A Look at Lectionaries

According to Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, “the lectionary is the reason why, if you’re a preacher, you’re bored to tears, and if you’re a layperson, you have a sneaking suspicion you’ve heard this one before.”

LITURGICAL COLANDER Season Your Pasta With Ordinary Thyme ...

Most preachers that I interact with on a regular basis don’t typically use the lectionary to plan out their sermons. I will typically look at it for seasons like Advent or Lent, but I usually preach through a book of the Bible or systematically preach through a topic. However, I know some preachers who are attached to the lectionary to the point that they are getting bored with it.

They have sermons for every text over the course of the three year cycle, and they need something else so they can keep flexing their sermon prep muscles. According to Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, “the lectionary is the reason why, if you’re a preacher, you’re bored to tears, and if you’re a layperson, you have a sneaking suspicion you’ve heard this one before.” If that resonates with you, then I have good news for you! There are other lectionaries that you can borrow from!

Typically, when one thinks of the lectionary, they think of the Revised Common Lectionary since that is the most common one in use among mainline evangelical Protestants (and we will cover that one for our low church friends). However, did you know that there are actually handful out there that you can use?

Getting the Lingo Down

For those of you who may be eavesdropping into the conversation you may be wondering, “What in the heck is a lectionary anyway?”

A lectionary is a systematic reading of selected Scriptures throughout the Christian year (Advent through Christ the King Sunday). The tradition of using a lectionary goes back to at least first century Judaism (maybe even farther back than that) where there would be assigned readings from the Old Testament to address where the people of God were in the Jewish calendar. (You can read Leon Morris’ extensive work on the Jewish lectionaries here.)

Even in Luke 4, when Jesus teaches in his hometown, the text tells us that they handed the scroll of Isaiah to Him so He could read from it. From this, we can infer that when Jesus read Isaiah 61 and said, “Today, this has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:17-21) it was because Isaiah 61 was the assigned text for that Sabbath day.

So, if the Jews used a lectionary to remind them of the significance of where they were in the Jewish calendar then it’s only natural that Christians would do the same with the Christian calendar.

So, if the Jews used a lectionary to remind them of the significance of where they were in the Jewish calendar then it’s only natural that Christians would do the same with the Christian calendar.

Let’s look at some lectionaries at our disposal. This is by no means an exhaustive list. These are just some that I’ve found helpful.

The Revised Common Lectionary

The Common Lectionary was published in 1983 out of an ecumenical effort by both American and Canadian denominations to have a common experience of the story of Scripture throughout the Church year . There were some various problems with its trial run so the same people who brought us the Common Lectionary went back to the ol’ drawing board and brought us the Revised Common Lectionary which you can peruse at this link. The Revised Common Lectionary, published in 1992, takes into account constructive criticism of the Common Lectionary. It is a three-year cycle of Sunday Eucharistic readings in which Matthew, Mark, and Luke are read in successive years with some material from John read in each year.

When a mainline church uses the lectionary this is typically their go-to. Many PCUSA, Cumberland Presbyterian, United Methodist, and American Baptist congregations walk through this lectionary every three years.*

LCMS One Year Lectionary

The Missouri Synod Lutheran Church developed the one year lectionary which you can view here. Admittedly, I don’t know much about this lectionary, but from what I’ve seen it could be handy for pastors who want to introduce the Christian calendar to congregations that have historically been low church.

At this link you can read a talk given by Rev. Randy Asburry where he gives some compelling reasons for using this lectionary.

The Narrative Lectionary

I have become quite familar with the Narrative Lectionary over the last year or so. Basically, this lectionary operates on a four year cycle where you focus on the story of one of the four gospels every year from Advent until Pentecost Sunday, and then there are various readings of Scripture throughout the rest of the church year that help us in examining other books of the Bible or systematically addressing different themes from Scripture.

I should add that one of the reasons I admire this particular lectionary is that it’s convenient to take a break from during Ordinary Time so that you can preach on other topics or books of the Bible that the lectionary doesn’t cover.

You can read all about the Narrative Lectionary here.

Lectionary from Christ Church – Moscow, Idaho

Even though I follow Christ Church and Douglas Wilson, I haven’t heard much about their lectionary. From what I understand this lectionary is strictly used for readings in the Sunday morning worship services at Christ Church (as opposed to being used for selections for sermon texts). However, when I began filling the pulpit at variousCumberland Presbyterian Churches in my presbytery, I found this lectionary helpful for selecting sermon texts.

Because of the limited readings in a two year cycles, this might be perfect for any preacher that wants a personal challenge. You can find their lectionary here.

If you’re a lectionary preacher, I hope you found this article helpful. Contact me if there are other lectionaries that I can address in future articles! Thanks!

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* There are too many denominations to list that actually use the Revised Common Lectionary.

A.C. Dixon on the Passing of His Wife

[Disclaimer: Though we share a last name, I do not think I am related to think extraordinary couple.]

Kuling, China. August 1922.

His wife had been sick for nearly a week now, but she seemed to be showing signs of recovery up until the evening of Saturday, August 6th when she slipped into unconsciousness. The next morning the Rev. A.C. was going to stay home with his wife and let someone else preach for the Chinese congregation in Kuling that morning, but the attending physician insisted that he should go. He went knowing that his ailing wife would want him to go.

As 11:00 approached, A.C. Dixon reported that in the middle of his sermon, in mid-sentence no less, that he felt a strange awareness of his wife’s presence.

During my sermon I had at one time such a consciousness of her presence that for a few moments my mind could rest only upon her, and I had to struggle back to the line of thought I was pursuing.

A. C. Dixon, Mary Faison Dixon: The Wife Who Always Helped and Never Hindered

He knew at that moment that she had gone to be with her Savior whom she loved and longed to see face to face.

The next day the funeral service for Mary Faison Dixon commenced. The platform was covered with flowers, and the congregation from the Kuling Church sang “In the Sweet By and By” in their native Chinese language. A. C Dixon sat there listening to the beautiful voices sing the songs of Zion, waiting for his turn to speak, and wishing intently that the Lord would return right there to establish His kingdom and reunite the Rev. Dixon to his wife.

When it was his turn to take the pulpit, Dixon spoke of his wife’s upbringing, her college education, and how they had met during his first pastorate at Village Baptist Church.

The day was hot, and a company of us were on a stage-coach rattling over a rather rough road. The question was raised among the passengers as to whether women ought to speak in public, suggested by the fact that a noted woman lecturer from New York was to be among the teachers of the normal training school. Among the debaters of this question was a young woman, whose quiet, yet vivacious manner and intelligent reasons attracted my attention. She seemed to have a mind of her own with the courage of her convictions; and, when I looked into her face, there was a beauty with a charm of personality that fascinated me. As I cultivated her acquaintance during the weeks that followed, I found that she was more conversant than I with the best literature, and her ideals of life were deeply spiritual. She loved Christ, the Bible, and the
church.

It did not take me long to decide that she was just the one I needed for a wife…

A. C. Dixon, Mary Faison Dixon: The Wife Who Always Helped and Never Hindered

He spoke of her love for literature, her constant encouragement to him in the work of the Lord. She went with him wherever he went. In Chicago as he went to pastor the Moody Church, she was there. In London, when he was asked to take the helm of Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle, she was there. Finally, when when they were called to China as full time missionaries, she was there.

Now, she wasn’t. She had gone to be with her Lord. It is reported that A.C. Dixon left China and went to Baltimore in 1923 to pastor at University Baptist Church. It is not said why he made this move, but I can only imagine that it was because he felt that he could no longer face the daunting task of missionary work without the love of his life by his side.

On June 14th, 1925, A.C. Dixon had a heart attack and entered into the presence of the Lord, to be reunited with his wife, Mary.

The Guillotines of Fundamentalism // #100DaysToOffload

The guillotines of fundamentalism tend to make life hard for preachers too…

“A Hasidic proverb says, “We need a coat with two pockets. In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold.” We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are. Knowing, teaching, and learning under the grace of great things will come from teachers who own such a coat and wear it to class every day…


I happened to come to the seminary to teach during some rough years of denominational struggles. Some fundamentalist conservatives were making it hard for every professor to find out how to wear the coats with two pockets. Everything taught had to be scrutinized very closely, and it had to match the thinking of the powers in charge. Any number of professors were fired for being liberal, and within our school it was often the case that a student from a conservative church would smuggle a tape recorder into class to try and catch a professor saying something that might be interpreted as heresy. Then the student might take the heretical tape to a conservative trustee and it was either “ouch” or “off with his head.” The guillotines of fundamentalism always make teaching a nightmare.”

Calvin Miller, Life is Mostly Edges: A Memoir

Shaun King’s Bait

The internet broke for American evangelicals yesterday when a secularist had a secular opinion and posted about it on Twitter. This came as a shock to literally no one who has been paying attention.

In a tweet that sparked a lot of controversy yesterday, Shaun King announced that he believed that “all the statues of a white European that they believe is Jesus should come down.” In another tweet, he says, “All murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends should also come down.”

He goes on to say that these images of a “white European Jesus” are “a gross form white supremacy. Created as tools of oppression. Racist propaganda. They should all come down.”

Now, typically when someone baits people they’re just exaggerating to get a response. I believe King genuinely believes everything he’s saying so I don’t think he’s baiting in the classical sense of how we might use the term, but I think he was definitely trying to elicit a response. As a matter of fact, I think this was a calculated move on his part to provoke a response from conservatives and evangelicals just so he and/or his secularist friends could then have an excuse to say, “Careful. Your white fragility is showing.”

And guess what? If that was his plan, it worked. Fox News, TheBlaze, and other news sources began reporting on what King said, and the next thing you know people were allowing themselves to be outraged over something said on the internet by someone who doesn’t have any bearing on their lives (unless they’re some weird Shaun King fangirl).

Many evangelicals including Babylon Bee creator Adam Ford took to social media concerning King’s remarks advising Christians to “stop cheering this satanic divisiveness!” and “WAKE UP!”

While I agree with Ford’s sentiments that Christians shouldn’t be supporting King’s ideas to tear down statues of Jesus, I can’t help but wonder how much of our outrage is just a sign that we’re letting our fear be the determining factor in how we respond to things like this.

Sure, there are legitimate things in the news to be concerned over, but sharing news article after news article and talking about it’s “a sign of the end times” and how “persecution is upon us” or something about the “leftist agenda” in all caps might be a sign that you need to talk to your doctor about taking some Valium or a nice blood pressure medicine.

Ford says in his Facebook post, “It will NOT stop here.” What exactly does he mean by that? I imagine that he means that soon they’ll be coming for churches and even personally coming after Christians for their faith. But, really though? All because of a tweet from someone whose name hasn’t been mentioned in pop culture in quite sometime? Did it ever occur to Ford or anyone else that maybe King just wants some attention? If that’s what King wanted, that’s what he got, and we’re all playing into his hand.

However, if Ford is correct, then we were promised that the world would hate us (Matthew 10:22). Persecution for our faith should come as no surprise. However, I don’t think Christians in America are on the verge of being persecuted. At least… not yet. I’m sure we’ll see persecution in America against Christians, but I don’t at this time think we’re even close to that. And no, plain red cups at Starbucks and a cashier saying ‘Happy Holidays’ doesn’t count. (Sorry, Karens and Susans of the world. It doesn’t work like that.)

What really bothers me about how Christians are responding to this Shaun King twitter ordeal is that it’s almost as if they’re just now realizing that Christianity is offensive. It seems like they’re just now realizing that the cross of Christ has always been an offense. The Apostle Paul said, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, NKJV) Later in verse 23 of the same chapter, Paul describes the message of Christ crucified as a “stumbling block” to the Jews and “foolishness” to the Greeks. Part of Paul’s point is that we have to be offended by the cross before we can be saved by it. We don’t want to hear that we are so sinful that we need Jesus to die in our place for our sin, but once we get past the initial offense, something in us changes and we start to see the cross as good news.

I fear that the fact that many Christians are shocked that someone with a secular worldview would find Jesus offensive means that they themselves have never seen the offense of the cross, and if they’ve never seen the offense of the cross, then it could mean that they’ve never been personally confronted with the reality of the Gospel.

The truth is that the first century Christians were persecuted because the governmental authorities saw the message of Jesus’ Lordship as a threat to their power and rightly so because Jesus doesn’t share His throne with people who thrive off of having power. It would seem that here in the 21st century we’ve lost our edge because the powers that be no longer see our message as a threat, but instead they call it an “essential service.” No doubt the preaching of the Gospel is an essential service to those who believe its message, but it should be radically offensive to someone who brags about grabbing women by the genitals, buys sexual favors from porn stars, and says that they need no forgiveness. The Gospel should also be radically offensive to someone who politically supports such as person.

I have more thoughts on this, and I may post more on this later, but I think this is sufficient for now.

Why a Cumberland Presbyterian Listens to Herman Murray Jr. // #100DaysToOffload

Courtesy: YouTube

[This post is from my #100DaysToOffload series.]

If you’re one of those Truly Reformed™ brothers or sisters or one of my ivory tower theologian friends, I appreciate you taking the time to stop by, but this isn’t for you. This is a conversation between me and my Cumberland Presbyterian peeps. I’ll write a post for you fellas later. Now, bye-bye, and close the door on your way out.

Now that we’re alone, and I can talk to you one-on-one, I would recommend that you look up Herman Murray Jr. from Full Gospel Holy Temple in Dallas, Texas, and listen to him preach… just once.

I can already tell you that you’re probably not going to like that he has “Apostle” in front of his name. You might not like the high energy worship. You’re probably not going to like his loud, in-your-face style. You might call it “unnecessary” and “uncouth.” But if you can just turn off the high-brow, post-modernist goggles for just a few moments you’ll notice something.

Murray doesn’t preach a health, wealth, and prosperity message. He doesn’t use tricks and gimmicks to get his point across. He just opens the Bible and lets the Word speak for itself. You may not always agree with his exposition. He might not have the same views as you on baptism or soteriology, but he just tries his best, with the ability that God gave him, to talk about what the Bible talks about.

He’s not afraid to call out the homosexual agenda, the hyper-sexualization of our culture, or the need for strong and godly family units as evidenced in his sermon, “As Christ Loved the Church.”

So, you might ask, “Aren’t you good ol’ Cumberland Presbyterian boy, why are you trying to get me to watch this?” The answer is simple. We’re missing something that Murray has – boldness. You don’t have to have the same amount of volume, energy, or cadence to be bold. You just have to have a backbone, and that’s something we seem to have lost. We are letting the culture define the standards that we live and operate by. We are letting the culture tell us that we’re not allowed to say anything offensive in our pulpits. We have traded the Gospel of Jesus Christ for a message of sin tolerance, and we are paying a heavy price for it.

What we need to do is decide whether or not, the Bible is God’s Word to us today. We can’t pick and choose which parts are relevant and which ones aren’t. We have to decide whether or not the whole book is God’s word to us today or not. If it’s not, then throw the whole thing away and stop pretending to be a Christian just because you have a degree from a seminary and some presbytery said you could preach.

However, if the Bible is in fact God’s Word to us today, then there’s no reason for you to fear and cower in the pulpit. You should be able to stand up and declare what God says and let His word do the work. People may not like it. Your biggest tithe payers may walk out. The session might want to cut your salary or even fire you, but if what you say comes from the pages of Scripture, then they’ll have to fight God and His word before they can get to you.

Pastor, Sunday is coming, and you’re going to have to give an account to God for what every soul siting in the pews of your church hear from the pulpit. Are you going to preach the headlines? Are you going to preach a weak, watered-down Gospel that can’t save anybody? Are you going to preach about a god that tolerates the very sin his son died for?

Or, are you going to preach what God has said in His Word?

It’s a choice you have to make, and it’s a choice you’ll stand before God and give an account for.

Well, Let’s See How This Goes // #100DaysToOffload

While perusing Jeremy Sarber’s blog as I sometimes do, I noticed that he was doing the #100DaysToOffload challenge. For those who are not in the loop, the challenge basically is to set aside some time to write something on your blog about once every three days or so as a way to relieve stress, get some thoughts off your chest, or just talk about your day, etc. You can learn more about the challenge here.

Basically, for as long as I’m participating in this challenge, I’m not going to have the normal pretty pictures with words on them as our readers are accustomed to, I’m going to write, post, and call it a day.

So, here’s the first one…

I’m beginning to be busy, but in a good way.

I’m working with the Adult Discipleship Ministries of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church to write the next two quarters of The Encounter (our Sunday School curriculum), I’ve been asked to speak at a pastor’s conference (something I’ve always wanted to do), and now I’m preaching through Ephesians at my church.

My lessons for The Encounter are due in July, I have to give my talk at the conference at the end of the month (June), and I’m really trying hard to stay ahead on my sermons so I can devote more time to writing my lessons. It just seems like I should be more motivated. It seems like I should be able to just buckle down and get these lessons done, but I can’t. I always find something else to distract me. (For example, I’m writing this blog post now instead of writing my lesson. -.-)

So guys, pray for me that I’ll remain focused and organized that I’ll get everything done that I need to get done in a timely manner. Meanwhile, I’ll try to keep you updated with this whole #100DaysToOffload challenge even if it’s just a paragraph or two.

Two Books About Grace

This isn’t so much a book review as much as it’s just a plain ol’ suggestion. As many things as I loved about my Pentecostal upbringing, there were also things I didn’t care for. Seeing as how Pentecostalism has its roots in Wesleyan theology, eternal security isn’t something that is commonly believed, and often it is something that is typically taught against. There are many a Pentecostal preacher who will tell you that “YOU CAN KNOW-UH THAT YOU KNOW-UH THAT YOU KNOW-UH” you’re born again, but what that means is that you have to have some kind of experience, feeling, or random subjective goosebumps. The answer to how you can know you’re born again usually doesn’t involve looking to Him, and resting in His finished work on your behalf.

When I had just turned 18 years old, if you had told me that all I had to do was look to Jesus and rest then I would’ve one of two things: (1) I would have told you that you were crazy and surely there’s got to be more to it than that or (2) I might have actually believed you and then I would have proceeded to stress myself out wondering if I was looking to Jesus hard enough like someone staring at a pot of water waiting for it to boil.

This is what Pentecostalism does to your mentality when it goes biblically unchecked for so long. Now, I’m willing to concede that maybe I just had one crappy Pentecostal pastor right after another (which the exception of one guy who was actually very helpful for me*) and just didn’t really have a true blue good ol’ AG pastor through and through to actually point me to Christ. However, the prevailing idea through all the services, revivals, and campmeetings that I had attended was you had to have a certain experience, and you had to make sure you’re always doing the “right stuff” and not doing the “wrong stuff.” So, the primary focus had to be on your emotions and your actions. If you ever said, “Well, what about looking to Jesus?” The typical response was, “Yeah, of course, look to Jesus too.” As if Jesus is just some afterthought.

So, what I would recommend to you if you’re struggling with the weight of whether or not you’re really saved and whether or not your salvation is really secure, and if you’re struggling with how you can rest in the finished work of God’s Son, then I would recommend the following two books to you:

At the time when I found of these books they were free on Kindle, but that was years ago. You have to pay full price for them now, but they’re not that expensive and they’re worth it!

I found these books at a time in my life where I wanted to believe that my salvation was secure, and all I had to do was look to Jesus, but I had so many objections in my mind that had been drilled into me. “What if I mess up again?” “I want to please God so much so why can’t I stop sinning?” “What if someone cuts me off in traffic, and I let out a bad word and then die in a car wreck?” That last question sounds dumb, but there are actually preachers who will tell you that you’re going straight to hell if that happens. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. It doesn’t matter if you’ve trusted in Christ your whole life. If you call that driver in front of you a sorry, no good ************, you’re going to spend a long time in a hot place.

As I was reading Transforming Grace, it seemed like no matter how many objections I had, Bridges had an answer for all of them, and all of his answers came straight from the Scriptures. So, as you’re reading these books, I would encourage you to read them with your Bible open and your heart ready to hear what God has to say in His Word.

These suggested titles would mean nothing if they were simply the ideas of men trying to manipulate the Scriptures, but what’s being said in both of these works is incredibly helpful for believers who are struggling with whether or not they are really saved. I do hope you’ll check these out and let me know what you think. I would love to hear from you.

“At every stage (of salvation) – justification, sanctification, glorification – we come with empty hands, seeking mercy from our heavenly father.”

Derek W.H. Thomas, How the Gospel Brings Us All the way Home

“The Death of the gods” by Robbie Willis

Check out this post from my friend, Robbie Willis.

Today we are mourning, because like the Ephesians of Paul’s day, we fear that our temples are being abandoned. A strand of Virus that was unheard of only months ago has emptied our sports arenas, closed our casinos, left bar stools barren, and boarded up box offices. Commerce has closed. Store shelves are emptied. Fortunes are threatened. The voice of the prosperity preachers has faded into the background, hiding behind the walls of their castles in hopes that the plague will pass them by.

As nations come to their knees, we have remembered the value of healthcare workers, grocery store employees, and truck drivers. At last, for a time at least, those we should have honored all along are emerging as heroes. In a shocking turn of events, education has temporarily returned to the home. The family table has been remembered. Bibles are being dusted, and I was almost sure I caught a glimpse of a family altar. In the distance I can still hear the shouts, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!!” But she isn’t great. False gods never are.

via The Death of the gods

Jonah 4:1-11 // Angry for All the Wrong Reasons

Jonah Series (1)

Text: Jonah 4:1-11

INTRODUCTION

In his book Fearless, Max Lucado writes about the power fear possesses to turn us into beastly people:

 

“[Fear] turns us into control freaks … [because] … fear, at its center, is a perceived loss of control. When life spins wildly, we grab for a component of life we can manage: our diet, the tidiness of our home, the armrest of a plane, or, in many cases, people. The more insecure we feel, the meaner we become. We growl and bare our fangs. Why? Because we are bad? In part. But also because we feel cornered.

 

Martin Niemöller documents an extreme example of this. He was a German pastor who took a heroic stand against Adolf Hitler. When he first met the dictator in 1933, Niemöller stood at the back of the room and listened. Later, when his wife asked him what he’d learned, he said, “I discovered that Herr Hitler is a terribly frightened man.” Fear releases the tyrant within.[1]” – Max Lucado, Fearless

 

Now, you might hear that and think, “What does that have to do with Jonah? He’s not a tyrant. He’s not a dictator.” That’s true, he’s not, but his worst fears did come true, and it made him angry. 

 

  • This morning, we’re going to talk about Jonah’s Prayer and Jonah’s Anger, and work through those ideas we’re going to see a deep-rooted insecurity about the fact that he had to preach in Nineveh. He was an Israelite. The Assyrians hated the Israelites, and you better believe that the Israelites had a built-in prejudice against the Assyrians because of everything that had happened between them. 

 

Now, we know from the last two weeks that Jonah has repented; he’s on the right track, but there’s a lesson for us here: we need to understand that, just like Jonah, just because we’ve repented and we’re on the right track now doesn’t mean that we’re not going to be tempted to fall back into old habits, old prejudices, and old insecurities.

 

In 1994, there was a Church of Christ minister named Roy Ratcliff who received a phone call from a gentleman who said that he knew of a prison inmate who had questions about the Bible and thought he might want to be baptized, and the man asked Pastor Roy if he would be interested in talking to this young man. So, of course, Roy Ratcliff obliged.

 

When he accepted the offer to help disciple this prisoner he didn’t think to ask who it was or what he had done, he just went. 

 

When he got to the prison, he saw that the man who wanted to be discipled was none other than Jeffrey Dahmer. For those of you who don’t know Dahmer, he was a serial killer who confessed to raping, killing, and eating 17 young men and boys. 

 

  • Roy Ratcliff had been watching the news, he knew who this guy was. Some preachers might have backed out of the deal at this point, but Ratcliff saw this as an opportunity to witness God’s grace at work in even the vilest of sinners. 

 

  • After meeting with Dahmer for a couple of months, he agreed to baptize him. After the baptism, Ratcliff started coming under attack from fellow Christians who told him that they couldn’t believe that he would “have the audacity to grant God’s blessings upon the devil,” and they said they didn’t want to be in a heaven that included the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer. 

 

My guess is that none of us are wrestling with whether or not to show grace to a cannibalistic murderer, but like we said in the first week of this series, we all have biases and prejudices. Jonah had a bias and prejudice against the people of Nineveh of because of how they treated Israel.

 

  • One of the major applications of this book is this: Like Jonah, we are called to be grace-filled, and merciful to people that we find hard to love.

    • The truth of the matter is that none of us are as cute, nice, and lovable as we would like to think that we are, and Jesus loves us anyway. 

 

After last week, you would think that the story would stop there. Everything seems to have a sense of closure. The sailors repent in chapter 1. Jonah repents in chapter 2. Nineveh repents in chapter 3, and everything seems to be wrapped up, and has a happy ending, but as it turns out, Jonah isn’t so happy. 

 

So, the first thing we’re going to look at is Jonah’s Prayer here in chapter 4. I want us to compare it to his prayer in chapter 2, and I want us to see what it says about God, and what it says about Jonah. 

 

JONAH’S PRAYER (v. 1-3)

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.” – Jonah 4:1, NKJV

 

  • What displeases Jonah exactly? Look back up at Jonah 3:10, towards the end of the verse – “…God relented from the disaster that He had said that He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.”

    • Jonah is angry because God isn’t destroying his enemies [slow down] even after he spent this whole time going through the city proclaiming the judgement of God.

    • God isn’t concerned with how His decisions to spare Nineveh makes Jonah feel. It means the same for us. God is going to do what God is going to do. He’s going to show mercy to whomever He wants to show mercy regardless of how we feel about it.

      • Think about it like this: If God took the feelings of our enemies into into consideration every time He wanted to bless us, how blessed would we be? Not very. Especially if we’ve made a lot of enemies over the years.

Chapter 4, verse 1 – “it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.” God knew sparing Nineveh would make Jonah angry, and He did it anyway because how Jonah feels doesn’t make God insecure. 

 

  • Now that Jonah’s angry, what does he do? He prays. What should we do when we’re angry? Talk to God about it. He may not do what you want Him to when you want Him to, but I guarantee you, He will listen.

 

Now let’s look at his prayer in verses 2-3. For the sake of clarity, I’m going to read these two verses from the CSB.

 

“He prayed to the Lord: “Please, Lord, isn’t this what I thought while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and one who relents from sending disaster. 3 And now, Lord, take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” – Jonah 4:2-3, CSB

 

There are two prayers in the book of Jonah. We studied the first one in chapter 2, and now this is the second one, and interesting to see how opposite these two prayers are. 

 

“For the second time in this account, Jonah prays, but his second prayer was much different in content and intent.

 

  • He prayed his best prayer in the worst place, the fish’s belly, and he prayed his worst prayer at the best place, at Nineveh where God was working.

  • His first prayer came from a broken heart, but his second prayer came from an angry heart.
  • In his first prayer, he asked God to save him, but in his second prayer, he asked God to take his life!

 

Once again, Jonah would rather die than not have his own way![2]” – Warren Wiersbe

 

I want us to notice something in verse 2. What Jonah says is really revealing about his own heart. 

 

  • In verse 2 he says, “That’s why I fled… I knew you would forgive them, and I knew you would have compassion.” Why did he know that? Because He knows God. He’s familiar with God’s character.

  • One of the things I want us to take away from this series in Jonah is an awareness of God’s character. Over and over again God says about Himself that He is quick to forgive and slow to anger, and here he actually shows that by sparing Nineveh rather than destroying them.

  • Jonah knows this, as a matter of fact look at how Jonah describes God, “I knew that you were a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and one who relents from sending disaster.”

    • Now, if you know the Bible fairly well, then you know that that is a common description of God all throughout the Old Testament. (2 Chronicles 30:9; Nehemiah 9:17, 31; Psalm 103:8, 116:5; Joel 2:13)
    • The first appearance of this description comes in Exodus 34.

 

Now, to set the scene for you in Exodus 34. Moses has up to Mount Sinai to receive the law, and when he comes down he finds the children of Israel worshipping a golden calf, and he becomes so angry that he throws the tablets down and breaks them. 

 

  • Moses intercedes for the people, and then God commands them to leave Sinai, and then God tells Moses to make two more tablets. 

 

[Read: Exodus 34:1-7]

 

So, what we have here two major things that we need to tie back to Jonah. 

 

  • The Law of God (10 Commandments on the stone tablets)
    • What God wants
  • The Character of God (description of God in v. 6-7)
    • What God is like

 

We could get really into really in-depth conversation about what’s really going on here, but ultimately what it amounts to is that God wants Nineveh to repent, and in their repentance, He wants them to discover who He is, namely that He is merciful. 

 

And now, Jonah’s angry and then God asks him a question. 

 

GOD’S QUESTION (v. 4)

“Then the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” – Jonah 4:4, NKJV

 

He doesn’t answer God at first. He just walks away. 

 

“So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. 6 And the Lord God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 7 But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. 8 And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” – Jonah 4:5-9, NKJV

 

This is almost a humorous picture. Jonah is moody and grumpy because God spared Nineveh, and then he had a plant that providing shade for him, and now the plant is gone. The wind drove the clouds away so now the sun is beating down on his head and he just wants to die. 

 

  • He’s pouting, he doesn’t get his way, and he wants to die.

  • What would have made Jonah happy? The destruction of his enemies. He would have been happy to see God reign down fire and judgement against Nineveh. You know why? Because that’s what he would have done if he could have. 

 

“You can be sure that you’ve made God in your own image when He hates all the same people that you do.” – Anne Lamotte

 

 

  • “He doesn’t vote my way, he obviously doesn’t love God like I do.”
  • “They’re not waving my flag they must not be a Christian like I am.”
  • “They believe what I believe. If only they were as spiritually mature as I am.”

 

 

There’s all kinds of pictures we can paint in our minds that make us look good and the people we don’t like bad, but the truth is that we’re all bad. Only Jesus is good, and He came to make all of us good even our enemies. 

 

Kevin Hale, a Presbyterian pastor in Conway, posted a statement on Facebook that I was relevant here. He says, “…if we follow the Lord we must be prepared for those we count as enemies to be counted as brothers.” 

 

One more thing I want us to take note of this morning. 

 

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY (v. 6-8)

Did you notice something in verses 6-8?

 

  • “God prepared” – 3x in Chapter 4

 

God was in control the whole time. God raised up the plant to provide shade for Jonah as a sign of mercy, and then God took down the plant and allowed the sun to beat down on Jonah as a small taste of judgement. 

 

  • What was Jonah’s response when the plant was destroyed? Even more anger. 

Why? Because he felt that he was owed something. He felt that he was owed some shade. After all, he went to Nineveh and told them that God would destroy them and He didn’t, Jonah should get something for his trouble. 

 

  • But then God destroys the plant, and God asks Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” What God is saying is, “Okay, Jonah, so it’s alright for me rain down fire and destruction from heaven on the city of Nineveh, but if you get a sunburn, then it’s not fair?” Of course that’s Jonah’s mindset. 

 

CONCLUSION

Fast Forward to the New Testament. Think about who else gets angry when other people are blessed. 

 

  • Luke 15 – The Older Brother gets angry because a party is thrown when the younger brother comes home.

  • Matthew 21 –  A man who owns a field agrees to pay everyone who works for him a full day’s wage for working in his field. So, he goes out, hires some workers at 6am, then he hires more at Noon, some others around 2pm, and then finally he hires more just before closing time. When everyone lines up to get their pay, beginning with the ones who were hired at 6am, they all get a full day’s wage. Everyone. Including the ones who were hired just before closing time.

    • The ones who were hired earlier get angry. They’re furious because they feel like they should be paid more than the people who got hired later in the day. The owner of the field says, “Listen, I didn’t cheat you. I offered to hire you for a day’s wage, you worked and I paid you. My money is mine to do with as I please. What business is it of yours if I decide to pay someone more?” 

 

What does this all have to do with Jonah? What does Jonah, the older brother, and the angry workers all have in common? They’re angry because someone else received mercy.

 

This morning, where do you find yourself? Do you think that you’re owed mercy? Or do you know that you don’t, and you’re grateful that God poured His mercy on you anyway? 

 

Let’s pray. 

Jonah 3:1-10 // A Crusade in Nineveh

Jonah Series (1)

INTRODUCTION

On New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played University of California in the Rose Bowl. In that game a man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California. Somehow, he became confused and started running 65 yards in the wrong direction. One of his teammates, Benny Lom, outdistanced him and downed him just before he scored for the opposing team. When California attempted to punt, Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety which was the ultimate margin of victory.

That strange play came in the first half, and everyone who was watching the game was asking the same question: “What will Coach Nibbs Price do with Roy Riegels in the second half?”

The men filed off the field and went into the dressing room. They sat down on the benches and on the floor, all but Riegels. He put his blanket around his shoulders, sat down in a corner, put his face in his hands, and cried like a baby.

If you have played football, you know that a coach usually has a great deal to say to his team during half time. That day Coach Price was quiet. No doubt he was trying to decide what to do with Riegels. Then the timekeeper came in and announced that there were three minutes before playing time. Coach Price looked at the team and simply said, “Men the same team that played the first half will start the second.” The players got up and started out, all but Riegels. He did not budge. the coach looked back and called to him again; still he didn’t move. Coach Price went over to where Riegels sat and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.”

Then Roy Riegels looked up and his cheeks were wet with a strong man’s tears. “Coach,” he said, “I can’t do it to save my life. I’ve ruined you, I’ve ruined the University of California, I’ve ruined myself. I couldn’t face that crowd in the stadium to save my life.”

Then Coach Price reached out and put his hand on Riegel’s shoulder and said to him: “Roy, get up and go on back; the game is only half over.” And Roy Riegels went back, and those Tech men will tell you that they have never seen a man play football as Roy Riegels played that second half.[1]

What I want us to do this morning is walk through Jonah 3, and I want us to think about what our passage says about Jonah, what it says about Nineveh, and most of all, what it says about God. 

Before we get too deep into the passage, let’s do some review.

  • In chapter 1, we started this walk through Jonah and we saw how God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, but Jonah didn’t want to go because Nineveh was a major Assyrian territory. We said that this would be like God calling one of us to go and preach the good news of God’s love in Christ to ISIS.

    • Jonah instead jumps on a boat to Tarshish and heads in the complete opposite direction. Meanwhile, a storm comes up, and a fish swallows Jonah. That takes us to chapter 2.

  • In chapter 2, Jonah is actually praying inside the belly of this fish, and we saw three specific things that Jonah remembered in his prayer. He remembered God’s Word, he remembered God’s temple, and he remembered God’s mercy. The big verse that we looked at last week was Jonah 2:8 where Jonah said that those who worship idols forsake the mercy that could be there’s. 

 

JONAH REPENTS (v. 1-4)

“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent. 4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” – Jonah 3:1-4, NKJV

 

We saw the beginnings of Jonah’s repentance in chapter 2. You can’t read Jonah’s prayer like we read last and not see that he has a repentant heart. 

 

  • The theme of chapter 2 last week was a prayer of repentance, but the theme this week is the evidence of repentance. We see this week that Jonah’s repentance is made evident by the fact that he’s obedient to what God has said. And, by the way, that’s always the evidence of repentance in our own lives. 

Repentance isn’t praying the sinner’s prayer. Repentance isn’t a one-time act that you do to get saved. Repentance is the foremost characteristic of someone who is a born-again believer. If you’re a Christian, then your life should be characterized by the fact that you are always looking to Christ for the fullness of your salvation, and the way that your repentance is made evident is the fact that you are seeking to obey God in what He has said. 

 

  • We need to understand God hasn’t saved us so we can sit around and wait for Him to come back. He has actually given us work to do in the world. I feel like a lot Christians have this idea that pastors are the ones who are supposed to be doing all the work while the rest of the Christian people just have to sit on the sidelines and cheer them on, but that’s not the picture that the Bible paints for us. The Bible tells us that we all have gifts and callings. We all have work to do. We all have things that we need to be obedient in doing for the Lord. 

 

In Ephesians 2:8, Paul tells us that we’re saved by grace and not by works lest any man should boast, and we like that, and we should. It speaks truth about the nature of our salvation, but what we don’t like so much is two verses later where the text tells us we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.

 

  • Why don’t we like that? Because it means we have to do something. 

 

According to Romans 1:5, we have received grace (that’s our salvation) for obedience to the faith. 

 

  • If what Paul is saying is true, and it is because it’s the Word of God, then we have been saved so that we can live in the world and show the rest of the world how to live as witnesses to the Gospel before the face of God. 

 

When you get over into Revelation, Jesus is talking to the Church at Ephesus, and He says, “You know what your problem is? You’ve left your first love.”

 

“Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remeber therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent.” – Revelation 2:4-5, NKJV

 

Jesus doesn’t say, “Alright, I forgive you, let’s move on.” He says, “I forgive you now remember where you were before, repent, and do your first works again.”

 

  • I think some people believe that just because we’re not under the law anymore that means that there’s no place for obedience in the Christian life, and that’s just not the case. 

 

“Understand this matter aright: By His ascension and by the preaching of faith, Christ does not purpose to rear lazy and sluggish Christians, who say: ‘We shall now live according to our pleasure, not doing good works, remaining sinners, and following sin like captive slaves.’  Those who talk thus have never had a right understanding of the preaching of faith. Christ and His mercy are not preached to the end that men should remain in their sins. On the contrary, this is what the Christian doctrine proclaims: The captivity is to leave you free, not that you may do whatever you desire, but that you sin no more.” – C.F.W. Walther, quoting Martin Luther

 

In the first four verses of Jonah 3, we see that Jonah has repented, and his repentance is made clear by the fact that going back and doing what he should have done in the first place. Jonah doesn’t just blow it off by saying, “I’m sorry, God” and then doing whatever He wants to do. Jonah wants to make restitution because that’s what God’s people want to do. 

 

  • God’s people want to do what’s right. According to Ezekiel 36:26, one of the blessings of the New Covenant is that God gives us a new heart. He takes out the heart of stone, and replaces it with a heart of flesh, and then in Ezekiel 36:27, God says, “I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My ways.”

  • How we live and how we walk before God is evidence of whether or not God has actually given us a new heart. 

 

One of the most challenging parts of the Christian life is actually putting into practice what you know is good and right. I don’t think there’s a single person in here right now who would say cognitively that they didn’t want to obey God, but I also think every single one of us, including myself, have a hard time putting into practice what we preach. 

 

  • That doesn’t get us off the hook of obedience, instead it should drive us to look to Jesus and say, “If I’m going to obey it’s because gives me grace to obey. If I’m going to live the way He wants me to it’s because His Spirit empowers me to live the way He wants me to.”

 

A lot of Christians tend to think that living the way God wants you to is like walking on a tightrope and as long as you can keep your balance, you’re good, but if you fall it’s still okay because you’ve got a net below that tightrope called grace, but that’s not how it works. Grace is what gives you the power to keep your balance, and by God’s grace, you won’t need a net because by grace you’ll never fall!

 

  • At the end of Jude, Jude is ending his letter with a blessing to God, and He says, “To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with joy…” (Jude 1:24)

That fact that Jonah gets another opportunity to be obedient is an act of grace. 

 

  • Don’t think that just because Jonah lived under the old covenant that God didn’t show grace to His people. 

 

Jonah states his repentance in chapter 2, and now in chapter 3, his repentance is shown by his obedience. And because Jonah repents, Nineveh repents. 

 

  • That’s practical in, and of itself because our repentance, our turning from sin and looking to Christ should cause others to turn from their sin and look to Christ.

  • That’s why God saves people. He saves people so that He can use those people to be key players in the salvation of other people. 

 

So, look what happens to Nineveh as a result of Jonah’s repentance. 

 

NINEVEH REPENTS (v. 5-9)

“So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes.” – Jonah 3:5-6, NKJV

 

  • Notice the progression so far: Jonah Repents, the people of Nineveh repent, and then the king of Nineveh repents when he sees what’s happening among the people.

  • I hear people all the time who say that they want to see America turn back to God. They want to see our politicians repent. If you want to see those changes, then you turn back to God.

    • My favorite psychologist Jordan Peterson said he used to hear his college students talk about how much they wanted to change the world, but they didn’t want to change themselves. He finally said one day during one of his lectures, “Do you want to confront chaos in the world? Then start with the chaos in your own life. Start by cleaning your room.” Set your house in order before your start getting on Facebook and talking about how the whole nation needs to be set in order.

    • Before you start telling people that they need Jesus you need to understand that you have a need for Jesus. 

 

“And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying,

 

Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?” – Jonah 3:7-9, NKJV

 

One of the questions that might arise in our minds is this: Knowing the history between the Jews and the Assyrians, why would they listen to Jonah? What was it that really caused them to listen to him? 

 

As I was studying for this message, one of the commentaries I was looking at said that the people in Assyria primarily worshipped a god named Dagon.

 

  • If know the Bible well enough, then you know that Dagon was the same god that was worshipped by the Philistines. In 1 Samuel 5, the Philistines stole the ark of the covenant and they took it into the house of Dagon, and the Bible tells us that when the priests of Dagon come into the temple the next day, they find the statue of their false god face down on the ground. So, they prop it up, leave and don’t think anything of it. The next day they come in, and they find that not only is the statue of Dagon on the ground, but it’s broken in pieces so that the head and hands are broken off.

  • What’s really interesting is that Dagon is a fish god. If you look up pictures of it, it looks like a reverse mermaid. It’s got a man’s body, but a fish’s head. 

 

Jonah is swallowed by a big fish, and then he gets thrown up onto the shore of Nineveh. 

 

When Jonah preaches and tells the people the city is going to be overthrown they believe him because, IN THEIR MINDS, this individual went into the belly of their god and he overcame. And the only way that Jonah can overcome is if he serves a God greater than their god. 

 

  • We see God proving Himself like this all throughout Scripture.

    • 1 Kings 18 – Elijah has a standoff with the prophets of Baal. And he says, “Let the God who answers by fire be God.” Elijah pours water all the altar that he built so that when God answers they know it’s God, and lo and behold, God shows up and answers by fire. 

 

God through delivering Jonah from the fish shows himself to the people of Nineveh to be greater than any of their false gods and idols. 

 

And then when they repent and see the greatness of God, God relents. 

 

GOD RELENTS (v. 10)

“Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.” – Jonah 3:10, NKJV

 

We’re going to see how Jonah responds to that next week when we look at chapter 4, but look at the mercy that God shows to Nineveh. 

 

  • God is not obligated in any way to save Nineveh. God was not obligated to send Jonah to Nineveh. God was not obligated to even save Jonah, but He does. Why? Because mercy is a part of God’s character. 

 

My question this morning is do we recognize that we have received God’s mercy? 

 

We’re always out to get our fairshare. We always want to get what we think we deserve, but according to Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death. If we really want to get what we’re owed, then what we’re owed is death. But, if Jesus Christ grants us eternal life, then He does so not because we’re good enough or because we deserve it, but out of the abundance of His mercy. 

 

CONCLUSION

This is an excerpt from a Ray Pritchard sermon where he talks about when he read about a prayer for mercy called the ‘Jesus Prayer’ from one of Elisabeth Elliot’s books. 

 

“Several years ago I read Elisabeth Elliott’s fine book Keep a Quiet Heart. In one of the chapters she discusses the “Jesus Prayer.” It is a prayer that arose in the Orthodox tradition over 1,000 years ago. Though the prayer appears in various wordings, its most basic form goes like this: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” Ten short words, all of them simple and easy to understand. Sometimes the phrase “a sinner” is added to emphasize the petitioner’s deep personal need. When praying together, the word “us” is substituted for “me.” Orthodox Christians have used this little prayer as a central part of their devotional life for centuries.

 

It is easy to see why this prayer has endured. In a sense, it covers everything that we might pray for. It is a prayer addressed to the right Person-“Lord Jesus Christ,” in the right Position-“Son of God.” And its one request summarizes all that we might ask from the Lord-“Have mercy on me.” Since we are truly sinners before the Lord, anything he does for us must be an act of mercy. We have no claim on anything the Lord has, and if we approach God thinking that he owes us something, our prayers will bounce off the ceiling and hit us on the head. Do we need health or wisdom or guidance or strength or hope or do we petition the Lord on behalf of our children, our friends, or our neighbors? Whatever it is we need, no matter what words we use, it is mercy, the pure, shining mercy of God that we seek.[2]

 

My prayer for us this morning is that we would see that every day is an opportunity to be a recipient of God’s mercy. It’s not owed to us. God doesn’t owe us a chance. But, the truth of the matter is that God has freely opened our eyes to know the truth, and it’s only the truth that can set us free. 

 

Let’s pray.

__________________________________

  1. Haddon W. Robinson, Christian Medical Society Journal
  2. Sinners in the Hands of a Merciful God.” Keep Believing Ministries