January 21, 2018

Pastor Mark F. Bartels



Gospel Lesson; Mark 1:14-20        

Epistle Lesson; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Sermon Text; Jonah 3:1-5

                       Jonah 3:10


Then the Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time:  “Get up, go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.”
So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh just as the Word of the Lord had commanded. 

Now Nineveh was a great city to God.  It required a three-day walk.  Jonah walked through the city for a day, and he called out, “Forty more days and Nineveh is going to be overthrown!”

The men of Nineveh believed God.  They proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least.

When God saw their actions, that they had turned from their evil way, God relented from the disaster which He said He would bring on them, and He did not carry it out.


Back in the late 1960's, there was a young woman who, when she was just a little girl, her dad left the family.  Her mother was an alcoholic, and abused this little girl.  Eventually this little girl ended up getting in some trouble, some legal trouble, and ended up a ward of the state.  So, she was taken care of at different institutions.  Finally, she was released from there. 

At the age of 16 she got married.  Very shortly there after, she got pregnant, and had a little baby.  Then, her husband started to abuse her, and left her.  Unfortunately, she then got pregnant out of wedlock, and had another baby.  When she was 21, she got pregnant, again out of wedlock . 

She fell into this deep depression.  She knew, “There is no way anyone is going to employ me”.  She started to tell her friends she wished she could somehow end the pregnancy.  Now, at that time it was illegal to get an abortion in the United States of America.  When two lawyers heard about her, and that she wished she could get an abortion, they offered to take her case to court, and see if they could legally get permission for her to abort this little baby.  It ended up going all the way to the Supreme Court.

No one knew this lady's name, as it was kept secret, so the court trial was called Roe vs Wade.  Tomorrow, January 22nd is the 45th anniversary of the day when the Supreme Court declared it is legal, in many cases in the United States, for women to have abortions.

Subsequently, since that date, statistics say there have been 60 million, 60 million abortions performed in the United States.  That is a staggering, staggering number of tiny, little lives where The Fifth Commandment has been sinned against.  The Fifth Commandment says,

“You shall not kill.” 

I don't know if that makes you sad.  I don't know if it makes you angry.  But, the other thing to remember is this.  For each of those 60 million little, lives that were taken, there was somebody who had to make a decision for that to happen. 

-Whether it was a mom who was in some sort of desperation, (who maybe got pregnant outside of marriage, or she was afraid her mom and dad would find out she was pregnant, or she was afraid she might not ever be able to get a job, or be able to go to school, and get an education, or would not be able to afford to take care of the child), but in a moment of desperation made that decision. 

There may have been other people involved, too. 

-Maybe parents were pushing her into it. 

-Or, maybe a boyfriend was pushing her into it. 

-Or, maybe a doctor was pushing her into it. 

So, there were people involved who were helping her make that decision.

Then, there was somebody who actually performed the abortion.

So, there is lots of guilt, lots of guilt to go around.  There is lots of guilt in this country to go around.

So, what in the world are we doing, looking at the book of Jonah, on a day that is called, “Sanctity of Life Sunday”?  What in the world do those things have in common?

Actually, there is a great deal in common here.  First of all, when we think of the book of Jonah, immediately what do our minds go to?  We think of Jonah running away from God.  He gets thrown overboard, and this great fish swallows him.  Then, he gets rescued, when he gets spit out on the land.

The book of Jonah is actually a lot deeper, deeper book than that.  Two things that are critical to understand are:
-Number one:  Who were the Ninevites?  Those are the people Jonah was supposed to go, and preach to.  So, who were the Ninevites?

-Number two:  Why in the world was Jonah running away from his Call to preach to the Ninevites?

So, number one, who were the Ninevites?  Nineveh was a city.  It was the capital city of (at that time, around 780 BC) the world super-power, Assyria.  Nineveh, the capital city, was a magnificent city.  You can still see archeological remains of the city.  It is right next to Mosul, Iraq.  It is just magnificent. 

Most historians believe the walls of this city were one hundred feet high.  They were so wide, you could take three chariots across the top of those walls. 

Probably, inside the city there were as many as one hundred thousand people.  Outside the walls there was an additional, maybe, four hundred thousand.  So, this city was probably a half a million strong.  That was massive, back in those days, massive.

It was a very advanced city.  They were the ones who actually invented the concept of the library.  They invented the concept of paved roads.  They invented the concept of plumbing.  Very advanced.

They were also an extremely brutal, brutal kingdom.  I am not going to talk about the brutality, because there are children present, but you can actually read some of the documents they have uncovered.  They have uncovered many documents in Nineveh, through archeology, and they actually read what the kings did in order to keep people under subjection.  The brutality they performed, I am going to tell you, makes Isis sound like kindergarteners.  It was brutal.

And, they were enemies of The Children of Israel.  They were enemies of The Children of Israel, and they were threatening The Children of Israel. 

So, God told Jonah, “You go preach to those people.”

But, why didn't Jonah go?  Why did he not want to go?  Why did he run away?  He tells us why he ran away.  He says, “God I ran away.  I didn't want to go to those people, because I knew, I knew you are a God of mercy, grace, and compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love, and I know, if I go to those people, and preach The Word of God” (he knew The Word of God is powerful), “I know they will repent.  I don't think that is right.  God, I don't think it is right that you would be merciful to those people.”

That is why Jonah didn't go.  He thought their wickedness was so bad that God shouldn't be compassionate to them.

Do you think that happens today?  Shortly after Sherri and I got married, we had a young woman come, and we took her into our home for probably half of a year.  Prior to coming to our home, she had wanted to become a Christian Day School teacher.  She had her heart set on that. 

One night, she made a mistake, and she got pregnant.  She got scared, and had an abortion. 

Then, she felt overwhelming guilt.  So, she went, and talked to her pastor.  Her pastor told her, “Number one, you can never, ever be a Christian Day School teacher.  Number two, I don't think God is going to forgive you.”

Can we give the impression that some sins are so bad, that “I don't want God to have compassion on that person”?

That is why Jonah was running away.  And, that was a sin for Jonah not to want God to be merciful to the Ninevites. 

Now, God wanted to have compassion on Jonah.  He wanted to bring Jonah to repentance so that Jonah could have his sins forgiven.  And then, God could be merciful to him.

As a result, He caused a storm on the sea.  Jonah was then thrown overboard, and here he was in the belly of this fish.  Can you imagine the terror of being in the belly of a fish?  Jonah's conscience began to work on him.  Jonah began to cry out, as he realized his own life was in danger.  Literally, his physical life and spiritual life was in danger.  He cried out to God from the belly of this fish, pleading for God's mercy.

What did God do?  Well, as Jonah said, “God is a gracious, compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.”  So, God commanded that fish to vomit Jonah back out on to the dry ground, and Jonah was safe.  God had compassion, and mercy on Jonah.

Our text picks up when God tells Jonah a second time, “Jonah, go preach to that great city Nineveh.  Tell them what I tell you what I tell you to say.”
So, this time Jonah goes to the city of Nineveh.  The Bible tells us it was a great city.  It took three days to go through that city.  On that first day, Jonah begins to go through the city, preaching to the Ninevites, “Repent.   Nineveh is going to be destroyed in forty days.”  He simply preached The Word of God.

The amazing thing here is that while probably, Jonah's sermon were much longer than that, as he went around the city, what did the Holy Spirit do?  The Holy Spirit, through the preaching of Jonah, brought those brutal, cruel, sinful, wicked Ninevites to see their own sin, their own condition, and to understand God, by every right, could crush, and destroy them.  The Holy Spirit brought them to repent, and they cried out, and sought God to have compassion on them. 

What does the Bible tell us?  It says God relented, and did not destroy the Ninevites, because God wanted to have mercy, compassion, and grace.  He is a God of abounding love.

That is the God we have.  That is the God the Ninevites had.

Martin Luther once said this.  “Do you think it is a great miracle that Jonah got swallowed by a great fish, and spit out three days later?  It is an even bigger miracle that this huge city of Nineveh, from the greatest to the least, simply by the preaching of The Word of God, repented of their sins.  And, God had compassion, and mercy on them.”

That is the God we find in the book of Jonah. 

After God saved the Ninevites, the Bible tells us Jonah pouted, and said to himself, “God, I knew it.  I knew that is exactly what was going to happen.  I know you are gracious, and compassionate.  Your Word is powerful, and then they repented.  But, I don't think that is right.”

So then, God gave Jonah this little object lesson with a little plant.  We don't have time to get into it, but Jonah had compassion on that little plant.  After Jonah had compassion on that plant, God looked at Jonah and said, “Jonah, you had compassion on that little plant.  You didn't plant it.  You did not take care of it, but you still had compassion on it.  Jonah, shouldn't I have compassion on this great city Nineveh?” 

What about the sixty million people who may be guilty of abortion and many, many more than that?  Shouldn't God have compassion on this great city, this great country? 

Did you know that the woman I talked about at the beginning of the sermon, in about the 1980's, she actually revealed her name?  People found out her name was not Jane Roe, but her real name was Norma McCorvey.  After this Roe vs Wade decision, after abortion became legal, she became a strong advocate for abortion.  She actually worked in an abortion clinic.  One day, as she was working at this abortion clinic, she wanted to go outside to smoke a cigarette.  So, she was outside the abortion clinic, smoking a cigarette, when up to her comes this guy.  And, he starts a conversation with her.  He was a pastor.  He was very kind, and friendly to her, which was surprising to her that a pastor would be kind, and friendly.  He even invited her to come to his church. 

And so, she went.  In church she heard The Word of God, the powerful Word of God.  Here this woman, on whose shoulders I suppose we could put the death of sixty million children, (because she was part of that lawsuit that made abortion legal), God had mercy, grace, and abounding love, and compassion on her, and He brought her to faith in Jesus, as her Savior.  And, she became a believer in Jesus.  She realized she was rescued from the sin she had committed.  She then became a strong proponent of Pro Life.

That is the God we have.  He is a God of absolute mercy, and compassion. 

I don't know if anybody here has had an abortion.  But,

-if you have, or

-you have pushed someone into an abortion, or

-if you have counseled someone to commit an abortion, or

-you have committed some other sin that is overwhelming to you, or

-if you are in some other situation in life that is overwhelming to you, and

-you feel like you are in that great fish where it is dark, and

-you are scared,

-you are worried, and

-you are feeling burdened, and

-you want to cry out to God for mercy and help,

you have a God who is nothing but

merciful and compassionate. 

Will He rescue you?  Will He deliver you?  Absolutely.  He is a God who is so merciful and compassionate, that what did He do?  With every fiber of His being, every fiber of His being, He wants to rescue every sinner.  With every fiber of His being, He stepped into this world.  And, what did He do? 

-He became a tiny, little baby, because He loves little babies. 

-He became a tiny, little baby in the womb of an unwed mother.  He put Himself in a situation where she had to go through the stigma, and He did too, of being born to an unwed mother. 

-He put Himself into a situation with every fiber of His being where Joseph was going to...what?  Joseph was going to dump Mary. 

With every fiber of His being, He came to save anybody and everybody who understands they are in trouble and trial. 

I want to read something.  It is from a guy who used to be a pastor.  He got himself into some trouble, and as a result really began to rely on the mercy of God.  Here is what he says. 

“For every employee of Planned Parenthood, Jesus the Physician of soul, and body, shed His blood on the cross to reconcile them to His Father.  For every boyfriend or parent who has strong-armed a girlfriend, or daughter into an abortion, Jesus, the Man, stretched out His arms, and died to make peace between them, and Heaven.  There is no sin so big that God's love is not still bigger.  There is no shame so great that His holiness can't clothe it with honor.  Show Him your sands of guilt, and He will point you to the mountain of His love.

“But He also turns to the desperate, delinquent mother and says, 'You come too'.

And to the doctor still holding the forceps, He says, 'And, you as well'. 

“Such is this absurd, and holy scandal of the incarnation.  Have you had an abortion?  Have you supported, or performed an abortion?  Jesus will remove the monster of shame, and guilt, and regret, and fill that chasm inside of you with Himself, with a love stronger than death, a love that transforms you into a son, or daughter of God, beautiful, chosen, royal.  He is not against you.  He is for you, with every fiber of His being, every cell of His body.  He is your advocate, and your friend.  This child of Mary makes you a child of your Heavenly Father.”

So, let's be Jonah's to the Ninevites.  We have been rescued by God's mercy.  Let's be like that pastor who put his arm around a woman.  He was kind and friendly to her, 'Ninevite' that she was.  He invited her to church, where she heard the powerful Word of God, and God had mercy, and compassion on her.


Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.

World without end.