This is a recap of the latest sermon in our series on Jonah, Commissioned.
Grace is love we don’t deserve. By grace, God does good to the undeserving. He loves the unlovable. He forgives the unforgivable. Nineveh didn’t deserve God’s love—the Assyrians were an evil, violent, oppressive empire. One king said this after conquering his enemies:
I built a pillar over his city gate and I flayed all the chiefs who had revolted, and I covered the pillar with their skin. Some I walled up within the pillar, some I impaled upon the pillar on stakes, and others I bound to stakes round about the pillar…. From some I cut off their noses, their ears, their fingers, of many I put out the eyes. I made one pillar of the living and another of heads, and I bound their heads to tree trunks round the city.
Jonah knew how awful the Assyrians of Nineveh were, and hated that God would show them grace. Because, as we see in Jonah 3, grace offends good people.
1. Grace Offends Us When We Think We're Good
This is the second time Jonah received God’s Word. Because when he received it the first time, he ran away. He would not preach to the Ninevites. They were the bad guys and the bad guys should die.
Grace offends us when we think we’re good people. We're only allowed to think of ourselves as good (and compare ourselves with others) when we are in the center of our vision. But when Christ is in the center of our vision, He says, "what is that to you [what I do for others]? You follow me!” (John 21:22).
Grace says we deserve NOTHING from God! All of us have sinned! All of us are undeserving of God’s love!
2. God's Word Is God's Grace
God has promised that His grace will reach us in His Word: “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). God promises to accomplish His purpose through His Word, and His purpose is to give us grace!
Here's what the Westminster Large Catechism says about God's Word:
The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation. (Q&A 155)
We get to receive God’s grace through His Word every Sunday as we hear it preached! We should hear His Word every week with expectation, anticipating the Spirit will work powerfully in and among us.
3. God Speaks as We Obey
God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach “the message that I will tell you” (v.2). It’s only after Jonah listens and does what God says that God tells him the rest of the message. God speaks to Jonah as he obeys. Obedience is faith in action, and our Father speaks as we look to Him in obedience by faith in Christ.
4. Grace Is for the Undeserving
God poured out His offensive grace on undeserving Nineveh. And it is poured out on you and me through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ. God went to great lengths to save Nineveh—it took storms and sea creatures and stubborn prophets. But God went to greater lengths to save us—He gave His own Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross and rise again from the dead to pour out His grace on undeserving people like us.
Reflection & Application Questions
- What do you think most offended or scared Jonah about being sent to Nineveh?
- Why didn’t Jonah want to preach God’s Word in Nineveh? (Hint: see Jonah 4:2-3)
- Why does thinking of ourselves as “good people” make us offended by God’s grace? Can you think of another time in the Bible when people have been offended by grace?
- Isaiah 55:11 tells us that God’s Word will accomplish His purpose (to show us grace). Where else in Scripture do we learn about the power of God’s Word? (ex., Isa. 40:8)
- What is your mentality when you come to worship on Sundays? Do you expect to receive God’s grace? Do you expect the Spirit to work powerfully? Why or why not?
- Obedience is faith in action. What is an area in your life where you need to obey God, but struggle to? How does faith help you grow to obey?
- Do you believe you need God’s undeserved love, His grace? Does grace give you joy? Why or why not?