter. The natives told them their gods would be offended if they allowed white people into their villages. But the Floods weren’t ready to give up. What can I say? God is good! They still wanted to reach the locals. Besides, Lisa couldn’t travel because she was pregnant, and her malaria, which she had caught not long after arrival, was getting worse. During this time she kept talking about Jesus to a little local boy who came to see her who was fascinated with her increasingly distended belly. The boy was the Floods’ only “convert.” A few days after giving birth to a baby girl, Lisa Flood died, and David buried her in the Congo jungle.
Understandably, David’s heart filled with bitterness. Why did God allow this to happen? Lisa…dead at 27! How could he take care of a baby in the Congo jungle? All they had to show for more than a year in the wilderness was a boy who probably didn’t understand anything they’d tried to teach him. So David cried, “You’ve failed me, God. What a waste of life!” David Flood gave his baby girl to another missionary couple and sailed home. With every passing day his resentment deepened. He began drinking heavily. Great start to a sermon, right?
Sadly, David Flood epitomizes many unchurched or dechurched Christians today. They’ve been disappointed and hurt and now they’re angry with God (easy target)…just like Jonah. Like David Flood, Jonah received a missionary call from God. His call was to go to Nineveh, and he finally arrived by way of the belly of a great fish. In Nineveh, Jonah preached his message, the people miraculously repented – what can I say? God is good! – and then Jonah left as soon as he could. He was happy to be done and out of there.
God not wiping out the Ninevites so greatly displeased Jonah that, like David Flood, he became downright angry with God! He resented God for using him to help Israel’s enemies. Why would God ever use him for such a purpose? It didn’t make sense to Jonah – just as life didn’t make sense to David Flood – just as life doesn’t make sense to us sometimes. Jonah’s attitude got so bad that in his pouting he pleaded with God, saying, “LORD, it is better for me to die than to live” (v 3). Whoa.
Have you ever been angry like that with God? Have you ever pouted and then resented Him because life hasn’t gone the way you expected? Are you, a family member or friend holding a grudge against the Lord because you think He doesn’t care about your life or your problems? Sound like someone you know?
The prophet Jonah hoped the Lord would destroy Nineveh. He left the city and sat on a hill from which he could see what God might do next. He even made little shelter to protect himself from the sun. At this point, ironically God didn’t work over Nineveh, but instead He went to work on Jonah. Jonah hated Nineveh; they were his enemy, but in reality Jonah was his own worst enemy. The main problem in the book of Jonah is Jonah!
First, God provided a huge vine to give him shade to ease his discomfort. What can I say…God is good! God desired to show compassion and mercy to Jonah through that vine, just as God wanted to show mercy to Nineveh. That’s the heart of God! He cares for us even when we pout and harbor anger and resentment toward Him in our hearts!
Then, “at dawn the next day God appointed a worm, that attacked the plant so that it withered” (v 7). Now, why did Jonah get so upset when God had the vine destroyed? It was because that plant took care of him! It was of use to him! Jonah’s problem from 1:1 to 4:11was that he never thought of anybody but himself! Jonah was downright, thoroughly, sinfully selfish. Lots of us struggle with Jonah’s problem, don’t we?
But not God. He cared so much for Jonah, for Nineveh, for you, and for the whole world that eight centuries later his Son, Jesus, climbed a hill outside another great city, Jerusalem. There, God allowed His own Son to be nailed to a cross. That day something far more precious than a plant died. On the cross our Savior willingly gave His life in the ultimate act: ultimate unselfishness, sacrifice, love, life. And even when we pout and are selfish and angry with God, brother, or neighbor, He continues to show His grace, forgiveness, mercy, and love for the sake of Jesus. What can I say? God is good!
After many years had passed, David Flood’s daughter, Nancy, moved back to America and Nancy got married. For many years Nancy tried unsuccessfully to locate her father. While looking for David Flood in London, Nancy and her husband attended a mission convention where they heard an African preacher testifying of the great works God was doing in Zaire…the former Belgian Congo. After the speech was over, she approached the man and asked if he’d known missionaries David and Lisa Flood. The African shared that Lisa Flood – Nancy’s mother – had shared the Gospel with him when he was just a boy. He added that the Floods had a baby girl, but he didn’t know what had happened to her. Nancy introduced herself, and the two of them hugged and wept. The little boy Nancy’s mother had proclaimed Christ to, through the power of the Holy Spirit, had grown up to evangelize his own people, who now had in their midst 110,000 Christians, 32 mission stations, several Bible schools, and a 120-bed Christian hospital. What can I say? God is good.
See…I told you Jonah was about more than a big fish. Amen.