Title: Arise and go!
Text: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
3 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth. 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
Last weekend we heard the call of Jesus to “follow me.” In today’s gospel reading the call is to “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” As we learned last week as well, God calls us to faith in Christ by the gospel and the working of the Holy Spirit through word and sacrament, the means of grace, and then we are called to action.
The call to action is not always where and when we expect. It is not always how we imagine God might use us and at times it can be uncomfortable. Also, at times the will of those called is not in accord with the will of the Lord. Take Jonah for example.
3 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.
Jonah is one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament and a few years ago our midweek study group did an extensive study on the book of Jonah. We also used the book of Jonah for our first few prayer meetings last year.
You might be familiar with the story and of the great fish that swallowed Jonah. As the reading in Jonah chapter three begins, 3 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time. We need to take a step back to Jonah chapter 1 to where the Lord first called Jonah. The call of God and Jonah’s reaction were a bit different.
1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah …, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”
The work of a prophet was to speak forth the word of God to those that the Lord directed the prophet to, to bring the word God to them as he has directed. The Apostles also spoke as they were directed by the Holy Spirit and the entire word of God is given for our benefit.
The Apostle Paul in Romans 10:17 tells us: 17 consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. NIV
So, even God’s word proclaimed here, during the sermon is speaking prophetically, speaking forth the word of the Lord … and the will of the Lord.
3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.
By this we can see that God’s word though is not always heeded and listened to.
At times the word of God is listened too, as we read in the gospel with Simon and Andrew.
18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
For others it may take longer and require a bit of coaxing. Even the gathering together regularly for worship, as the writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us can be hard for some:
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another,
We may hear the call but may not always heed the call.
Jonah went the other way, down in the belly of the ship to sleep and headed in the opposite direction of where the Lord wanted him to go. You and I might have felt this way too. What was your Nineveh? What is your Nineveh? Where had God directed you that you didn't want to go and what did God desire you to do that you didn't want to do?
This weekend we celebrate the sanctity of human life. Whether it is the preborn and abortion or the aged and assisted suicide all life has value. Can we all sit silently while the murders of so many are done in the Nineveh of our own world? Do we speak to a world so anti life and anti God or do we climb into the “boat” of our own lives and comfort zones to hide from the reality of what has taken on a “life” of its own.
My seminary professor Peter Scaer a pro-life voice for the unborn writes:
If the problem is that we as Christians are too involved in politics, why are there so few people at pro-life rallies? Why did so few Christians rally around natural marriage? Why are our own people so unaware of the assault on religious liberty? Including threats to our social service agencies and schools? Why do my legislator friends tell me they hardly ever hear from Christians but are flooded with calls, letters, and visits from the secular left?
[The name Tarshish is a Biblical baby name. The Biblical meaning of the name Tarshish is: Contemplation, examination.]
A story is told of a Christian woman who was at a hospital to have a pregnancy checkup and while there met another woman there as she contemplated an abortion. The one lady spoke of the joys of her pregnancy and upcoming birth while the other said it was a convenient time to have a baby. As they talked the mom to be took the other ladies hand and placed it on her belly just as the baby kicked. As they departed for their separate appointments the lady expecting a child said … you’re not having an abortion your having a little girl!
A few years passed and on another trip to the hospital with her daughter in toe she saw the other lady again who was this time pushing a stroller … with twin girls! Speak the truth of life where and when you can don’t hide from it as God can use us all in whatever way he has gifted us.
Story I heard while watching a nun speaking at the walk for life 2018 in Washington.
Jonah ran away from proclaiming God’s truth to those who needed to hear but God pursued him. God sent a tempest, a storm of great proportions upon the sea, so that the way of escape was hindered.
You too have the way of peace with God broken by sin. Just as Adam and Eve hid from the Lord after the fall we too hide in darkness of sin and flee the light of forgiveness for fear of condemnation that our sins would be made known. Jonah too hid from our all knowing God.
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
And God sent a great fish to swallowed Jonah.
And God has sent Jesus to rescue you.
The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.
Arise and Go! How will you respond?
The second call of the Lord upon Jonah was much different.
3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.
He didn't want to … but he knew he couldn’t hide from God. He hated the people of Nineveh … for they were wicked and despicable. He also knew that when he called out for their repentance … that they would repent and God would forgive and Jonah couldn't stomach that; that these worthless sinners would be forgiven. He knew it. He hated it. He complained about it and … he was right.
4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
The city is big, three days to just go through it. It is probable the worst Godless place Jonah could think about and the people … the worst sinners imaginable. And Jonah does what God commands he calls them to repentance. “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
And what happens?
5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
10 [And] when God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.
He forgave them. He forgives you, even when at times you can’t forgive yourself [abortion is forgivable and those who’ve supported it redeemable.]
When you forget God and hide from him, God pursues you, because he loves you, he has redeemed you, so that you to might be forgiven.
“Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!