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.

Today, we are going to talk about a PERFECT STORM, a storm that God hurled in Jonah’s direction. What makes this a perfect STORM? I am glad you ask..

I. IT ILLUSTRATES THE LORD’S MESSAGE

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.” 

Jonah’s commission was to take God’s message of judgment to Nineveh. The text of his simple sermon is…”In forty days, Nineveh will be destroyed.” There are conequences to sin…The wages of sin is death, physical and spiritual. People need to be warned concerning these consequences which ultimately is spiritual death and hell.

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

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. Yes, God loved them and that is why he sent Jonah but there are consquences to sin and that is the A part of the gospel.

II. THE STORM REVEALS OUR HUMAN CONDTITION

The SAILORS represent the lost world…they are fearful, pagan, ignorant, and in desperate need of salvation. The words of Philip Bliss come to mind… The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin, The Light of the world is Jesus! We are living in a world that does not know Jesus. Jesus has commissioned us to get the gospel to them.


JONAH, unfortunately represents the CHURCH. Where is Jonah? He is below deck fast asleep. He is sleeping through the storm. As Matthew Henry said, “The devil has rocked him to sleep in carnal security.” Jonah is indifferent to the needs of the sailors. He knows the TRUTH but he is sleeping on it. These men are going to drown in a lost condition if Jonah doesn’t tell them the truth. The truth, apart from correct theology which Jonah has, is that Jonah doesn’t care. While the heatherns are on deck praying, Jonah is below sleeping.

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. But what he said was enough. Every man on the ship was saved.

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 STORM INSPIRED A PRAYER MEETING

Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help…

The sailor were shouting to their gods but they were getting no results. The captain went below to wake up Jonah…“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.” Is this amazing or what? A pagan sea captain is trying to wake up a preacher and get him to pray. “This is no time for a nap, get up and pray.”


I was listening to a sermon on YouTube and the preacher told of a church in Texas who was in earnest prayer about a honky-tonk that was going to open in close proxsimity to the church campus. They were praying specifically for God to intervene and stop the club from operating. Sure enough, a few days after the club opened it was struck by lightening and burned to the ground. The owner of the honky-tonk had heard about the church’s prayer meeting and he sued the church. When they got to court, the church denied having anything to do with the destruction of the honky-tonk. The judge looked at them in confusions and said, “I’m a bit puzzled…here before me is a church that says it does not believe in prayer and an owner of a honky-tonk who says he does.”

Not only do we need to believe that prayer works, we need to be praying instead of sleeping through the storm.

IV. THE STORM MANIFESTED GOD’S AWESOME POWER

You might say the theme of the book of Jonah is GOD’S AWESOME POWER…Jonah, the reluctant witness, gives a simple and very brief presentation and everyone on board is saved. How did this happen. Well, it began with prayer and that lead to confession and then Jonah shared the TRUTH and then God displayed His awesome power by calming the storm immediately. As soon as Jonah hit the water the wind died and it was calm. The sailor were speechless. They stood there in awe and amazement. They realized that Jonah was serving the only true God and they all professed faith in HIM right there on the spot.

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. 

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