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“The Priority of God’s Word”

Preached on 1st September 2019

@ Rochford Congregational Church

By Rev. Andrew Leach

 

Bible Reading: JONAH 1.1-3, 2.1-3.3a

 

Introduction

Jonah is a great book…

There is a great city – a great wind – and a great fish – and a great revival – and a great lesson – and it all begins with…

 

  1. A GREAT WORD

“The Word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai…” (1.1)

 What an opening verse!

God spoke to Jonah

God is a communicating God

“God said, let there be light…”

(Genesis 1.3)

 

“The unfolding of your words gives light…your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path…”

(Psalm 119.105, 130)

 

“I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”

(John 8.12)

 

How amazing to have God’s Word – and light for our lives?

God spoke to Jonah – how? (We are not told)

But “why” becomes much clearer!

 

He had done it before – Jonah was a “seasoned” prophet

God had spoken an encouraging word for Israel through Jonah

Now God speaks a confronting word to Nineveh – Israel’s enemy

 

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it…” (1.2a)

 

The Word – was for the Ninevites – but it came to Jonah to take to them

The Word to Jonah was “Go” and “preach” but Jonah ran and hid!

 

The Word of the Lord

 

  1. Is unchanging (1.1; 3.1-2)

“The Word of the Lord came to Jonah…a second time”

“The Word of the Lord stands forever”

(1 Peter 1.25)

 

  1. Is to be obeyed (3.3a)

“Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord”

“Do not merely listen…do what it says…”

(James 1.22-25)

 

  • Is transformational (3.5; 3.10)

“The Ninevites believed God…when God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them destruction…”

 

“Others… hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”

Mark 4.14-20 Parable of the Sower

 

God’s word comes to comfort, help and guide us

 

The Word of the Lord, here, came:

  • To fulfil God’s purposes
  • To address the wickedness of sin
  • To bring new direction / hope for Nineveh
  • To correct Jonah’s attitude

 

“God’s word is living and active…it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart…”

(Hebrews 4.12)

 

The Word of the Lord – both written and living – has been given but must be received!

 

Has the Word of the Lord come to you?

What is your response?

 

The word came to Jonah but he made…

 

 

  1. A GREAT MISTAKE

“Jonah ran away from the Lord…” (1.3a)

 

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139.7)

 

Was the Lord not in Tarshish – as He was in Nineveh?

The Lord isn’t some “localised” deity

It is impossible to run away from the Lord

He will always be ahead of you – whichever way you take

(What a comfort & what a challenge?)

 

Why Jonah did you run away?

Why the reluctance to take the message – why the rebellion?

 

“I knew that you are…a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love… who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4.2)

 

Jonah ran away because he knew what God is like!

 

Jonah knew – because God had revealed himself this way to Moses in earlier days – see Exodus 34.6

Jonah didn’t want to be the means of blessing to Israel’s enemies!

Jonah would prefer to die than bring such blessing!

 

How do we treat the Word of the Lord when it is not to our taste?

When we don’t see eye to eye with God’s ways?

 

We are Ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5)

Representatives of Christ’s kingdom

At odds with our countries ways and culture

E.g. Brexit Government paralysis

Many didn’t agree with what the people asked for!

 

Now Nineveh was a great city – but was also a city of great sin

“Its wickedness has come up before me” (1.2b)

 

God’s word was given again to guide Jonah in…

 

  1. A GREAT TASK

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you …” (3.2)

 

How does Jonah come around to fulfilling the great task given him?

God has to get hold of Jonah – by the wind and the fish and his experience in the stormy seas.

From where he prays:

 

His prayer is very revealing:

 

  1. Jonah focusses on the Lord’s holiness (2.4b; 7)

 

Jonah remembers the Lord and his dwelling place – the holy temple.

The Lord is holy. He is above all other. His will is without mistakes. He is both pure and perfect.

Who is Jonah to query God’s purposes? Who are we?

 

  1. Jonah realises he needs the Lord’s grace (2.8)

 

The other nations have “worthless idols” – of no help whatsoever!

Only those with empty hands can receive the Lord’s grace.

Jonah had made plans but he has them no longer.

Only with God’s help can he survive

“But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God” (2.6b)

 

  • Jonah acknowledges salvation comes from the Lord (2.9c)

 

If the Lord has saved him – why can’t he choose to save others?

He declares it but does he believe it – the fact that the book is written suggests he belatedly comes to see this truth?

 

  1. Jonah commits himself to serving the Lord (2.9b)

 

“What I have vowed I will make good…”

It’s a new day. Jonah’s new desire is to make the most of his days.

 

  1. Jonah finds his joy again in his sacrifice (2.9a)

 

“But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you…”

 

Running away from the Lord is a joyless experience.

There is joy in the Lord’s presence.

There is joy in the Lord’s service.

 

Conclusion / Application

God’s great word directs us in God’s great task

“Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28.19)

“Love your neighbour…love your enemies…”

“Hold out the word of life to those who are perishing…”

 

Don’t make the great mistake of Jonah

Don’t run from the Lord – run to Him.

For only as you do can the great task be achieved.

 

What place does God’s word have in your life?

Is it your priority? Is it your passion?

 

Remember His Word is holy – pure and true

Obey it and let it bring transformation to your life – and the lives of those you hold it out to.

 

Amen.

 

You would be more than welcome to join with us at Rochford Congregational Church, North Street SS4 1AB – if you are local, or listen to ministry from our Pastors via the website.