Jonah 1:4-17 | Deep Distress - Deeper Mercy
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Jonah 1:4–1:16
Christopher Rich – May 21, 2017
Jonah | Deeper Mercy
Part II - Deep Distress – Deeper Mercy | Jonah 1:4-16
Introduction | Book and Series
Good Morning! Welcome to Damascus Road Church where we are Saved by Jesus Work. Changed by Jesus Grace. Living on Jesus Mission. Today we continue our series Deeper Mercy from the Book of Jonah.
In this series, we will see a distant foreign city of sin condemned to destruction. A well-known, but self-righteous, prosperity preacher is given a bold mission given and fearfully avoided. The mission is mercy to the city the response is active disobedience by Jonah. So many counterintuitive reactions, the book of Jonah cannot make sense unless it is seen for what it truly is. Despite the deep sin of pagans and prophets alike, our God shows His Deeper Mercy. The prophetic lesson in Jonah are not from what the message is but in the experience of the messenger as he navigates the effect of his disobedience see God’s deliverance, etc. Jonah begins with God giving a man a specific mission to deliver a message to the city of Nineveh. God said Go and Jonah said No!
If this is only about religion, where your obedience or lack thereof determines your standing before God then this story would be significantly different. Here is how the story should have gone if God’s ONLY characteristic is justice. God: Jonah Arise, go to Nineveh. Jonah: No, I’m out! God: “Lighting bolt” End of story. Lesson: Disobeying God and His will leads to destruction. Application: Obey God. Both are true. Neither are good news because the Gospel cannot be found in our obedience. God displays His deeper mercy in many ways but first it is in His patience with Jonah enduing his sin. Rather than sudden justice, Jonah is allowed to walk in disobedience. God doesn’t immediately discipline him, repeat Himself, or even move Jonah to Nineveh. In fact Jonah’s disobedience at first doesn’t appear to have any consequences at all. He is able to completely reject God’s word, ignore the mission of peace he’s been given and actively move the opposite direction unimpeded. He doesn’t remain where God had spoken to Jonah He arises and isn’t struck down. He goes down to Joppa without incident. There even SEEMS to be providential provision when he gets there to continue in disobedience. Wait, there just so happens to be a ship going the opposite direction of where God has called me? Sign me up! Now Jonah can’t easily turn back to obedience, the ship has sailed and so has Jonah’s opportunity to repent on his own and go to back towards Nineveh.
When begin to walk away from God, attempt to “flee his presence”, and pursue sin there is rarely much impeding us to begin with or even sting felt initially. A thought, turns into a search, turns into a click on a link and no one noticed, no one is hurt. You skip out on some work responsibilities and there are no repercussions. You start spending more than you make and each swipe of the card only brings more stuff but no immediate pain. But it’s not all smooth sailings because sin hurts and sin has consequences.
PART I | You cannot run from God | v4-6
Jonah 1:4-6 | 4 But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. 6 So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”
“But the Lord, but God” are beautiful phrases in the bible because they proceed great acts of mercy, justice, grace, and redemption and this time is no different. In this case, it is God showing mercy by not allowing Jonah to continue to run from Him and His will without consequences. If God wanted, He could let Jonah run and run without being caught, let the mission to Nineveh fail, and let Jonah live out his days always fleeing “the presence of the Lord” all the way to his eternal damnation. Jonah thinks if he keeps running God’s will can be overcome. “You can’t conquer reality by running away from it.” Og Mandino
But God’s pursuit of His people is relentless. God’s will cannot be overcome by our own. When we run from God He is always able to run us down. It is merciful for God to meet our disobedience with distress.
Disobedience will always lead to Distress, eventually – Not all distress is created equal. Because of sin in the world the world is broken and corrupted so we can experience distress from our environment, others sin or errors even, our own mistakes (unforce errors). In this episode, the deep distress experienced is specific from the disobedience of Jonah. The sailors have likely experienced many storms at sea but this one was different. Most of the other storms were not likely the direct result of individual sin keeping a prophet from fulfilling the will of God. The text is clear this storm was hurled from God at the ship. It was sudden it was intense. The ship “threatened to break up.” translation the ship expected itself to be torn apart. There has been this distinct group of people that is being affected by Jonah’s disobedience. Your sin will never be contained to you. It will impact and affect others; and if left unaddressed it will lead to great distress for many. James talks about when you “shipwreck your faith” James didn’t say you horse wrecked it because your sin and your fall don’t effect just you. There are always others around you who are on the same ride. In fact there is a new community created around your sin of those whose lives are impacted by it. How has your disobedience led to distress for you or others? Who else has been effected by your disobedience?
Let’s be clear the sailors and others on the boat aren’t exactly innocent. They are pluralistic each worshiping a false pagan god. That said, they do seem like better humans than Jonah. They work hard they’re industrious. Most around you when you’re in sin while not perfect or innocent are still not guilty of your sin but they are suffering for it. Individual disobedience quickly leads to corporate pain. Deep Distress leads to great fear. We respond to deep distress from our sin or the sin of others in multiple ways we see played out here:
1: Cry out to empty gods or any god. The experienced sailors tremble and fear. They are pluralistic each appealing to a higher power only to find their false idols silent. The cry out to just about any god they can think of hoping that if they hit them all one of them will actually deliver relief or salvation. Ricky Bobby – Help me Jesus, Help me Jewish God, Help me allah, help me Tom Cruise. It is a farce because he’s just throwing things out hoping something will work. It is these times of distress when people begin to look outside of themselves. That’s why it was said there is no atheist in foxholes. As Christians we do this as well. No we don’t switch teams and cry out to another deity. We simply look to other things to navigate our distress. We self-medicate. We drink more, eat more, watch more tv, work out, look to anything for relief.
2: Clear the decks - Let’s see if we can overcome the effects of the storm by lighting the loads of our life. This actually isn’t a bad thing or step. You’re not getting much sleep or your health is suffering clear your schedule. Your work performance is lacking or your grades are failing pull back on extra-curricular. You lose your job you should cut back on your expenses. The sailors are just exercising normal wisdom but this is an abnormally difficult storm, mere wisdom or skill cannot effectively navigate. When your marriage is in turmoil because of sin no amount of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic is going to keep it from sinking.
3: Retreat or pretend everything is ok. So the Pagan sailors try to find relief they actively deploy wisdom and work to attempt to overcome. But Jonah the religious guy when he sees the storm (that is intensely overwhelming) Jonah says “This is so massive and intense I am going to take a nap.” Jonah remains blissfully unaware, asleep in the bowels of the ship. There is a storm, while I am going down a path of disobedience. Everyone else is scrambling and being fried out and the nexus of the issue seems cool as a cumber. It actually says fast asleep meaning deep sweet sleep. Let’s just check out. The storm still rages.
This is different that Jesus talking a nap when the storm raged with His disciples. In Jesus case it’s because Jesus is in control for Jonah it’s because he is denial. Jesus is sinless and knows the outcome. Jonah is guilty and in the face of unrelenting distress thinks he can sleep away the issue while everyone else deals with it. Where are you checking out when everyone around you is scrambling to keep up with your storm?
Part II |Distress Grows | v7-13
Jonah 1:7-10 | 7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.
4: Seek the Source/Analyze- The sailors cast lots. Proverbs says God determines essentially “every roll of the dice” Just as the storm was sent by the LORD, the lot feel on Jonah because God made it so. All is revealed. Even in the midst of the storm they start asking a ton of questions and want to analyze deeply. We do this. We seek answers for the suffering and distress we’re in. The storm still rages but we want answers on the why. We discuss and deliberate with people talking about the storm seeking to understand the storm, about what lead to the storm thinking if we just understand it we can manage it better. They ask Who is responsible? What do you do? Where are you from? What is your country? Who are your people?
To Jonah’s credit he actually tells them things that are true about him God, and one that is a bit hard to believe. I am a Hebrew, (True!) There one God in heaven who has made the sea and land, He created EVERYTHING! (True!) I fear, honor, serve the God of the Bible (Umm…really?!) Maybe, he was ashamed of his sin but he did confess it to the sailors. I was called, I ran the other way, I was trying to flee the presence of the Lord. Sometimes analysis can expose problem but isn’t not effective at providing solutions. Where do you need to stop re hashing the issues that caused the storm and start looking for solutions?
Jonah 1:11-13 | 11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous.12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you 13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.
5: Desperately Address the sinner – What should we do to Jonah so the storm will stop for us. This is the intervention, what you’re doing is causing so much pain and placing us in great peril. What are we going to do with you? You’re make things terrible for us. When community or family has identified the source of cancer or conflict even when they are accurate it still leaves them crying to the source of pain to fix it.
6: Despair and seek to disengage. People are conflicted on Jonah’s state here, but I believe he’s fallen so hopeless and hard hearted that he’s saying It’s better if I’m not even on the boat with ya’ll. This is when we get so discouraged we begin to thing God’s will for His people wouldn’t be served best by us walking in obedience to Him but in our destruction. God has called us all for a purpose and I would rather be unused than attempt to return to what I’ve been called. This is George Bailey “It’s a wonderful life” I’ve screwed up so much I am sure God cannot use me anymore just chuck me out of the community and leave me to die.
Where has you sin lead to such distress that you have fallen into despair and desire to disengage?
7: Try Harder. This one is really popular. The sailors don’t give up! Maybe they’re not sure they can trust Jonah, maybe they’re just not ready to actively send a man to his death….yet. They do what we do when the storm hit and seeks to overtake us. TRY HARDER!! It says they rowed hard. Literally it means the men dug in!. What can we accomplish if we all just work together. We do this individually. I bet I can just white knuckle it and overcome. We do this collectively, I we all just get unified we can do it! It sounds great, great effort feels good for a while because you’re DOING SOMETHING. It feels good because we can see others working to. We’re hopeful that collectively we can move the needle. But there is a problem with this. Community isn’t enough to overcome sin. No amount of digging in deep and rowing hard from others can overcome when someone is hard hearted or unrepentant. There need to be a sacrifice and solution.
When have you, or a group, tried to overcome the storm someone else has caused without dealing with them?
PART III | Mercy For Jonahs and Sailors | v14-16
14 Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
We cannot get anyone else to repent of their sin. No one else can repent of your sin but you. Individuals and community are not capable to fix anyone or change anyone at the heart level, only God the Holy Spirit can change a heart. I believe if Jonah said “Turn the boat around so I can repent and faithfully fulfill the mission God has call me to.” God would have calmed the storm and given them a healthy tail wind to empower them back to shore. They cannot bear the cost of Jonah’s sin, God has to deal with it.
After exhausting all these different attempts to solve or overcome the deep distress everyone is experiencing the sailors relent. They cry out a prayer of mercy and Jonah is tossed into the depts. The storm calms and the ship is saved. The pluralistic sailors respond by renouncing their individual gods and begin sacrificing and worship the Creator God of the Bible. The sailors worship and make vows and sacrifices to God not so He will save them from the storm, but because God has saved them from the storm. This is Gospel worship! The peril is not over for Jonah. There is much for us to take away from this.
God is able to use even your sin and disobedience and the distress caused by it to bring glory to himself and salvation to people. Jonah was fleeing God’s call for him to preach the Gospel to pagans and he ends up on a ship full of pagans who repent and trust God. That doesn’t mean we keep sinning, we repent.
Salvation has a cost. Jonah can remain in the boat. He has to go down so the ship can go free. But while Jonah’s sacrifice of being tossed into the sea could be misunderstood as noble, it is insufficient and unworthy of praise. The sailors don’t praise Jonah for suffering so they could be saved. They rightly direct their praise and worship to God. While incomplete, it is a shadow of Jesus sacrifice. Jesus is greater than Jonah Jesus has been crushed with the storm of our sin on the cross for us so we don’t have to fear the storm but like the sailors we get to live in healthy fear of the God who controls the storm. For Jesus to come to the place of sacrifice to save His people He encountered deep distress so he could show Deeper Mercy.
Luke 22:41-43 | 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Jesus in the face of the impending storm of arrest, trial, and crucifixion is deeply crying out to God the Father while His shipmates in ministry all sleep as the storm clouds mount around them. He is alone.
In Jesus, an innocent man perishes and whose blood is a sacrifice that is laid on those who trust him.
Jonah is a sinful sacrifice who can only pay for his own sin and end his storm. Jesus is a sinless sacrifice who is capable of saving all who cry out in the distress of the storms of the world.
Jonah’s sacrifice was a reactionary act by a despairing man facilitated by men in deep distress hoping to keep the effect of one man’s sin from condemning others. Jesus sacrifice was an intentional act by the God of mercy who for the joy set before Him endured the cross to absorb the effect of sin that condemns everyone so that many WILL be saved.
Lastly, we know when people hear and experience the Deeper Mercy of God it radically changes the lives and missions of individuals. Our hope is those who do not know God’s Deeper Mercy found in Jesus would hear the Gospel. God shows His deepest mercy at the Cross by pouring out His judgement on Jesus in our place. Because of His resurrection, Jesus is alive ruling and reigning over everything. Because of His mercy we can live new eternal lives of enthusiastically worshiping King Jesus now and forever.
Like Jonah and the sailors we all are or will face Deep Distress from sin. So if you’re asleep pretending there is no storm wake up arise, or if your exhausted because you’ve been working to overcome sin and distress that seems to certain to tear your ship apart, relent, repent, rest and Trust Jesus.
On my deathbed I will pray
To the gods and the angels Like a pagan to anyone
Who will take me to heaven
– Chris Cornell (Audioslave) – Like A Stone