A Messenger to the Enemy


Series: Bible Stories

Title: A Messenger to the Enemy The story of Jonah. How do we treat our enemies? #forgiveness


  • 2013-05-18: 광주
  • 2014-09-13: White Rock Lake

  1. Introduction—traveling—imagine going to a place where God isn’t—Goodson and PNG, territorial spirits
  2. Jonah 1:1, 2: Jonah sent to Nineveh
    1. Jonah:
      1. From the northern kingdom of Israel; his hometown, Gath Hepher (see 2 Kings 14:25), was near Nazareth in the region of Galilee.
    2. Israel:
      1. Enjoying a period of prosperity and strength.
      2. Assyria, however, was a major threat
    3. Nineveh:
      1. Location: on the Tigris River, in what is now Iraq
      2. Capital of the Assyrian empire
    4. Jonah 3:4: Jonah’s message
      1. Why does God give such warnings of judgment?
      2. Ezekiel 33:11: God’s purpose is redemptive
      3. Whenever God sends a message of judgment, He gives an opportunity to repent.
        1. Noah spent 120 years building the ark, during which time those who were willing had the opportunity to repent and enter the ark.
        2. When the nation of Israel was carried away, it was only after countless warnings from God.
      4. Thus, Jonah is called to go preach against the enemy, the biggest threat to his own country.
      5. Jonah knew that the purpose of his message was redemptive. God wanted the people of Nineveh to repent and avoid destruction.
      6. In Jonah 4:2, Jonah shows that he knew the likely outcome of his message: His enemies and the enemies of his country would be spared.
    5. Jonah 1:3: Jonah flees
      1. Jonah apparently was hoping that, if the people of Nineveh didn’t receive the warning, they would be destroyed without having an opportunity to repent and experience God’s forgiveness.
      2. A common belief among the peoples of that time was that gods were territorial.
        1. Between 50 and 100 years before this story (c. 857), the Arameans were fighting against Israel. They were defeated. First Kings 20:23 shows the view of the day. Of course, the God of heaven isn’t limited to just the hills or the plains.
        2. Jonah might not have fully understood God’s nature, because he boarded a ship to Spain. Not only was Spain in the opposite direction from Nineveh, but it was well outside what could be supposed to have been God’s territory. That’s why Jonah thought he could run away from God.
  3. Our enemies
    1. Is there anyone in your life who is like Nineveh to you? Is there anyone who you don’t want to be in heaven?
      1. Jonah’s experience mirrors many of our own experiences. Before we condemn Jonah too strongly for running away from God, we need to examine our own lives.
      2. Has someone hurt you so badly, or is someone so great a threat, that you only want God to destroy them?
      3. Remember, Jonah didn’t run because he was afraid of the people of Nineveh; he ran because he was afraid that God would forgive them.
    2. Many of us have been hurt greatly by other people, and we’re carrying around anger because of it.
      1. People in church, at work, in the family
      2. Unfair situations that have caused us great harm
      3. Little things that we should just forget about, but which we instead carry around.
    3. There may even be situations like Jonah faced, where someone is a great threat to us, and is likely to cause us great harm in the future. Such was the situation of the Assyrian Empire of Jonah’s day.
    4. The Bible has a different view.
      1. Matthew 5:38-41: We’re told to treat people with kindness, even when we’re treated unfairly.
      2. Matthew 6:14, 15: Our willingness to forgive others is tied to God’s forgiveness of us.
      3. Luke 23:34: When Jesus was on the cross, he asked forgiveness for the very people who were crucifying the Son of God.
      4. Acts 7:59, 60: When Stephen was being stoned because of his faith in Jesus, he asked forgiveness for his persecutors.
    5. What is forgiveness?
      1. Many people have wrong ideas about forgiveness, such as:
        1. Forgive and forget. That idea isn’t in the Bible and it isn’t reasonable. How can you forget what has happened? There are even some situations in which you shouldn’t forget what happened.
        2. Forgiveness means that everything is OK. Even though Stephen forgave his killers, he still died.
        3. Forgiveness is a one-time event. Because forgiveness touches on human emotions, and because emotions easily change, we may have to forgive the same thing more than once.
      2. True forgiveness is:
        1. No longer feeling angry or wanting revenge.
        2. Wanting the best for the other person, including wanting their salvation and being happy when they receive blessings from God.
        3. Ultimately, forgiveness means trusting God and letting Him deal with people instead of ourselves.
  4. The things God appointed
    1. In His dealings with Jonah, God appointed (or provided) several things:
      1. Jonah 1:17: After a storm came up while Jonah was running away to Spain, he instructed the sailors to throw him overboard, probably expecting to die as a result. But God “appointed” a large fish to swallow Jonah and rescue him from certain death.
      2. After the people of Nineveh repented, Jonah was angry that God had spared the city, his enemies. He went out of the city and made a shelter for himself where he waited, hoping that God would destroy the city of Nineveh after all. Jonah 4:1-5.
      3. In verses 6-8, we read of three things God appointed (or provided): A little plant (as in the NET) for shade, a worm to eat the plant, and a scorching east wind to make Jonah really hot and uncomfortable.
      4. The things God appointed (or provided) were to teach Jonah to have compassion on and forgiveness for his enemies.
    2. God often designs situations to teach us lessons. In fact, the very things that make us angry may well be things God is doing in order to teach us.
      1. When we face unpleasant situations, in addition to practicing forgiveness and compassion, we need to consider whether there is a lesson from God in our trials.
      2. Revelation 3:19 tells us that God sends discipline to us, for the purpose of leading us to repentance and a closer walk with God.
  5. Conclusion
    1. We aren’t told whether Jonah eventually learned his lesson. In fact, the book of Jonah ends with a question. It should cause us to ask ourselves a few questions.
    2. Are we willing to truly forgive everyone who has wronged us?
    3. Are we willing to submit to God’s discipline, or will we stubbornly cling to our old ways?