The Plant, The Worm and The Wind

SCRIPTURE: Jonah 4:1-10, NLT

1 This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry
2 So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love {unrelenting, unconditional}. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. 
3 Just kill me now, LORD ! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” 
4 The LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?” 
5 Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. 
6 And the LORD God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 
But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 
And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed. 
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?” “Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!” 
10 Then the LORD said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly.
11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

INTRODUCTION

As we come to the close of our study in Jonah, there is so much I want to say but out of respect for you and the blessed Holy Spirit, I will discipline myself to share what I feel is most important.
  • Jonah is indeed a flawed character which reminds us that God can use whomever He pleases, however He pleases and whenever He pleases. The book reminds us that the MESSAGE is greater than the messenger.
  • The book of Jonah affirms God’s sovereign control over His creation. God is in absolute control of every element and every creature: He hurled the storm, He directed the fish, He caused the plant to spring up, He sent the worm to kill the plant, He sent the wind to bring discomfort to the rebellious prophet. God is in control: there is no need to panic. His KINGDOM will come. His will is going to be done.
  • Warren Wiersbe points out some interesting contrast between Jonah and Jesus
    • Jonah was willing to die for his sin–Jesus was willing to die for yours and mine
    • Jonah ministry was to one city–Jesus ministry is to the entire world
    • Jonah’s obeyed reluctantly because he feared God–Jesus obeyed willingly because He loved the Father.
    • Jonah did not love people–Jesus loved the world and died for sinners
    • Jonah waited outside the city and prayed for his enemies damnation–Jesus died on a cross outside the city and prayed for God to forgive His enemies.
  • In the book of Jonah, God has the first and last word.

TRANSITION: TONIGHT WE WANT TO LOOK AT THREE THINGS….

I. FIRST: JONAH’S ATTITUDE

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry
2 So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love {unrelenting, unconditional}. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. 
3 Just kill me now, LORD ! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” 
4 The LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?” 
Jonah is angry: anger is the emotion we fell when our expectation for justice is not met. Jonah believed that God was in error. He should not have forgiven the Ninevites because they deserved judgment.


James 1:19-20– Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.


There is a good anger and a bad anger but most of the time our anger is not good. There is a thing called righteous indignation [Jesus in John 2]. Paul told the Ephesians, “Be angry and sin not.” Matthew Henry said, “The only way to be angry and not sin is to be anry at sin.”


Jesus got angry when He saw others being treated unjustly but Jonah anger is personal: he feels that he is the victim of the injustice. It is the anger that arises when we don’t get our way. Jonah is mad because God doesn’t agree with him and did not cooperate with him to carry out his will.


Anger is the frustration of not getting the desired results that we wanted.


Anger is a two sided coin: On one side their is rage but flip it over and you find self-pity. Note what Jonah said, “I am so angry I could die.” Both rage and self-pity are desparaging, they deminish and deappreciate us. Rage is a gross waste of energy and nothing makes us appear smaller in the eyes of others than self-pity…poor pitiful me.


God asked Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry?”

II. JONAH’S POSTURE

5 Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. 
6 And the LORD God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 
Some temptations abate as we grow older but some increase in intensity and one of those temptations that gets stronger with time is our “comfort.” We want to be comfortable. I am not an exception to the rule.


There are two things wrong with Jonah’s posture. [1] Like so many professed believers today, Jonah’s posture is passive…he is sitting and waiting.


Don’t get me wrong folks but I have very little patience with these bible study groups who want to meet and feed their appetite for more knowledge when we are not putting into practice what we already know. If you have a bible study group that is involved in ministry, missions and evangelism, that is a horse of a different color: I applaud such. What we Baptist like to do is meat, eat, blow and go…but we go home to our recliners. We don’t go to the hurting or to the lost. The Reforms are just as guilty of taking this passive position. They want to leave everything to God. Listen folks, God expects us to do what we can. He gave us brains and spiritual gifts so that we could serve others.


[2] Jonah is not only sitting and waiting: he is engrossed in his own comfort. He had made his comfort a top priority.


A part of this week has been God proding us to move out of our comfort zone.


I am not comfortable with interupting the lives of others. I have some neighbors who want to be left alone and I want to leave them alone but God is proding me out of my comfort zone. I am uneasy about this BLOCK PARTY.


What is God proding you to do this week? Teach, Sing in the choir, go on a mission trip, share Christ with a co-worker or neighbor or to give sacrifically, more than you can afford.

III. JONAH’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE LORD

But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 
And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed. 
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?” “Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!” 
10 Then the LORD said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly.
11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”
What is the old saying, “God sent me to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” Well, God sent a worm to afflict Jonah, to destroy his comfort. There is a purpose for everything, even worms. If God can use a worm, a plant, a fish and a rear end like Jonah, surely He can use anyone, amen!


Jonah got mad at God again: [1] because he did not destroy Nineveh and [2] now because He allowed the worm to destroy Jonah’s shade, or comfort. This is a sermon within itself but I am going to move on for the sake of time.


Jonah fell in love with the plant. It was a 24 hour affair and he was upset when the plant died. He was not upset by the people of Nineveh dying. He cared more about the plant than he did people. It is OK to love plants and even to talk to them but they are not more important than people. How do we get our priorities so out of whack?


How is it that we get so bogged down in the mire of this temporal world that we become enslaved to it cares and passions. Think of the world as a pit of quick sand and we are in it up to our shoulders. We spend all our energy trying to survive. We have nothing left for God. I one time, we owned a huge house with a huge yard [5 arces]. I had one little riding mower. It took forever just to cut the yard. [the bigger the swing set the more bolt and nuts there are to keep tight]. Now we don’t own a house but we are freer to go and to give. [story of Wang from Ruth Graham Lotz]

CONCLUSION

Did you know that repentance is mutual: We repent and then God repents. We turn from sin and then God [because He is merciful] turns from His wrath. The book of Jonah is about mutual repentance. The Ninevites turned from their sin and violence and God turned from His wrath. 


WHAT DO YOU AND I NEED TO REPENT OF THIS WEEK, TONIGHT?

  • Is our prejudice greater than our love for people, especially those who are not like us and who threaten our way of life?
  • Are we all tied up with earthy cares, so much so that we are not free to serve God.
  • Do we need to repent of our anger and frustration and asked God to fill us with love rather than anger and resentment. {Remember, Jonah’s disobedience robbed him of the joy of leading such a great crusade}
  • How close are we to Jonah’a attitude and how close are we to Christ. Who do we resemble most?
  • We we decide that we want to be more like Jesus and less like Jonah, we will have REVIVAL is some form. WHY NOT TONIGHT?                                                                                                              

 

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“Who Knows?”

Scripture: Jonah 3:1-10, NIV

1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 
2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” 
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.
4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 
5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. 
6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 
7This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 
8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 
9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” 
10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

INTRODUCTION

The book of Jonah is about God’s redemptive purpose in this world and that is for all men to come to know Christ. We know because of Jesus teaching, that all will not repent but it is God’s will that all have the opportunity to repent. God wants the gospel shared with the world.

In Matthew 24:14, Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

God said to Israel through Isaiah the prophet…“I, the LORD, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. I will take you by the hand and guard you, and I will give you to my people, Israel, as a symbol of my covenant with them. And you will be light to guide the nations.”

PROBLEM! The Jews misinterpreted their call: they did not want to share the gospel. They believed that God’s grace was for them alone. When God called Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah refused, he did not go because he didn’t want to.

Why do we not witness, why do we not share the gospel? [We don’t want to, we don’t have a desire to]

Jonah ran from God which you can do: You can run but you cannot hide–God sought him out and brought him to repentance via the fish. He gives Jonah a second chance.

QUESTION: Why didn’t God get someone else?

  • Jonah had the courage to do the job
  • God wanted to use the prophets experience as a part of his message
  • God loved Jonah

Warren Wiersbe, who is very good at researching the history of these events suggest… 

  1. The ‘FISH STORY’ could have very well preceded Jonah…the story got to them before Jonah did. In other words, there was an eye witness who saw the fish spit Jonah on the beach. They saw Jonah unwrapping the sea weed from his body.
  2. Jonah had lost his complexion. After being in the belly of the fish, submerged in gastric juices for three days has bleached Jonah to an albino white. He looked like a ghost.

TRANSITION: Tonight, my first point is…

I. THE MESSENGER [V. 1-3]

1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 
2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” 
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.
  1. Jonah is a Jewish prophet Jonah son of Amittai {my truth}, the prophet from Gath-hepher. [2 Kings 14:25]
  2. Jonah means “Dove.” The Jews believed the dove was a peaceful but feeble bird. Jonah was indeed a feeble bird and it is possible that he did not like confrontation. But God knew him and he knew Jonah had what most of us lack: raw courage.
  3. Jonah was not a perfect instrument: he was imperfect, flawed, even bigoted.
  4. Jonah was not the news, he was the news boy. He was not the message, he simply delivered the message.
  5. The Ninevites never discussed Jonah, they did talk about the message.

II. THE MESSAGE [V.4]

4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 

  1. “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” Eight words in English, five in Hebrew. Can you believe it, a five word sermon. [the kind my family would love]
  2. The sign…Jesus said Jonah was a sign, a sign of what. A sign is an uncommon phenomenon. The star was a sign to the wise men but the heavens are filled with stars. The star they saw was uncommon. Jonah was not common. Can you imagine how stunned the Ninevites were when they seen an albino Jew walking down main street.
  3. Message was from God. It was not Jonah’s message.
  4. Paul said, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power [dü’-nä-mēs] of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

III. THE MESSAGE BELIEVED [v.5]

[v.5] The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. 

  1. Note: the Ninevites did not believe in Jonah, they believed in God.
  2. The Ninevites believed across the board from the greatest to the least.
  3. Jonah could not reach the entire city but his message was shared, it swept through this huge city like wild fire. [huge city, three days just to walk through it]
  4. Their faith lead to repentance, put on sackcloth. Repentance is a change of mind–they changed their minds about God, about sin, about life.

IV. THE MESSAGE OBEYED [v.6-8]

6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 
This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 
8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 
  1. The King stepped down from his throne and sat in ashes and dust.
  2. He issued a proclamation: fast and pray.
  3. Let everyone give us their evil way and their violence. No testimony greater than a changed life.

CONCLUSION

Look at verse 9, “Who knows.” Will God send a great REVIVAL in three weeks…WHO KNOWS?  I do know that God is sovereign and He can move upon people by the power of His Spirit. I pray for the Ruach to sweep across this land, convicting us of sin, stirring us to pray and to repent like the Ninevites.

2 Chronicles 7:14…Recipe

If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

My pastor use to refer to this verse as the Recipe for Revival but technically, there is no such thing. We cannot work a revival up and we cannot pray one down. God and only God, can send REVIVAL….

BUT

When God’s Spirit moves, He will move us to pray. Before every revival in history, people got a burden to pray. You see this here in Jonah. Every revival in history has also been accompanied by the preaching of the word…which you have here.

WHAT IS GOD DOING IN AMERICA TODAY?

He is at work. I’m not saying “I personally know what He is doing,” but He is at work. Did you hear the President’s speech last Friday. Be honest, did you ever think that we would hear that kind of speech from the president?

I’m with the King of Nineveh, “Who Knows” what God will do?

Just remember this: He is a CREATOR, not a DUPLICATOR…Our awesome God seldom does the same thing twice.

  • Only one Garden of Eden
  • Only one Flood
  • Only one Red Sea
  • Only one Calvary
  • Only one Pentecost
  • Only one Revival like Nineveh

So, I am not praying for another Pentecost: I am asking God to do something fresh. I’m just longing for Him to move among us and stir us, to give us a burden to pray and to give us the spirit of repentance because I don’t see either.

Do you have a burden to pray? [I will gladly meet with you]

Do you have a spirit of Repentance?

Distress And Revival

SCRIPTURE: Jonah 2:1-10, NLT

1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from inside the fish. 
He said, “I cried out to the LORD in my great trouble [tsarah], and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and LORD, You heard me! 
3 You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves. 
4 Then I said, ‘O LORD, you have driven me from your presence. Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’ 
5 “I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me. Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
6 I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever. But you, O LORD my God, snatched me from the jaws of death! 
7 As my life was slipping away, I remembered the LORD . And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple. 
8 Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies [checed]. 
9 But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the LORD alone.” 
10 Then the LORD ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.

INTRODUCTION

Four Act Play

If the book of Jonah was a play, it would have four acts:

  • On board the ship [in the storm]
  • In the belly of the fish [in deep distress]
  • In the city of Nineveh [shouting judgment]
  • Outside the city [waiting to see God destroy Nineveh]

 

This morning– we are in act 2, inside the fish.

I realize that the last thing any of us wants today is ‘stress’

...that is the emotional strain or tension that results from adverse or very demanding circumstances…

…and we certainly do not want any ‘distress’ which is extreme stress or extreme anxiety, sorrow, pain which can lead to anguish, suffering, agony, torment and heartbreak.  

Jonah is disobedient to his call…

God called Jonah to go to Nineveh and warn them of judgment but Jonah had other ideas. He was not in agreement with God. He wanted the Nivevites judged but he did not want them to get a warning. So Jonah did not obey. He went in the opposite direction. Thus, God send a storm which lead to the conversion of the entire ship’s crew but had little effect on Jonah. It may have caused him some stress but certainly no distress.

Jonah knows Yahweh sent the storm and why: he calmly tells the crew to throw him overboard. I don’t think Jonah had any hopes of swimming to shore; I think he thought at that moment, that he would rather die than repent or even pray and he certainly had not changed his mind about going to Nineveh. Sometimes, we think we want to die and then when the opportunity presents itself, we change our mind.

Jonah’s confinement inside the fish causes his distress…

Jonah hit the water like a rock and began to sink into the depths of the sea but before he could drown, God sent a fish and the fish swallowed Jonah whole. It had to be a large fish. God sent a great storm so He had no problem sending a great fish. Personally, I think it was a whale but that is not important. The important thing is that Jonah is incarcerated inside the stomach of the fish. This is the cause of his distress. The Hebrew word translated trouble in the NLT is translated ‘distress’ in the NASB, NIV, ESV and NRSV is ‘tsarah’ and the t is silent. The word pronounced almost sounds like ‘sorrow’. It means to be in a strait or a tight place. As the old adage, “between a rock and a hard place.” It means to be confined, restricted, caught in a bind.

Jonah cannot save himself. The US Navy with their most sophisticated equipment could not have rescued Jonah. He was hidden from the view of mankind, only God could see him. It is in the helpless position that Jonah feels the distress.

Today, I want to show you from scripture how God used DISTRESS to nudge Jonah in the right direction…I want you to see how God used DISTRESS to turn Jonah’s life around.

I. FIRST OF ALL: THE DISTRESS LEAD JONAH TO PRAY

1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from inside the fish. 

He said, “I cried out to the LORD in my great trouble [tsarah], and He answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and LORD, You heard me! 


Jonah is in deep trouble and he knows it. Only one person can save him now and that is the LORD to whom he prays.

Remember, the Ship’s Captain could not get Jonah to pray. The crew could not get him to pray. He was not speaking to the LORD. His decision to be thrown overboard was a decision not to pray. They all wanted him to pray and repent but he refused. So notice the first word of the text…“Then”….after all that is happened in chapter one, Jonah prays.


How many of you think the distress helped him to pray? When are we most fervent in prayer? When we are sailing under blue skies or when we are in deep, deep trouble?


We all know that Jonah’s relationship with God is not going to be fixed until he prays and prays earnestly. The distress moved him to pray.

Are there some things in your life that can only be fixed by you talking to the LORD.

II. THE DISTRESS REMINDED HIM OF WHO WAS IN CONTROL

You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves. 

Note what Jonah said,YOU [Lord] threw me into the ocean depths.” I thought the sailor threw him into the ocean. They did but they did so as God’s instruments. Jonah knew that God was behind the storm and that he was exactly where his own sin had put him and where God providentially had placed him. Jonah knew, that from His heaven, God was pushing all the buttons to make these things happen. The storm was no accident nor was the fish: God sent them both.

God in control not us…

It was inside the fish that Jonah realized that God was in complete control and that he was at God’s mercy.

Some of you tonight may think you are calling the shots but I can assure you: “You are not.” God is at the control center and the sooner we realize this the better our lives will be. Jonah created this storm by his own pig-headed rebellion. He took great pride in how he handled the storm but when God sent the fish to swallow him alive, it opened his eyes and he realized, I am not in control: The LORD is in control and I am at His mercy. We are all at His mercy tonight.

III. THE DISTRESS GIVES HIM TIME TO THINK ABOUT THE DIRECTION OF HIS LIFE

4 Then I said, ‘O LORD, you have driven me from your presence. Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’ 
5 “I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me. Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
6 I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever.

Jonah probably acknowledged that he was a sinner but inside that fish he realized he was a death and hell deserving sinner. He felt the distance he had put between himself and the LORD and he knew he was sinking lower and lower. 


I was in my late 20’s when the LORD began revealing my depravity. That when the process began, it continues to the present. There was a time I thought highly of myself and then God began revealing me to me.


I visited an old friend a few weeks ago and I knew that I needed to witness to him because he seldom attends church. I chickened out but as I was leaving his office he followed me to my truck and he said, “Jack, I know you are concerned about me and I appreciate it. I want you to know that I was saved when I was 14 and I remember being baptized.” I was both shocked and ashamed. I thanked him for his testimony but cautioned him about relying on any righteousness other than that of Jesus. As I shared with him a part of my depravity, he took issue. He said, “Jack, you are a good man. I have watched you for years. You are devoted to helping others.” I said, “That’s what you see but it is not what God sees.”

Without giving you details that would prove my depravity, how about you take my word word, I am depraved. There is nothing good in me.

 

Trust me, I have been searching for the good for years and it isn’t there but I’m OK with that because I am going to heaven on Jesus righteousness not mine.


Do you know what opened my eyes to my depravity: a horrific storm. It was out of my distress that I cried out to the LORD.

IV. DISTRESS CAN BRING US TO REPENTANCE

But you, O LORD my God, snatched me from the jaws of death! 
7 As my life was slipping away, I remembered the LORD. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple. 
8 Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies [checed]. 
9 But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the LORD alone.” 
It was inside the fish that Jonah repented. He turned to the LORD and away from his selfish pride. To prove his sincerity, Jonah vowed to sacrifice, to sing and to keep his commitment as a man of God. Inside the belly of the fish is where Jonah changed his mind and decided to go to Nineveh. 


Right out of Seminary, in my first pastorate, I encountered a man who claimed to be an atheist. I knew after meeting him only once, that all he wanted to do was argue and I did not want to argue with him. He was not open to the truth and I did not want to cast pearls to swine. He began having some physical problems, went to the doctor and they diagnosed him with cancer. His brother in law asks me to go see him but his attitude had not changed. He was going to lick the __________ stuff. They sent him straight to Birmingham and again, his brother in law insisted that I go. I did not want to go. We visited him right after the Birmingham doctors had told him he had 6 months to live. For the first time, he listened but he was not ready to make any changes. We stayed in his room until almost midnight. To be honest with you, I thought he was hopeless. We went down to the lobby to spend the rest of the night and about 3-4 am his wife came and got us. She said Kenneth has something to tell you. We walked in and you could sense the change, Kenneth had repented of his evil ways and had given his heart to Jesus. He took chemo and that extended his life a few months but Kenneth never stopped praising Jesus and witnessing to others.

CONCLUSION

The book of Jonah is about repentance. Both the prophet, the one who announced judgment, the pagan sailors aboard the ship and the wicked folks of Nineveh needed to repent. Jonah was not cruel like the Assyrians but he was full of pride and indifference and he needed to repent.

  1. We all need to repent.

  2. We need to repent to the LORD. {False gods are incapable of showing mercy, saving us}

  3. It is not too late to repent.

  4. You can repent anywhere. Don’t have to be in a church at an altar. Jonah was in the belly of a fish.

 

The Message

SCRIPTURE: Jonah 1:1-2, NLT

1 The LORD gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: 
2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”

INTRODUCTION

One of my Seminary professors use to say, “It is fun to preach when you have a message.” I have a reoccuring nightmare: [usually on Saturday night] I am being introduced to preach and I have no message. God gave Jonah a message and that is very important. It is always good when the message comes from God.


LORD willing, we are going to talk about the MESSAGE this morning and then tonight, we will get into the story of Jonah which God has laid upon my heart. 


 

Before we get into this fantastic story, I want to dispel some myths

I. THE FIRST MYTH: GOD ONLY USES CLEAN VESSELS

The book of Jonah shoots down this fabrication. Jonah had a terrible attitude. He hated and despised the people he was preaching to. I don’t know about Bro. Wayne, but if I called a man to come preach for me and he told me: “I’ll come but my heart is not in it. Matter of fact, I despise the people of Danville and I hope they burn in hell.” I would tell him to forget it. When I was a pastor, I wanted preachers who came to help us in revival to love us.


I do understand where this myth came from: it came out of the holiness movement and I have nothing against holiness but holiness is not the way to Jesus–Jesus is the way to holiness. If we are not careful, we will put more emphais on our purity rather than His. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying: God desires that we be holy but He is not limited by our unholiness.


As you are going to see in our study of Jonah, God is SOVEREIGN which means He can do as He pleases. The truth of the matter is: He uses whomever He please, whenever He pleases to accomplish His purpose. God used Pharaoh. He used Nebuchanezzer. Dr. Jack Taylor said, “He even uses the devil.” When you think about it: God did use Satan to carry out the sacrifice at Calvary. The devil thought he had won a great victory when in truth, he had fulfilled God’s eternal plan.


The emphasis in Jonah is not on Jonah. It is not on the messenger. Jonah is no hero. He gets no glory and rightfully so. This short book is about what God can do through a flawed character like Jonah. God used him in spite of this rebellion, pride and predjuice.

Jonah is probably the only Prophet that is not quoted by someone in the N.T. No one quotes Jonah. How many verses have you memorized from the book of Jonah?


This book is here for a reason. Most of us are intimidated by characters like Paul. We don’t feel worthy to carry his books but we can identify with Jonah because he was so flawed, so messed up. JONAH STRUGGLED… do you struggle? I do; I can relate to Jonah.

  1. Jonah struggled with obedience. I have been struggling for three weeks with these messages. I felt God leading me to this book but I have never preached these messages before. I had rather do something tried and proven: something familiar. I have struggled to obey.
  2. Jonah struggled with compassion for people. Jonah had a good theology and he knew how to pray. His struggle was with loving people, especially gentiles. Are you struggling with loving people? I am. The Assyrians, whom Jonah loathed, were terrorist. They murdered, plundered, raped, tortured–you name it. They were the most hated and feared people on the planet…yet God loved them and wanted them to get warning about impending judgment. I don’t hate Assyrians, I’ve meet only one in my life time but what about Muslims? How do you feel about Muslims? I have to admit, I feel by them the way Jonah did by the Assyrians. I am struggling to love Muslims.
  3. Jonah struggled with pride. If he announced judgment and the Ninevites refused to repent and God destroyed them, that would be fine. He could return to Israel as a hero but the last thing he wanted was for them to repent. He would be viewed now as a traitor. Jonah cared more about his reputation than he did the Assyrians salvation. 

What are you struggling with today? [God uses struggling people]

II. THE SECOND MYTH: MAN CAN THWART THE PURPOSE OF GOD

There is a Greek word for this, ‘bologna’. This is horse feathers: it is not true, not even remotely true. THERE IS NO PANIC IN HEAVEN. God is in firm control of His kingdom and He has the power to make it come, and it is coming, and He will get the glory. No one is going to stop His KINGDOM FROM COMING.


When it comes to our personal obedience, there may be cause of concern but do not worry about the COMING OF HIS KINGDOM or God’s ultimate purpose being done: it is going to happen. I have no doubt about that…I may doubt a lot of things but that is not one of them.


God told Jonah to “Get up and Go to Nineveh,” but Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction. He did not cooperate with God. God did not panic, He simple sent a violent storm to stop the ship that Jonah was aboard and then He sent the fish to swallow the rebellious prophet and carry him back to the shores of Israel. Jonah’s rebellion did not stop God nor will yours or mine.


Psalms 106:3 reads, There is joy for those who deal justly with others and always do what is right. Folks, joy comes with obedience. Disobedient Christians are never happy folks. God wants you to be happy: He wants you to enjoy life and that comes only through our obedience. OBEDIENCE is very important for us and it pleases God–He loves obedience but our disobedience is not going to throw a monkey wrench into his eternal plan of redemption. God worked His will through Jonah…Jonah’s disobedience cost him his joy but it did not stop God.

III. THE THIRD MYTH IS THAT GOD DOES NOT LOVE THE WORLD [ALL PEOPLE]

According to the Reforms, “Some Lives Matter,” according to scripture, “All Lives Matter.” I heard a Hyper-Calvinist say from the pulpit, “I know that John 3:16 is in the bible but there are more verses than John 3:16.” What if we could have only one verse…John 3:16 would be the one I would choose...“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everylasting life.” There is a hell to be shunned which is why Jesus used the word ‘perish’. 


God did not send His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. Jesus said Himself in Luke 19:10, The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost. There is a judgment against anyone who refuses to believe in Christ. All who refuse to acknowlege Christ as Savior and Lord will be condemned, matter of fact, if you have not believed, you stand condemned now and if you were to die in this condition, you would be eternally separated from God which is not good.


Peter said,  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance [2 Peter 3:9, NKJV]


Paul said,For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 


I don’t know about you but I will take their word anytime over that of the Reforms or the hyper-calvinist. Listen folks, God loves YOU and He demonstrated this at Calvary.


BUT IF YOU DO NOT REPENT…You will perish


Story of the Prodigal Father. Some years ago {many} I got a call, I knew from the sound of the womans voice, something terrible had happened. I got to her house ASAP and it was a grusome scene. She was screaming in agony and her husband lay dead on the bed. He had already turned purple from a massive heart attack. He was not a believer, not was his parents. As a matter of fact, his father had lead a wicked life. Never once had he darkned the door of a church. Countless preachers had witnessed to him but he had never shown any signs of remorse, let alone repentance. When his boy [age 43] died suddenly with a heart attack, it shuck him up. I was there and saw it with my own eyes. When he got to his sons house, he would not go in: he fell to his knees and began praying…God don’t let my boy burn in hell. He prayed this same pray over and over until he was without voice. I was a young man then and I had never seen anything like it: I am old now and I never seen anything like it since. I pray I never will.


Folks, you do not want to die without Jesus and you do not want your family and friends to die without HIM either.

The Perfect Storm

Scripture: Jonah 1:1-16

1 The LORD gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai {my truth}: 
2 Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” 
3 But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD . He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the LORD by sailing to Tarshish. 
4 But the LORD hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. 
5 Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. 
6 So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.”
7 Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit. 
8 “Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?” 
9Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” 
10 The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the LORD . “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned.
11 And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?” 
12 “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.” 
13 Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it. 
14 Then they cried out to the LORD, Jonah’s God. “O LORD,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O LORD, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.” 
15 Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! 
16 The sailors were awestruck by the LORD ’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him. 

INTRODUCTION

Jonah was a character to say the least: He was certainly different.
  • Jonah is one of the most popular books in the bible. Practically everyone loves the book of Jonah and there is a reason: Jonah had a bad attitude. He is a unique creature who did not fear God or love people. It is easy for us to feel superior to Jonah.
  • Jonah was such a rear end that we don’t mind comparing ourselves to him. I know my attitude is not right but at least, I’m not as big of a jerk as Jonah.
  • Jonah is the only prophet not quoted in the N.T. Jesus spoke of him but did not quote him.
  • How many verses have you memorized from Jonah?
  • How many people do you know with the name Jonah?
  • Jonah is popular but for the wrong reasons. He is more of a villain than a hero. No one worships Jonah. No one idolizes this prejudiced prophet.
  • Yet God, Yahweh, used this misfit to ignite the greatest revival in human history. Unparalleled even in modern times. Jesus Himself did not see such a massive response. Billy Graham has never had a revival like Nineveh. There is only one way to explain the REVIVAL at Nineveh–God!
  • The Revival is a fact but the glory does not go to Jonah or his five word sermon that is 8 in English: “Forty days from now, Nineveh will be destroyed.”
  • I’m not professing to be better than Jonah. I am timid compared to Jonah, I don’t have his boldness or audascity.  Jonah was a ball of courage: he feared nothing. True: he hated Gentiles, especially Assyrians but he was not afraid: [1] to rebel against God [2] storm [3] Sea [4] To go to Nineveh which would be like me going to Iran and telling them that God was about to destroy them.

Oh to see God work here like He did in Nineveh: I pray that He does!

Tonight we are going to talk about the gospel, the good news and Revival.

I. THE PREAMBLE OF THE GOSPEL IN VERSE 1-2

The LORD gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai {my truth}: 
2 Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” 

I was saved at age 9 and my primary motive was to escape hell. I grew up in a very conservative Christian home and attended a bible preaching church so I had heard about hell all my life and I knew for certain that I did not want to go there. As we will see in this chapter, fear is the basic instinct that drives us to God. God used a violent storm: not only to get Jonah’s attention but to bring the pagan sailors under conviction.


The sailor aboard this vessel that Jonah was on were heatherns. They believed in multiple gods. Many sailors in this part of the world believed in dagon, the Philistine fish god. When this violent storm hit, these sailors feared for their lives. They all began crying out to their gods but the storm was getting worse. Their prayers were ineffective. Had there been no storm, there would have been no fear; had there been no fear, they would not have awakened Jonah who told them about the real God. It was their fear of perishing in the storm that drove them to Jonah who told them about the One True God who hears and answers prayer.


Verse 14… Then they cried out to the LORD [YHWH], Jonah’s God. “O LORD,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O LORD, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.” They are no longer praying to a idol, they are praying to the one true God.


THE FIRST TENENT OF THE GOSPEL IS JUDGMENT…ACCOUNTABILITY FOR OUR SINS


Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce My judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” 


Before God is anything else: He is holy and His wrath will be poured out on sin and sinners. Because He is righteous and always does what is right, He will hold us accountable for our sins.


God told Jonah…this is the message, I have seen their wickedness and I will destroy them if they don’t repent. Jonah kicked off this evangelist campaign with a stern message on JUDGMENT.


I know what you are thinking: Bro. Jack, shouldn’t we first announce that God loves them? I know where you are coming from but God told Jonah to announce JUDGMENT. It is true that God loved the wicked Ninevites and they were indeed a wicked and cruel lot. They were inhuman, savages who were not content to steal and kill, they enjoyed torturing people before finally executing them. They were the scum of the earth. You would be hard pressed to find a worse sort which is one reason Jonah despised them.


You have to understand that sending Jonah with the message of Judgment was an act of love of Yahweh’s part. Had God not loved these pagan butchers, He would not have warmed them to repent. You cannot divorce Salvation from Judgment. The cross is proof of this statement. The two great judgments to this point was the FLOOD and the CROSS. Both were stern judgements that resulted in salvation. To save us to heaven–God must save from sin and our selves. The CROSS is an instrument of death: it crucifies the flesh. It is the instrument of our spiritual circumcision.

II. THE PROBLEM WITH THE GOSPEL

But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD . He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the LORD by sailing to Tarshish. [v.3]


God told Jonah to get up and go but Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction. Jonah, the prophet of God, rebelled. He disobeyed God’s direct command to go and preach. God told him to go East and Jonah went West. He may have thought, I will get so far away from Nineveh that it will not be possible for me to go until its too late and God judges them for their sin. Jonah did not want the Ninevites to be warned: he just wanted them to be judged.


Here is the problem: God loved the wicked Ninevites and Jonah did not. God wanted them to have a chance to repent: Jonah did not. He wanted them to be annihilated. Instead of longing for their salvation, he longed for their damnation.


The greatest problem with the gospel these days is not the message. The gospel still has power: the problem in not the content or the message, the problem is that we do not want to share it with those who need it most.  When it comes to sharing the gospel, we have cold feet and cold hearts.


Although he did not intend to, Jonah did bear witness to the sailors. He didn’t say that much but what he said was effective… “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” Jonah said, I worship Yahweh, the God who made made the sea and the land.

That is not much of a witness: matter of fact it is pitiful but God used it. While I was in Seminary, I pastored a very small church in East New Orleans. I was doing a follow up visit on a profession of faith and I encountered an angry mom. When I told her that her daughter had been saved, she too offense. She informed me that her daughter had been raised right and did not need saving. I saw that she was upset and I began back peddaling trying to get off her front porch but I couldn’t leave without telling this woman the truth. I told her that every person was a sinner and that we all needed salvation in Christ. Trust me, it was not a slick presentation. My mouth go dry and I struggled to find the words. I felt so bad about my presentation that I pulled over to the side of the road and cried. The next Sunday, the mom was in church sitting by her 16 year old daughter. She didn’t look happy. You can imagine my surprize when she responded on the first verse of the invitation. God had been dealing with her and she wanted to be saved. This sweet lady has been my friend now for 46 years. She is 90 years old and still lives in New Orleans.

III. THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL

The sailors were awestruck by the LORD ’s great power, and they offered Him a sacrifice and vowed to serve Him. [v.16]

I know you are probably thinking: this is jail house religion or boot camp religion or fox hole religion– I have no way of knowing how many of these sailors were sincere but they prayed to Yahweh the ONE true God. I have no idea what they sacrificed but had it not been acceptable, I think the scripture would tell us and they vowed to serve the LORD. I would have been thrilled just to get them praying instead of cursing.

GOD GETS ALL THE GLORY

Let me tell you what is wonderful about the book of Jonah: “God gets all the glory”. God called the prophet, God gave him the message, God sent the storm, God convicted the sailors, God transformed the sailors, God sent the fish, God showed mercy to the rebellious prophet, God got him to his location, God moved the Ninevites to repentance. God did it all. Greatest Revival in history and God did it through a rebellious, hard headed, back slidden preacher.

I am going to say something that you might find shocking: we are not going to work a revival up, I can’t preach one down nor conjure one up. None of our formula’s will work. I believe with all my heart that REVIVAL is a sovereign act of almighty God: He and He alone can ignite spiritual renewal or awakening. I do confess that history bears witness to the fact that REVIVAL is accompanied by prayer but this prayer is a part of the revival itself. The sailors prayed, the wicked Ninevites prayed but who moved them to pray? When God stirs us up to pray? Is God about to do something in our generation?  I don’t see that burden today. Prayer meeting are no longer popular.

When I see people burdened to pray, I know God is up to something.

The sobering question today is: How many of us really want REVIVAL? How many of us want to see the fire fall and burn up everything that is not like Jesus? How many of us want to see God do something that we can’t explain?

Perhaps a better question is: How many of us are willing to make a vow tonight, a vow to serve Yahweh. Tonight, I am going to challenge you to do just that: to make a public vow to serve the LORD. When I was growing up we called this a rededication, something we don’t do anymore and I think this is one reason we do not have REVIVAL

The Sailor’s prayed: the Ninevites prayed but both did more than pray. Both repented and made vows to serve the LORD. {Jerry}

The Prodigal Son and The Flesh

1 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 

2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! 


11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 
12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. 
13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 
14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 
15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.

such sinful people—even eating with them! 

16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. 


INTRODUCTION

I love Luke 15…Actually I love the stories that Luke recorded that are not found in the other gospels. Stories like the Rich Fool, the Good Samaritan, The Rich Man and Lazarus, The Pharisee and the Tax Collector and Zacchaeus. Today, I want to introduce a series from Luke 15. I will be speaking to you three times and LORD willing I will talk to you today about the Prodigal Son, then next The Loving Father and last The Elder Brother. To understand any of the three messages we have to begin with verses 1-2…


As I speak today, our convention is divided. The reform movement has made a huge surge into Southern Baptist circles and I yet to hear a hype-calvinist preach from Luke 15. The Reforms are fond of quoting a statement the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” When you here this quoted more than John 3:16 beware. Jesus stated clearly in Luke 19:10, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost.” There is no debate about God’s love for sinners–“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”


The Pharisees and Scribes were the Reform of their day, at least those in the Baptist Church. Our Presbyterian brothers do not press the analogy so far as this group in our convention. They did not believe that God loved sinners and they were upset that Jesus was eating with them. Tax collectors were hated by practically all Jews but these folks the Pharisees are refering to our Jews who have abandoned Judaism. They have stopped the practice of keeping the laws of Moses. In other words, they don’t attend church and make no pretence of being religious. The Pharisees did not see themselves as sinner but they labeled others as sinners. They refused to have any dealing with these sinners. They would not associate with them, do business with them and they certainly would not eat with them.


Jesus tells three stories in succession about things that are lost. First there is a lost sheep which of course had value. Many of the Pharisees were invested in livestock and they understood the worth of a sheep. The second story is about a lost coin and again, they understood the value of money because they were lovers of money themselves. The third story which we call the Prodigal Son actually has several parts and three main characters. 


The first two stories are to get the Pharisee’s attention: they can identify with these stories but the third story is an indictment against them. They are profiled in the third story in the person of the Elder Brother. The Tax Collecters and sinners are profiled in the Prodigal and God is the loving Father. So our plan is to talk about the PRODIGAL today, the LOVING FATHER next Sunday and then the ELDER BROTHER on September 17.


We have three sermons on the Prodigal but the good news this morning is that I’m going to do only one and it’s the shortest of the three.


When Adam and Eve fell in the garden, it left us with a selfish, self-centered nature. The bible refers to this nature as the ‘flesh’and we see it up close and personal in this story.

 Note verse 12 to begin with… The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’

I. FIRST OF ALL: THE FLESH ‘WANTS’ 

{A gluttonous appetite for things}

Note his words: ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’

  • The flesh wants its way. Isaiah said, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have each turned to our own way…”
  • The flesh wants independence…This boy wanted some distance. He wanted to be away from his father, the power and influence of his father. He didn’t want his father telling him what to do.
  • The flesh wants things…My share of your estate…which he was going to liquadate immediately. The flesh has an insatble appetite for stuff, for things.
  • The flesh wants pleasure…it craves pleasure. Those who give into the desires of the flesh live undisciplined lives and go from one pleasure to the next just like Esau.
  • The flesh wants and it wants now…the flesh does not want to wait.
We have a four year old granddaughter who wants practically everything she sees. Every time I walk in the house, she asked for something…Chucky Cheese, Targets, money for her piggy bank, go swimming, Chick-Fil-A, etc. She is never satisfied. The more she gets, the more she wants. She is a child but unfortunately, some people never grow up and they continue to indulge the flesh. As we will learn today: it is not a good idea to give the flesh everything it wants. I would weigh 300 pounds if I gave into the flesh.

II. SECONDLY: THE FLESH WASTE

Verse 13…“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. The Greek word for Estate in verse 12 is bios, if you have the King James it is translated as living. The young man quickly converted his share of he estate to cash, money which is father had spent a life time earning. He packed all his belonging and moved to a distant country and there he wasted all his money on wild living.

  • First lets look at the word waste. The Greek word diaskorpizō means to scatter abroad, to disperse, to strew, to squander or to waste. It is the picture of a farmer scattering seeds, only in the case of the Prodigal, he was literally throwing money to the wind.
  • To waste to use use or expend carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose.
  • Now lets look at the word ‘wild living.‘ The KJV translates this word ‘riotous’. The NKJV uses the word ‘Prodigal’. The ESV translates it ‘rckless.’ The NASB reads ‘loose living.’ Really, what does the word riotous mean? According to Strong, the Greek word could have been translated three ways: riotous, dissolutely, or profligately. The problem is: I don’t know what any of these words mean. Well riotous means without order or disorderly. Dissolutely means lacking restraint; especially, over indulgence.  Profligately means careless, foolish and reckless. I think all of these characteristics apply to the Prodigal: He was disorderly, over indulgent, lacking discipline or restraint, careless, foolish and reckless.

 WASTE

  • Waste is a sin. At the top of my daddy’s list of sins was wasting food.
  • It is also wrong to waste money which this young man did.
  • But he wasted more than money, he wasted a part of his life…He was living without purpose. He spent all the money but to what purpose?

When he got to this distant country, he should have found a job but he didn’t, he began living it up and wasted all his money. When the money was gone, he was not only broke, he was alone. He didn’t even have one friend. Note the last line of our text…But no one gave him anything. 

All this time and he had not built one enduring relationship. How sad!

III. THIRD: THE FLESH DOES NOT SATISFY, IT ALWAYS LEAVES US EMPTY

Verse 14-15…. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.

  • Ironically, the KJV says, “he began to be in want.” The NIV reads, “he began to be in need.” NLT hits the nail on the head, he was hungry, starving. So hungry, so empty that slop was tempting.
  • The flesh is big at boasting but it cannot fulfill what it promises. It will leave you empty, hurting and dissatisfied every time.

CONCLUSION

Don’t waste your life pursuing riches, things, stuff. Begin today, if you have not began already, to live with purpose and build relationship instead of building a bank account. I was at least 40 years old before I understood this truth. Relationships trumps riches every time. The highest relationship is one with Jesus. Repent of your selfish ways and come to Christ today.

Mary Magdalene

SCRIPTURE TEXT: John 20:1-18, NLT

1 Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. 
2 She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 
3 Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. 
4 They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 
5He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. 
6 Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, 
7while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. 
8 Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— 
9 for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 
10 Then they went home. 
11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 
12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 
13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 
14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 
15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” 
16 “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”). 
17 “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 
18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message. 

INTRODUCTION

We don’t know much about Mary’s past…

  • We do know that she was demon possessed when Jesus found her and obviously He healed her but the account in not recorded in the bible. We do know that she was from Magdala, a tiny village on the North bank of the Sea of Galilee, within walking distance of Capernaum which was Jesus head quarters. 
  • We know that Pope Gregory I {591} gave her a bad rap. He characterized Mary Magdalene as an adulteress or prostitute and identified her as the prostitute who anoints Jesus’ feet {Luke 7:36-50}. It is my understanding that the Catholic Church reversed it’s position on Mary in 1969 but the damage had been done. Practically every movie made about the life of Christ portrays Mary Magdalene as a prostitute. There is no evidence that she was a prostitute.
  • Luke identifies her as one of the women who supported Jesus ministry financially and it is not likely that a prostitute who be in a position do do so. Her income would depend on her working and we all know that Jesus would transform anyone who followed Him. Magdala was known for textiles and for dying fabrics. Mary probably gained wealth from the textile business. This is a hunch, we do not know where she got her wealth.
  • We do not know the details of her demon possession: some say it was mental illness; others speculate that she could have dabbled in the occult. Could it have been an addiction that lead to the demonic possession? We do not know. We do know that any form of demon possession would be bad. The devil and his demons are tormentors. Any form of possession was bound to have made Mary miserable. She may have felt overwhelmed by guilt or had deep self-loathing for herself.
  • We do know that she was filled with gratitude, she loved Jesus. She was loyal through thick and thin and she did not shy away from the cross. She was right there giving Him her love and support.
  • I am quite sure that Jesus was the only man who had ever loved Mary without abusing her, using her, or demeaning her.

THREE THINGS I WANT TO SAY ABOUT MARY MAGDALENE

I. UNDERSTAND: SHE LOVED JESUS AND HE LOVED HER BUT HE DID NOT ANSWER HER PRAYER

Mary went to the tomb looking for a body, a dead lifeless body. When she got to the tomb, she was shocked to discover it was empty. What should have thrilled and elated her caused her much grief. She ran from the tomb to find Peter and John, they came immediately to check it out but then they returned home…not Mary, she wasn’t going anywhere until she got some answers.

Mary looked back into the tomb and saw the two angels but before she could asks them about the missing body, they spoke to her…“Dear woman, why are you crying?” [Mary]  “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put him.” 

Mary is in distress over the missing body. This has heighten her anxiety and deepened her grief. She turns away from the angels in disappointment and frustration and there stands a man that she supposes is the care taker of the cemetery…and He repeats the Angels question….“Dear woman, why are you crying?” Then Jesus asks a second question... “Who are you looking for?” ……“Sir,” Mary said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”  

So Mary’s prayer after  seeing the empty tomb was…LORD help me find the body.

Mary did not go to the tomb expecting to see a resurrected Jesus; she went looking for a dead corpse. What a wonderful surprise: Jesus is alive. God did not give Mary what she asks for: He gave her exceedingly, abundantly more than she had even imagined.

Aren’t you glad that God does not answer our small, petty, shallow prayers but goes beyond anything we can imagine or articulate and gives us what our hearts truly desire even though we had never realize what it was that we truly desired.

II. MY SECOND POINT IS THIS: JESUS IS VERY MUCH PRESENT ALTHOUGH MARY DOESN’T KNOW IT.

You talk about near, Jesus is within arms length and Mary is looking for His body. She’s not looking in the right direction. She is looking for DEAD among the LIVING but as long as you look for a dead, lifeless, powerless Jesus–you are not going to find HIM. He is not in a tomb, nor is He on a cross.

I want to make this truth clear: Jesus presence is one thing, our recognizing His presence is another. He is always present, that is a fact: He cannot be otherwise. He is to creation what the sun is to our solar system. I see the sun in the day time but at night I cannot see the sun. Doesn’t matter, I know it is present, even if I don’t see its reflection off the moon, I know it is still there because I am still here. Without the sun, we would live less than 8 minutes. What the sun is to this tiny solar system, Jesus is to creation. He is the cosmic glue, the one who holds it all together and He is LIFE. He is the life giver and the life sustainer. If Jesus were not present, you and I would be dead. Jesus is real no matter how you feel. Mary didn’t feel His presence but He was present, so don’t confuse feeling with facts.  Actually, she felt sorrow and grief even though it was He who was addressing her. How can this be? She simply did not recognize His presence.

Then Jesus calls her by name…“Mary!”…Mary turned to HIM and cried out “Rabi or Teacher.” When she heard Him speak her name, she knew it was Him. Once she knew, once she became aware of His presence, the horrific storm in her soul began to abate. Obviously, no one spoke her name like Jesus.

III. THE THIRD AND FINAL POINT IS THIS–NO ONE, OTHER THAN JESUS, COULD MAKE MARY HAPPY. [Heal her broken heart]

I suppose Angels have pretty thick skin. I sure they saw the disappointment in Mary’s eyes when she looked in the tomb and found them instead of the body of Jesus. I would get excited to see two angels but they didn’t move her–she was fixed on one thing and that was Jesus. She preferred a dead Jesus to two live Angels. Of course the good news is: she was getting a living Jesus, One who was victorious over sin, death and the grave.

I want you to imagine dealing with this distraught and grieving woman. Let’s put you at the tomb to talk to this heart broken woman…

  • Mary, I know you came here looking for the body of Jesus but no one knows where the body is and besides, if He is dead, what difference does it make. I can’t give you the body of Jesus but I can give you the keys to a new condo on the Sea of Galilee. Just take these keys and forget about Jesus. [Mary] “You know what you can do with those keys don’t you? You can keep them. I don’t want a new condo on the Sea of Galilee, I want the body of Jesus.
  • [A second person tries] Mary…I can’t produce a body for you but I will give you a brand new 4 bedroom pent house in down town Jerusalem, that should make you feel better and forget about the body of Jesus. [Mary] You guys just don’t get it do you. You could offer me the world and it would not take away my grief. Nothing is going to satisfy me other than the body of Jesus.
  • [A third person tries] Mary…what about a ten year supply of makeup? [Mary] No, I don’t want makeup, a new house or a condo on the beach, I want Jesus.

By now, you get the picture, nothing is going to please this woman other than Jesus. Jesus is on her mind and in her heart and she will not settle for anything other than Jesus.

CONCLUSION

Wow! What a powerful testimony Mary has given…You can have this entire world, just give me Jesus. Oh that you and I might have a similar testimony.

Jesus love you folks: He gave His life for you just as He did Mary. He will give you a new life, a better life just as He did Mary but you must repent of your sins and accept His forgiveness. You can do that today. Right where you stand, you can left up a prayer to heaven: Dear God, I am a sinner and I need a Savior. Today I put my trust in Your Son Jesus, I believe He died for my sins. I believe He was buried and rose from the dead. I believe He is in heaven and listening to this prayer. Save me Jesus, save me now.

 

 

The Sun of Righteous

4Scripture: Malachi 4:1-6

1 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all.
2 “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.
3 On the day when I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
4 “Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant—all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.
5 “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives.
6 His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

INTRODUCTION

Would you be shocked if I told you this passage is about Jesus who is the Sun of Righteousness or Son of Righteousness if you prefer: doesn’t matter to me because He is both and all. Obviously, this passage is about JUDGMENT. Most of us do not see judgment as a good thing but where there is judgment, there is salvation and there is no salvation without judgment.


In the days of Noah, the world was so depraved that it was on a course of self-destruction: God intervened and sent the flood. Thousands perished but Noah and family were saved from a world that would have eventually destroyed them. Sometimes we forget that the CROSS was a judgment, a judgment on sin. Sin was destroying us and Jesus came to save us from our sin. He did so by becoming sin for us and suffering the penalty of death. God judged sin at Calvary. He executed it, gave it the death penalty. There would be no salvation for anyone had not that judgment taken place.

In light of this truth, I wish to share three points:

I. A JUDGMENT TO AWAIT

Malachi is dealing with a group of Jews who are disrespecting God and accusing Him of being unjust. These Jews said horrible things about God ….

  • It is vain to serve God
  • There is no profit in keeping God’s commandments
  • Does no good to mourn, prayer or fast
  • God blesses the arrogant and the wicked
  • They tempt God and get by with it

Malachi’s message is clear: Yes, they may tempt God but they will not get by with it. The fact that they have not been judged does not mean that they will not be judged. Their judgment is coming, it is still in the future. Judgement is both a process and a event. We believers are suffering some judgment now in the present but there is coming a future judgment day when all unbelievers will be judged.

Malachi’s point is that the wicked have gotten by with nothing; a judgment is awaiting them. “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all.

Here Malachi tells us four things about this coming Judgment

  1. It is a coming DAY [v.1] It is a DAY on the calendar. I cannot tell you when it is but God knows, the DAY has been determined. You know that if God gave us enough sense to sit down and plan out our lives by using a calendar that He can do the same. We just do not have access to HIS calendar.
  2. It is a Judgment DAY [v.1,3] Malachi uses two metaphors to describe those who will be judged. They will be like straw and dust. Malachi said JUDGMENT will be like a furnace or oven [probably referring to the little clay ovens that the Jews used]. He said the wicked would be like straw. The Jews used straw for fuel in their little clay ovens. Straw makes a quick fire with an intense heat: it burns quickly and leaves no residue. You don’t have to worry about ashes when straw is the fuel because STRAW has no substance. Likewise, those who have lived for this world have no substance: they will be consumed quickly and nothing will be left. In other words, they will lose everything. People who lived for money and power will lose all. Money is straw in the spiritual realm, it has no substance. Yet we have folks building a kingdom of straw. You would be better served to do an act of kindness for your neighbors each day. At least that will not burn up on Judgment day. Prayer, praise and proclaiming the word has eternal significance but money has none. What a sad commentary. Jesus said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul.” In spite of His advice, people keep pushing shoving, grabbing and getting, hoarding and hiding and it is all for nothing. Everything in their life will go up in flames and be gone in a moment. The second metaphor Malachi used was dust. Dust and straw have something in common: neither have substance and neither will stand in the day of judgment. If you have the idea that Judgment is going to be a big fight, think again. Straw and dust have to little substance to resist.
  3. It is a Great DAY [v.5] It will be a great DAY just by sheer numbers. Billions will be there. Entire Nations will be there. Every kindred, every tribe. It will be unlike anything we have ever seen or imagined. I was impressed with the crowd at the Atlanta baseball game the other night and that crowd will be a drop in the bucket.
  4. It is a dreadful DAY [v.5]

II. A SALVATION TO ACCEPT

[v.2] “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.

For those who do not fear the LORD, judgment will be a horrible thing but for those that fear God, there is an escape. Just as Noah and family were spared by taking refuge in the ARK, those who repent of their sins and take refuge in Christ will be saved from the coming Judgment. The sun is the main source of life on planet earth. We cannot live without the sun. We are absolutely dependent on the sun. But the same sun that gives life can take it. Too much sun can cause death. The sun can both harm and heal. Jesus can Judge us or Save us. Actually, God the Father is going to vindicate Jesus His Son.

There is a ceremony of purification found in Leviticus 14, it has to do with being healed of a skin disease. The priest takes two birds, one is killed and bleed into a bowl, then he takes the live bird and dips its wings into the blood of the first bird, he then releases the bird to fly heavenward, rising with healing in his wings. Many think this is a picture of the ascension of Christ. “The Sun of righteousness rising with healing in His wings.” [v.2]

If you repent and accept Christ as your savior, it will be the best decision you will ever make; if you reject Him, it will be the worse.

  • Accept Christ and your sins are paid for–reject Him and you will pay
  • Accept Christ and be blessed–reject Him and you will be cursed
  • Accept Christ and be saved–reject Him and you will be condemned
  • Accept Christ and you have a home in heaven–reject Him and you spend eternity in hell.

III. A CURSE TO AVOID

“Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant—all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.
5 “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives.
6 His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”


When we think of a “curse,” we think of an expletive, an offensive word or phrase used to express anger or annoyance. We think of a swear word, an oath, or profanity but that is a secondary meaning of the word Curse. The CURSE Malachi is speaking of is a solemn utterance intended to invoke a supernatural power to inflict harm or punishment on someone or something.


David’s Curse on His Enemies in Psalm 69

19 You know of my shame, scorn, and disgrace. You see all that my enemies are doing. 
20 Their insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. If only one person would show some pity; if only one would turn and comfort me. 
21 But instead, they give me poison for food; they offer me sour wine for my thirst. 
22 Let the bountiful table set before them become a snare and their prosperity become a trap. 
23 Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see, and make their bodies shake continually. 
24 Pour out your fury on them; consume them with your burning anger. 
25 Let their homes become desolate and their tents be deserted. 
26 To the one you have punished, they add insult to injury; they add to the pain of those you have hurt.
27 Pile their sins up high, and don’t let them go free. 
28 Erase their names from the Book of Life; don’t let them be counted among the righteous. 


Jeremiah 17:8….

Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”


No one in their right mind should want to be under God’s CURSE but Malachi told the Jews…If you do not heed Moses instructions and listen to the preaching of God’s prophets and have a change of heart, you will be under a curse.


The Rabbi’s have rearranged the last verse of Malachi so that the O.T. does not end with the word CURSE. For the past 2,000 years the Jews have lived under a Curse and it is because they rejected Christ. This is going to change someday before that great and dreadful day of Judgment. I believe there is going to be a massive revival among the Jews. Where millions are saved. The Jews are in the Saul stage now: they fight the church tool and nail but when they get saved, they will be like Paul, aggressive evangelist.

CONCLUSION

God in His sovereign grace allows you to right the last chapter of your story. You can be under the curse and be like straw or dust or you can honor Christ and be like a calf out of the stall, kicking up your heels and dancing for joy. Repent and be blessed, rebel and suffer His wrath. He allows you to choose. Choose wisely.

The Divine Distinction

SCRIPTURE: Malachi 3:13-18

13 “You have said terrible things about me,” says the LORD . “But you say, ‘What do you mean? What have we said against you?’
14 “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the LORD of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins?

15 From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.’”


16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke with each other, and the LORD listened to what they said. In His presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared Him and always thought about the honor of His name.
17 “They will be my people,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child.
18 Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”

 INTRODUCTION

Although I addressed verses 13-15 Sunday night, I wanted us to look at them again because Malachi is showing us a contrast. Verse 18 is the key….Then once more you shall distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.

As we have mentioned again and again…Many of post-exilic Jews had a bad attitude as we saw in verses 13-15. They had some harsh accusations against God:

  1. It is vain to Serve God. 
  2. No profit in obeying God’s law 
  3. What good does it do to wear sackcloth and fast?
  4. God blesses the arrogant: He shows favor to the wicked

BUT

Look at verses 16-18: here we have a completely different story. You see the contrast in verse 18….There were a group of Jews {minority} who feared God and wanted very much to please Him.

  1. This believing remnant feared the LORD.
  2. They had fellowship with each other.
  3. They prayed and God listened.
  4. They meditated on God’s name.
  5. They were serving God.                       

I. FIRST: NOTE THE DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTIC OF THOSE WHO SERVE GODTHEY FEAR THE LORD

[verse 16] Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another.

The word Malachi uses is yare’ which means awe, reverence or respect. There are three Hebrew words for fear. One {pachad} means to be afraid, startled or stand in awe. It is used in Hosea 3:5... In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the LORD and of his goodness. It can be used in the context of worship but not always. The second word {arats} means to be terrified, to be filled with dread. Moses uses it in Deuteronomy 31:6…So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and no not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

  •  Job — “The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.”
  • Solomon —Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
  • Isaiah–And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
  • Luke–The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in thefear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.
  1. When we fear God, we become afraid of evil, we turn from it {Proverbs 3:7} Job is a good example {Job 1:1} There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.
  2. When we fear God, we obey Him or serve Him. Perhaps not for the right reason but we are afraid to disobey. Samuel told the Israelites, But be sure to fear the LORD and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you. [I Samuel 12:24]
  3. When we fear God, we worship Him, stand in awe of Him. Impossible to worship without the fear of God. [Deut. 6:13] You must fear the LORD your God and serve him. When you take an oath, you must use only his name. I like what Moses said to the Israelites…And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the LORD your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. Pleasing, loving and serving are vital aspects to worship.
  4. When we fear God, we begin to learn, gain wisdom {Proverbs 9:10}

….SO….

Those who do not fear the LORD….

  1. Are not afraid of evil
  2. Are not God’s servants
  3. Are not true worshippers
  4. Are not wise

II. SECOND: NOTE THE GENTLE REMINDERS

[Verse 16, GNT] Then the people who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard what they said. In his presence, there was written down in a book a record of those who feared the Lord and respected him.

The people spoke to one another. The God-fearing Jews got together, they congregated and they spoke to one another. Whereas the other Jews were voicing complaints, this group was probably praising God and celebrating His goodness. It would be a type of worship service.

Verse 16 in the NASB

Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name.

The RSV reads heeded and heard…The ESV–The Lord paid attention…Holman–The Lord took notice. The Hebrew word is kä·shav’, to hear, be attentive, heed, incline (of ears), attend (of ears), hearken, pay attention, listen.

FIRST REMINDER–GOD is paying attention: He cares

When someone sits down with you and pays attention, attending to your every word and making every effort to understand your heart…How do you interpret such a gesture? It means they care. Most folks are not going to stop what they are doing and sit down and listen because they do not care.

God listened to them as they talked to each other: He heard, took note of what they said. We do not know exactly what they said, but obviously, it was pleasing to the LORD. It is a remarkable thing, that God listens to us.

SECOND REMINDER–Because God cares, He listens.

God is listening and he is understanding. The second word Malachi uses is  shä·mah’ to hear, to understand

Let me give you an example: Think about the story in Luke 24 of Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus joined these two disciples without them being aware of who He was. He talked to them, He listened to them; He even asked them questions. It is a wonderful story of God interacting with man. God does listen to what we say. Our prayers may not get answered the way we want but He is listening. He cares about our feeling, our problem and the things that concern us.

THIRD REMINDER–God is paying attention, He is listening and He is taking notes.

The first time I spoke to Morgan County Preachers was back in the 80 when Michael Dawson was pastor of Central in Decatur. I preached out of Judges on Gideon pursuit of his enemies. The title of the message was WEARY, YET PURSUING. I noticed as I was preaching that one preacher had a note-book and was taking notes. Only one and it was Bro. Mike. I almost lost my place. It blew my mind that a man of his caliber would think he could learn from me. Later, I came to realize that the Holy Spirit speaks when the word is preached and it is a good time to have pen and paper.

Even more amazing is the fact that God is taking notes. He had a record in heaven. Perhaps you are thinking, I don’t know if that is a good thing. Well, He is not recording our sins, although sins are recorded. This is a record book of those “Who fear Him” and those who “Meditate upon His name.” You might say PRAISE HIS NAME. Those who HONOR HIS NAME. Those who give high regard or ESTEEM HIS NAME.

Let me tell you where I think Malachi is going with this: The complaining Jews, those who do not fear God are accusing God of favoring the wicked. They were saying, “It does not pay to serve God…there is no reward in it.”

Malachi is saying the opposite: Yes, it pays to serve God and He is keeping a record of all who do and someday [future] they will be rewarded. Ancient Kings kept extensive records and from time to time they would review the records and when they found a loyal subject deserving of reward, they would reward that servant. Mordecai is a good example: one night when King [Xerxes] Ahasuerus could not sleep, he called for the record books and found out that Mordecai had saved him from a wicked plot and he rewarded Mordecai [after all that time].

The complaining Jews were thinking of this world only: don’t limit God to this world only.

III. THIRD: NOTE THE PROMISE

[V. 17] “They will be My people,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child.

  1. A DAY OF RECKONING...“On that Day.”…We do not need to fret about the wicked. Psalm 37 is good medicine for all of us…their DAY is coming…
    Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither. Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.  Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the LORD . Trust him, and he will help you. The wicked have no future.
  2. WE ARE GOD’S SPECIAL TREASURE. The word for Treasure can refer to anything of great value [Jewels, gems, gold, silver] that must be secured or locked up. The Hebrew word seg-ool-law’ is the feminine passive participle of an unused root meaning to shut up as in wealth. To keep under lock and key. Some interpret this to mean we are God’s crown jewels. I like to think of the security aspect, we are under lock and key. No fear of the devil stealing us away.
  3. WE WILL BE SPARED LIKE OBEDIENT CHILDREN. Holman translates verse 17… I will have compassion on them as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. The Hebrew word khä·mal’ to spare, pity, have compassion on.

CONCLUSION

I don’t look forward to judgment. I think it will be a terrible day. Yes, I am anxious about seeing Jesus glorified and institutional sin destroyed but I am not excited about anyone going to hell. I must say this: we are not going to be saved by our good works, our hope is in the compassion and pity of God. We are saved by virtue of His divine nature. He is a loving and compassionate God and that is why He sent His only begotten Son to die in our stead. Praise to God from whom all blessings flow.

Will A Man Rob God?

8 “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.
9 You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me.
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put ME to the test!
11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

INTRODUCTION

I was raised on the King James which states the Jews sin a little differently…“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.”

So the question is: will a man rob God? And the answer is yes, he will: as a matter of fact over 80% of Baptist do it weekly. Jack Taylor was fond of saying, “I would pray with a man who robs God. I wouldn’t close my eyes in his presence: a man who will rob God, will rob anyone.” I think Jack was using the hyperbole but his point is well taken. Something is not right when a man robs God.

I suppose the second question is: how can a man rob God? Malachi gives us the answer, by withholding our tithes and offerings. The Levitical or Temple Ministry was supported by tithes and offerings. Today the ministry of the church, the body of Christ, is supported by tithes and offerings. Why do people feel entitled to a free ride? I don’t get it. Joe Wheeler does not give us electricity and they don’t take faith as payment for their services either. Ministry is expensive and it cannot be done without financial support.

The third question is WHY? Why don’t professing believers tithe?

Today, I am going to suggest four reasons or excuses why many church members do not tithe…

I. GOD HAS NO NEEDS. 

The gold is His, the silver is His, the cattle on a thousand hills are his. The earth is the LORD’s and everything on it. God has infinite wealth. His resources cannot be exhausted. All of this is true. God is not in a financial bind. He does not need a bail out. Many people reason to themselves: God doesn’t need my money.

I had to borrow money from an individual to go to school and when I went to pay him back, he opened his ledger and I saw another name, someone is my family, who owed him money and had made no effort to pay him back. This man was a relative and he did not charge us interest. But this particular person had made no attempt to pay the principal. I confronted him and he didn’t like it but I pressed for an answer: “Why are you not paying this debt?” I will never forget what he said, “He has ten times as much money as I have, he doesn’t need the money.” I think my response was, “That has nothing to do with it.” I guarantee you when he asked for the loan, he did not tell the man, “You are rich and I have no intention of paying you back.” Had he been honest, the man would not have loaned him the money and neither would I.

A debt is a debt is a debt. By the way, poor people don’t loan money. Only rich people loan money. If you owe someone, their financial status has nothing to do with your moral obligation to pay the debt.

NO, God does not need your money but that has nothing to do with your obligation.


II. MISTRUST FOR THE MINISTRY

The second excuse that I know is real has to do with people mistrust of preachers. They assume incorrectly that a preacher who preaches on stewardship [the use of material wealth] is greedy and working toward a raise. Be honest: How many Baptist churches do you know where the preacher sets the budget and determines his own salary.

I’ll go one step further, if you have a preacher and he never preaches on giving, he is probably not giving himself. We need to be thankful that your pastor tells you the truth. My grandmother on the Bailey side was horrible about judging preachers on this issue. She told me more than once, “There is plenty in the bible for you to preach without you begging for money.” First of all, I have never begged and secondly, I can’t allow my grandmother or anyone else to tell me what and what not to preach.

I knew a man some 35 years ago who claimed to be a deacon but believed like my grandmother. He rode a Greyhound to Arkansas to see a doctor and he sat beside a retired Baptist preacher. He was so proud to tell me, a young preacher at the time that this older preacher made a comment that “he had never preached on tithing, too much other there to get on money.” He wanted to know what I thought, I was a young man but I gave him the proper answer: I said, “I think you sat beside a preacher who never tithed.” I know several preachers who never mention tithing. They also borrow money and don’t pay it back. A bad steward is a bad steward, doesn’t matter if he is a preacher.

I am telling you the truth as I understand it about TITHING and it has nothing today with a salary. There will be no financial profit by what I am doing. I have never preached on giving and gotten a raise because of it.

III. I GIVE OTHER THINGS LIKE MY TALENT AND TIME

The next time you get a bill from Joe Wheeler, throw it in the trash and take them your talent. What a crock! I know this excuse is alive and well because I have family members that give this excuse. Your talent is God’s. It is a gift from Him; you have control of it but it’s on loan and so it your time. God wants more than your time and talent: actually, He wants more than your money. He wants you to trust Him for every need and He wants you to obey His word.

IV. TITHING IS OT/LAW: JESUS FREED US FROM ITS MORAL OBLIGATION

Tithing was practiced in the OT but not as a part of the LAW. The Patriarchs Abraham and Jacob tithed over 400 years before the law was given. “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple…” is an imperative command. Those who claim that GRACE has set them free from the law of tithing are full of mush. Jesus taught us in the sermon on the mount that GRACE goes beyond the law. In other words, those who truly believe in GRACE give more than a tithe. Grace or love goes for beyond the expected. Try treating your wife the way you treat God in the matter of giving.

A man who is living with his wife as a moral obligation may give what is expected but a man who is head over hills in love with his wife will give her much more than expected. Do you get my drift?

V. I CAN’T AFFORD TO TITHE

Mrs. Lillie Mae Thompson of Cherokee, Alabama would say, “You can’t afford not to tithe.” She said, “If you are a child of God, you owe it and you better pay it or else he will get it another way.” I heard her say once, “If you don’t give it to the church, the doctor or the auto mechanic will get it.”

I can assure you, tithing is not a financial problem, it is a spiritual problem. Yes there are people who budget and the tithe is not in the budget but that’s because they have bought things they didn’t need. If I had a new boat, a new camper, a new tractor, UTV and took eight vacations a year, I would be able to tithe either. People spend selfishly on themselves, get over extended and then claim they cannot afford to give. Truth is, they are doing too much frivolous spending.

I have told you about the old boy who began making $300 per week and tithing $30. He kept getting promoted until he was making $3000 per week and his tithe was $300. The greed bug bit him and he went to his preacher and said, “Preacher, $300 is a lot of money to be giving to the church, I don’t think I can continue to tithe that amount. I don’t know what to do, would you please pray for me?” “Yes, be glad to said his pastor.” They got on their knees and the preacher began…”Lord, Jim had no problem tithing when he made $300 per week so I pray you will give him his old job back so he makes only $300….” Jim interrupted him, “That’s OK preacher, strike that prayer, I will give the $300.”

Robby Gallaty tells of a man in the church where he served who volunteered to do sheet rock work because he could not afford to tithe. He confessed this to the pastor who seized the day. “Since you have confessed to me that you do not tithe, do you mind if I share one passage of scripture with you?” The man agreed and Pastor Robby shared Malachi 3:10 which is a unique verse.

It is the only verse in the bible where God puts us to the dare. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If  you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!

God is saying, “Try Me, put Me to the test…I dare you.” See if I will not open up the windows of heaven and bless you, overwhelm you with blessing. Give you more blessings than you know what to do with!

The Pastor said to the man: “You don’t have a financial problem, you have a faith problem. You don’t believe God will do what He says He will do. You do not believe in your heart that God will flood you with blessing if you tithe do you? The man looked at his pastor and said, “You are right preacher, I have a faith problem.”

By the way, the word ‘rob’ translated ‘cheat’ in the NLT is used on three times in the O.T. and twice in this passage, verses 8,9. The other is Proverbs 22:23 where Solomon said, “Do not rob the poor or God will rob you.” The Hebrew word for rob or cheat is ‘aqob’ and its original meaning was to cover. Thus the word came to mean defraud: cheating others by deception. The word is so close to the OT name Jacob who was a cheater. Jacob deceived his father by covering up the truth. Some would say he out smarted his brother Esau but this is inaccurate, he cheated his brother. Some have even translated this verse, “Will a man jacob God?”

My challenge to you today is not to tithe, my challenge is for you to come clean, be honest, tell the truth. Stop covering the truth with your lame excuses. Call it what it is: ROBBING/CHEATING GOD. [Sounds bad, “cheating God,” because it is bad]

TITHING

  1. Practiced by the Patriarchs [Abraham and Jacob]
  2. Instituted as a means of provision for Levite and Temple ministry.
  3. Endorsed by Jesus
  4. Standard method of providing for the maintainance and ministry of the church.
  5. In the context of scripture, especially Malachi 3:10– it is a moral imperative.

BUT

Don’t tithe unless…

  1. You do it–As an act of obedience

  2. You do it–As a gesture of faith

  3. You do it–As an expression of love

The Money is not the main thing: your heart being right with God is the main thing.