Jonah 3–The Mercy of God

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Here’s the manuscript of my sermon at First Baptist Church Fulton, Ky on the morning of 8/23/2020.

Jonah 3.1-10—The Mercy of God

  1. Introduction
    1. What’s amazing about this story is not the fact that a man was swallowed by a fish and survived. The surprising thing about it is that God had mercy on Jonah, indeed His steadfast love. I don’t mean to say that we should be surprised that God is merciful. But rather, the very idea of mercy is knowing we do not deserve it.
      1. Jonah did not deserve it.
      1. You and I do not deserve it.
      1. Therefore, we are exceedingly thankful towards God when He chooses to show us mercy.
    1. What am I hoping we all will see from Jonah 3? I hope you will see what path you are on today and that you will run into this amazingly loving God who is surprisingly merciful. I want you to know the love of God and worship Him forever!
    1. Before we read the text, I would like for you to pause for a moment and think. If you need to bow your head and ask the Lord to open your eyes…clear your mind…remove any distractions…take a moment to do that.
      1. In just a moment, I am going to ask you to remain in that prayerful position as I ask you some questions.
      1. Now, I want to begin by saying that so far in this story, Jonah attempted to go to Tarshish.
        1. By God’s amazing grace, he did not make it to Tarshish. He ran from God and while on the way Jonah ran into God. He seems to be everywhere and knows everything.
        1. As do many stories in the Bible, we leave God out as the main character in the story. This story is not about Jonah being swallowed by a fish but rather it is about the mercy and love of God!
        1. So, I want to ask you…are you headed to Tarshish? What path are you on this morning?
          1. Okay you aren’t a prophet like Jonah. But if you are Christian, you have been called, like Jonah and here it is:
            1. (Matt. 28:18-20) 18 And Jesus…said to them…Go therefore and make disciples of all nations
            1. Every Christian…every follower of Jesus is called to go make disciples. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell them about Me.
            1. Some of us are like Jonah on the road to Tarshish.
          1. It’s very possible that there are some among us who are on the road the sailors were on. They believed in God…indeed many gods…but they didn’t know the One, true and living God. By God’s good grace, these sailors ran into the merciful God!
            1. I hope you run into Him today
          1. Others among us might be like the people of Nineveh. You are in need of hearing about this merciful God who alone saves.
            1. You’re on a path that leads to eternal death because you have sinned against the holy God who created you. He has sent me to tell you about His Son Jesus. He sent him to pay the just penalty of your sin for you on the cross and be raised that He might forgive you and set you free.
          1. You are on a path heading somewhere. Some of you know very well that you are fleeing God’s call to make disciples.
            1. I know your struggle. It’s almost a daily battle for me. I have planned my escape to Tarshish and headed out many times only to run into the mercy of God.
            1. I have gone to Nineveh and yet the words would not come out.
            1. I have headed to Nineveh only to find myself on a detour heading to Tarshish.
            1. But…maybe most importantly I lived in Nineveh and God sent one of His disciples to tell me about Jesus.
            1. And now I am here telling you. Let’s see if you run into the same merciful God…the Son of God as I did and Paul did on his way to Damascus.
    1. Read the text and pray
  2. Exposition
    1. I believe there are four points to be seen in this chapter
      1. Outline
        1. The mercy of God Pursued Jonah again…
        1. Jonah proclaims the LORD’s message
        1. Nineveh repents and believes
        1. God relents from judgment
      1. The main overall point is…The Surprising Mercy of God
    1. Point 1—The Mercy of God Pursued Jonah a second time
      1. The main difference between Jonah 1:1 and Jonah 3:1 are the words “a second time.”
        1. If I may say it this way, “Have you come to expect a second chance from God?” When I read the first verse of this chapter it moved me to worship! When I see God doing this for Jonah I can relate. I have experienced the love of God coming after me many times.
        1. Not one time have I ever deserved it and nor did Jonah.
          1. Aaron’s sons didn’t get another chance when they offered strange fire on the altar.
          1. Uzzah didn’t get another chance when he reached out to steady the ark of the covenant.
          1. Ananias and his wife Sapphira didn’t get another chance when they lied about the property they sold. 
        1. May I ask again, “Have you come to expect a second chance from God?”
          1. It was His kindness that saved you.
          1. He sent his Son because He loved you.
          1. He pursued you by His grace.
          1. You have resisted. You have fled the other way. But at every turn He was the God who was there. He was the loving Father coming after the one He loves.
          1. Do you know how much the Lord loves you? Did you know that God loves you so much that He will not let you make it to Tarshish? 
        1. I think we need to consider something. Did Jonah run because he thought that he could actually flee His presence? Did he run because he thought God was no longer all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present?
          1. We all believe a lot of things and know a lot of true things yet we just simply don’t think about them.
          1. The Bible calls that suppressing the truth or calloused heart or even hard-heartedness. Let me explain how easy it is to suppress the truth.  
            1. We have been suppressing the truth when we were in Louisville dropping Lydia off at Boyce College. It didn’t hurt and we fought off the tears if we could manage not to think about leaving her on Tuesday. But the time came and so did the tears.
          1. We often suppress the truth by not thinking about what is true. That’s how Jonah got up and went the opposite direction.
          1. I think it’s easy to read this story and see Jonah’s error quit plainly. We might even say, “Come on Jonah! What’s wrong with you?”
          1. Well, his problem is our problem. I want you to pray as we move along that you would see where you are as clearly as you see where Jonah was. You need to think. Stop suppressing the truth. The Lord is standing in your path with abundant mercy.
          1. Ask the Lord to do what He must to save you. If you need to be taken to the bottom of the ocean then whatever it takes. Plead with Him not to let you go your own way.
      1. (Jon. 3:1) Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time
        1. You might have thought my sermon title only meant to say the mercy of God towards Nineveh because you have read the whole story. However, I mean the mercy of God towards the sailors, Jonah, Nineveh and all of us.
        1. This word from God comes a second time after God pursued Jonah and he responded in repentance…THEN…the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time.
        1. There are conditions. No repentance, no second time. God pursues in His grace. He shows us great patience. But He is the LORD…Yahweh. And He will have mercy on whom He has mercy. It’s His decision. He is not obligated to do anything for you. He might stop you from going to Tarshish by way of your death.
    1. We have seen the mercy of God towards Jonah but that mercy was not merely for Jonah. It was also for Nineveh…and us. Jonah proclaims the message of His merciful Savior.
      1. The Lord says in (Jon. 3:2-3) 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.
      1. I think it must be said that God didn’t need Jonah. He’s not the only person on the planet. Nor does God even need “believers” to do it.
        1. Listen to how Rahab who lived in Jericho had heard: (Jos. 2:8-10)  8  Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof  9 and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you.  10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction.
      1. Jesus doesn’t need you but He invites you to join His mission in calling sinners to repentance.
      1. And without question, when God decides to send someone to Nineveh, someone is going to Nineveh. As Job declared… (Job 42:2)  2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
      1. Let’s see God’s plan coming about! (Jon. 3:3-4) 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!”
        1. It appears that it took three days to walk through the city of Nineveh. No doubt it was a walled city of more than 120,000 people…souls.
        1. This city was exceedingly evil. Can you imagine entering a walled city of 120,000 wicked people? It doesn’t seem that Jonah was afraid for his life.
        1. So, Jonah walked 1/3 of the way into the city and began to proclaim the judgment of the LORD. “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
          1. It’s a merciful thing to hear this. They have obviously heard more than this before…maybe similar to that of Jericho.
          1. Many of the prophets spoke judgment against many nations. The LORD gives Nineveh a specific timeline. Most of the time we don’t have any sort of length of time to consider what God has said.
          1. We often think we have all the time in world. But listen to me. Today is the day of salvation. Today. You have right now. Respond. You shall be overthrown, too. But you do not know if you have 40 days or not. Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved.
      1. What will they do? Stone the messenger and throw him out of the city?
    1. We have seen the mercy of God towards Jonah. We have seen the response of Jonah to God’s mercy. Now let’s see the response of this great, wicked city Nineveh to the message.
      1. (Jon. 3:5) 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God.
      1. I don’t know about you but this seems miraculous! If you have shared the gospel any length of time, you know how amazing this is. There’s a story that always sticks out in my mind.
        1. We were in the border city of Acuna, Mexico. We were walking the streets sharing the gospel. A fellow student was my interpreter and we stopped to speak with a lady who was at home working in her house/grocery store.
        1. When we presented the gospel to her, she immediately knew that it would cost her dearly. She began to tell us that her husband would leave her. She would lose her family, a place to live, her grocery store and really everything if she followed Jesus.
        1. We continued to tell her how much Jesus loved her and that he was worth losing everything. This went on for quit some time. She kept saying this over and over and we kept sharing the gospel. We were about to leave and suddenly she started praying. Confessing her sins and pleading for Jesus to save her. I couldn’t believe it. So many times, we had left other people who had said no.
        1. Jonah proclaims and the people respond. Praise the Lord!
        1. Obviously, they believed this message was not merely from Jonah. It doesn’t say they believed Jonah. It says they believed God. And their belief was not merely an acknowledging of facts but belief and repentance that changed their disposition to humility.
        1. Jonah proclaimed a message and they proclaim a fast. The hunger in the stomach was to be a sign of their hunger for God’s mercy. They were desperate and needy. They put on sackcloth…another sign of humility and grief over sin.
        1. The extent of this proclamation is from the greatest of them to the least. No age group is exempted. The doom of the city involved everyone; therefore, all of them must repent.
      1. Even social status does not get an exemption. Jonah 3:6   6 The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
        1. When coming to Jesus, you must check your social status at the door. Your position in the community has nothing to do with your position before God. If you come, all are laid low at the foot of the cross. Small or great. Slave or free. Man or woman. Your social status means nothing.
        1. We see this king display humble faith. Notice he arose from his throne and sat down in ashes. He laid aside his royalty and displayed that he was a creature made from the dust.
        1. He removed his royal robe and covered himself with sackcloth. In other words, he removed his pride and clothed himself with humility.
        1. We would do well to see the example of this king and cloth ourselves in humility.
      1. I must stop here for a moment because many people, especially here in the buckle of the Bible belt have said they believe in God. They say they have been saved. They say…they say…they say…
        1. Yet, I don’t see any fruit or evidence of faith. I see fruit and evidence in Jonah and the people of Nineveh and even the sailors. But is there any fruit or evidence in your life?
        1. James points out that Abraham’s belief in God was visible and real when we see him taking Isaac up the mountain for sacrifice. His belief was so sure that he thought that even if he took the life of his son that God would raise him from the dead. Yet, God provided a lamb!
        1. I am so blessed to be among so many who display their faith clearly and boldly.
        1. But not everybody. Look at your feet. What path are you on? Where is your faith?
        1. And dear Jonah’s. You have a relationship with Jesus. But you are going to Tarshish instead of going to make disciples. You are going to run into the mercy of God. Why not today? Why not before the wind and the fish. Why not before being taken to the bottom of the ocean?
      1. True humble faith is serious and never silent. It calls on the Lord. Listen to what the king ordered. Jonah 3:8-9  and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.  9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
        1. Another proclamation. Jonah proclaimed God’s message. Two fasts were proclaimed and now all people are to proclaim earnestly to God.
        1. True repentance is a humbling disposition. It sets God as supreme and man as creaturely. It is desperate and sincere. It hopes in the mercy of God. It mourns over sin and wickedness with godly sorrow. You don’t mourn that you got caught but rather that you have offended and belittled the Holy Creator.
    1. The people of Nineveh responded in repentance and faith in God. How will God respond to them?
      1. Jonah 3:10 10 ¶ 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. 
      1. One of my favorite descriptions of God is actually from Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid in Genesis 16:13 “You are the God who sees me,”
      1. WHEN…God saw their deeds. WHEN…He saw their humility. WHEN…He saw their repentance. WHEN…He saw that they had turned from their evil ways. God relented of the disaster he had declared against them.
      1. The chapter simply ends with He did not do it. This is the great miracle of the book of Jonah—God’s mercy towards Nineveh. Wow! Did you see it?
      1. If you will repent and believe in Jesus, He will not destroy you. He will forgive you and adopt you into His family.
  3. Conclusion
    1. I’m going to ask that you bow your heads for a moment.
    1. I want ask you again, “Who are you in this story?”
      1. The sailors?
      1. Jonah?
      1. Nineveh?
      1. What path are you on?
      1. Do you see the love of God in this story?
      1. Do you see the mercy of God?
      1. Will you receive the gift of salvation and repent and believe in Jesus?
      1. Will you go make disciples?
      1. Do you love Jesus more than anything else?
      1. Is Jesus enough?
    1. Pray

About Jason and Kimberly

Jason is the pastor of Union Hill Baptist Church in Goodlettsville, TN. Kimberly homeschools our three awesome kids. We enjoy being together as a family in wherever so long as we are together! Grace and peace to you in the Lord Jesus Christ! If you have any questions or would like to chat you can contact me at View all posts by Jason and Kimberly

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