Sunday, August 14, 2022

Sunday Sermon: "The Grace of the Lord" (Jonah 3:1-5)


SERMON: “The Grace of the Lord”

SCRIPTURE: Jonah 3:1–5

One of the great purposes which God has for Christians as they go about to live for Him and labor for Him, is that He has called you to go and make disciples of people around you. The command that we have received as Christ’s Church is to preach the gospel to every creature. The Great Commission says that we are to go, and as we are going, that is out to be Christ’s witnesses, we are to make disciples. God would have each of us who are Christians, to do His will in this regard, but perhaps you, like Jonah, may not have learned yet, how to do this out of love for fallen sinners. One of the great lessons that Jonah had to learn was how great God’s love was for those particular sinners in the city of Nineveh. We know from the New Testament Scriptures that God the Father has proved His love for sinners in His sending His Son so that sinners might be saved. 

So, the question that I pose to you now is this: Are you willing to learn from God Himself how to love sinners around you? I hope we all want to learn, because our God specializes in teaching us how to think rightly about sinful people around us. 

That is one of the great lessons of the book of Jonah. The message that Jonah preached was a message threatening the judgment of God upon the city of Nineveh. Nevertheless, the message performed a work in those people who believed. And so I want to show you how this message preached by Jonah relates to us today in how we should preach and share the eternal gospel of Christ. I want to give you 3 important observations on what true repentance is, and what we should expect to see, in ourselves or other people, so that we can discern whether it is true or not. And of course, I want us to understand the grace of the Lord in saving people from the Judgment to come. First of all…


“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.” — (Jonah 3:1-2, NASB)

God’s grace is first revealed in this chapter by the second chance that God provides to Jonah. We remember that this book opened with very similar words, a calling to preach to the Ninevites, which Jonah rejected. Unwilling to obey, he fled for Joppa, and from there he boarded a ship bound for the most distant port possible. But God intervened with a great storm that threatened to destroy Jonah’s ship. To save the ship, the crew cast Jonah overboard. But instead of drowning, he was swallowed by a great fish or a whale that God had sent. In the belly of the fish, Jonah recognized his utter need for the very grace he had been withholding from Nineveh. The prophet repented and called out to God, and the Lord answered his prayer by delivering him safely to dry ground.

Now Jonah is called a second time to God’s task. This tells us a good deal about God’s grace. God forgets, and never holds the thing against you. Think of how wonderful are the implications of that one fact for your life. God simply does not hold grudges against people who humble themselves and ask his forgiveness through Jesus Christ. I hope that you can see that our God is a God who works very patiently with His people and teaches them to obey Him; especially those who He calls to preach and teach. 

You, as a Christian, will become more useful to God when you learn the lessons about yourself which God wants to teach you; lessons about yourself in relation to people around you. Christians are children of God and lights in the world, declaring God’s praises through our witness and works. Every Christian who has turned to the Lord for forgiveness from sin also finds the great purpose and meaning of his life.

Listen to Jude, verses 20-22 – 

“But you beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” 

How does God teach you to become a more compassionate person? He does so, often, by His showing you where you yourself have been disobedient in the past, and where you are disobedient even now, and then He personally leads you into situations during which He will make it plain to you where the error in your thinking is. 

Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” Sometimes, some Christians are like Jonah. They actually say to God, by their words and their deeds that they want to hold on to their own opinions of who is worthy and who is not worthy to be saved, or who should be shown mercy by God. 

We don’t want to withhold the gospel from those around us, do we? Of course not! What a stubborn man Jonah was in his own convictions, wanting God to judge the Ninevites instead of showing them mercy! How determined he was to prove his point to God; that these Ninevites were not worthy of being shown mercy! And yet this man would end up being the very instrument that God would use, to accomplish His purpose, and to see these astonishingly great results. 

This ought to show us something about how God does his work. God does not always choose the person whom we would think would be the most qualified for His work of preaching or evangelism. He does not always choose the person who we would think might be likely to effect great results like this great revival which came to Nineveh. No, we need to see that the results are with God. God gives the increase. But God in this case chose a man who was unworthy himself, because he was the man who held feelings most strongly against the very people whom God was sending him to. Oh, how great were Jonah’s objections! But God gets glory to Himself when He can accomplish His purpose through a man who will go and preach His message, even though he has issues with the people that God is sending him to. 

This is one of the most important principles for every Christian to learn. The people you are sent to preach to, or to share the gospel with, have many sinful problems. But so do we, and we are no better than any other. So it’s best to see how great God’s love is for all sinners everywhere. God has good news for the worst of sinners; sinners of every tribe, tongue, people, and language. This, Jonah was going to have to learn by hard experience. Would he really learn it? Well, we shall see.


“So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk. Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” — (Jonah 3:3-4, NASB)

You will notice that the message that God gave to Jonah, to speak to these Ninevites, was a simple message really. “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, we are told in verse 3. It would take Jonah three days just to walk through it, preaching his message. There were one hundred and twenty thousand people living there, according to chapter 4:11 who were likely just children. Becuse we are told in in chapter 4, verse 11, that they did not know the difference between their right hand and their left in terms of their moral discernment. Which means there were probably many more, some estimates of around 600,000 people living in this area. And to them Jonah was sent. And the only thing that Jonah was commissioned to preach was the message of future judgment. And so Jonah preached, in my opinion, without adding anything to it, and without taking anything away from it. And, as we will see next week, the people responded.

So why did the people respond to this simple message? I believe it was because these people knew that Jonah was a prophet of Israel’s God, and that Israel’s God declared Himself to be the only true and living God. Jonah’s message was accompanied by the Holy Spirit’s powerful working and influences upon their minds and hearts. We know this must have been the case because this simple message of the coming judgment against their city convinced them immediately, that if they did not repent, they would be overthrown. 

What’s really interesting is that Jonah did not seem to instruct them on what the judgment exactly would be, that would come to them in 40 days. He only told them that they would be overthrown by it. This judgment could be armies coming against them in war; it could be a pestilence sent to them by God that would wipe them out. It could be an earthquake or violent storms. 

We can be assured of this truth however, that God wanted to let them know and understand, that if they did not repent, they would lose their life as they knew it.

I want you to note, as well, that Jonah was told by God to preach about a specific period of time given for repentance; that was – Yet forty days, and Nineveh would be overthrown. Now, in Jonah’s doing this, in his proclaiming this to them, there is no indication from the text that he gave them any other message. I do not think that he exhibited any great emotion, or wept over the people. He did not harangue them over their many specific sins, either personal or national. 

This should show us that it is not always necessary, in order to see people saved, to put any great pressure on them. They simply need to be told in straightforward terms, that God is holy and He must punish sin. His will is that all men will repent and turn to Christ for salvation. They must be exhorted to the duty of repenting now; to consciously make a clean break with their sins. They must not think that they can put it off to sometime in the future when it might appear to be more convenient. 

In thinking about this, I want you to see that the Lord Jesus talked to people about their need of repentance in just this same way. It says in Mark 1:14 – 

“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” 

It was a very simple gospel that He and His disciples preached. They were to tell people to see themselves as sinners, those who had broken God’s holy law, and that they needed a righteousness better than their own. They needed Christ’s righteousness, and they were going to need His dying for their sins. 

Sometimes people compare themselves with other people and they think other people are much worse sinners than they are, and therefore they conclude that they are somehow safe holding to their own righteousness as the basis for their salvation; that they really do not need to repent.

But turn with me over to Luke 13:1-9. 

“Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’”

So, you can see that Jesus knew that some people think that if they see sinners die a cruel death, or a sudden death, that somehow they must be worse sinners than others because they suffered that kind of death. But he says, no, that is not the case; but that it shows us the more important truth that we must always be ready for our death, and that the best way to prepare for our death is to repent. 

For that is what is truly essential, to prepare ourselves to meet God in a timely fashion. Repentance is that necessary preparation. The time is always now. Jesus says that the Father also has seasons when He comes looking for spiritual fruit in your life. If He does not find that fruit of the Spirit, if He does not find the fruit of righteousness and good works which are the evidences of doing His will from a straightforward and sincere heart, then he is willing to cut down the plant of that person’s life. 

Thanks be to God that the keeper of God’s Vineyard is Jesus Christ our Lord, who through His Spirit’s working strives with sinners to bring them to repentance. If they resist the Spirit, then they will eventually be cut down and perish in their sins. If they receive the cultivating work of the Spirit, and they repent and bring forth fruit worthy of repentance, then they prove that they are a true Christian. Repentance is essential to salvation even though it is not the basis for your salvation. The basis for your salvation is Christ’s work of perfect righteousness and His sufferings as a substitute in your place at the cross. But repentance is the responsibility of every person in order to their coming to know God, and it is their responsibility after they come to know the Lord, when they see that they have sinned. You must deal with your sins by breaking off from them, turning away from them, and turning to God and what He has provided for you through Christ. That is the gospel.


“Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.” — (Jonah 3:5, NASB)

Practically as soon as Jonah began preaching, people started to believe and repent. We are told that they not only believed Jonah, but they “believed God.”

Beloved, I want us to notice that it was not the force of the argument presented by the prophet Jonah that moved the people. It was the power of God’s truth that pierced to the heart. 

It’s a reminder that we never rely on our own persuasive powers as the way to save sinners. We never wait until we have the confidence in ourselves to speak up for Christ. It is God and his truth that people believe. You must remain only the instrument.

When God sends his message of grace, he sends it to save. We must therefore pray for God’s mercy upon those to whom he would have us witness and preach, believing that nothing is too great or difficult for the almighty power of God working through his gospel.

Furthermore, we note that God gave the Ninevites grace to act on Jonah’s message: “They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5). This was the proper response to Jonah’s message, just as confession of sin and mourning for our guilt is always the sign that God’s gospel has been believed. Repentance, like faith, is the gift of God (Eph. 2:9), and even the most hardened sinner will humble himself before the Lord when the law and the gospel go forth in the power of God’s grace. Peter said that Jesus was exalted “to give repentance” (Acts 5:31), and the book of Acts adds that, through the gospel, God “has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18).


The situation in our world is little different from that of Nineveh. The call of warning and invitation is still going out today. Jonah gave Nineveh a warning with a specific time period for response: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4). The number forty is often used in Scripture for times of preparation or warning. The rain of Noah’s flood fell for forty days, and Israel was tried for forty days while Moses met with God on the mountain. Perhaps most notable is that Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert for forty days. Forty days therefore speaks of a definite time established by God before his coming either in judgment or in grace.

So, it is today. The Word of the Lord has come to our corner of the world in which we live. And there is great need of repentance here: in our lives, in our church, in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our towns, in our state, in our nation. The time is established by God, with a definite opportunity for grace, after which comes judgment. The day of judgment may or may not be today or tomorrow, but it will certainly come at the definite time of God’s appointment. 

Jesus has come in the power of his death and resurrection, and if you will believe, the amazing grace of God will come to restore you, to change you, and then to use you to carry the message of this grace to others in the world.

Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ today.

Let us pray. 

Father, we thank you that you are a God of mercy and a God of all comfort and that there is no sinner too great who cannot find forgiveness in our Lord Jesus Christ. Help us each one to examine our hearts in response to what we have heard. Help us each one to look to Christ and find in him the perfect salvation that you freely offer to unworthy sinners like us. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.