God told Jonah to go to a city called Ninevah and tell the people who lived there to stop acting violently and turn their hearts to God. God wanted them to turn away from their sins, and to worship the Lord. Jonah was supposed to go and preach to the people called the Assyrians who lived in Ninevah.
Here is what God said to Jonah:
“Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” – Jonah 4:11
And it is with this sadness that I write this sermon. Many Somalis are living in spiritual darkness – but that doesn’t mean they have to stay there.
God told Jonah to go to the capital city of the Assyrians. It was the year 760 BC. The capital of Assyria was Ninevah and Ninevah exists today in the country of Iraq. But Jonah didn’t want to go and preach to the Assyrians. He disobeyed God and tried to escape from His presence.
Jonah was on a ship travelling to another city to escape from what God wanted him to do. So God caused a storm to rise in the sea. The storm was so violent that the sailors feared for their lives.
“Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the guilty party. “Why has this terrible storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”
“Throw me into the sea and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”
Jonah knew that he had disobeyed God and said to the sailors throw me into the sea. He knew that this would calm the sea. The sailors disobeyed Jonah and tried to row the ship ashore but the storm only got worse. The waves got bigger, the wind grew stronger; finally the sailors decided to do as Jonah said.
“Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea….”
And Jonah says:
“I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble,
and he answered me.
I called to you from the land of the dead,
and Lord, you heard me!
You threw me into the ocean depths,
and I sank down to the heart of the sea.
The mighty waters engulfed me;
I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.”
Can you imagine being pushed down beneath mighty waves by God Himself? The power of the waves was so great that Jonah pressed down and buried in the water and the force of the water wouldn’t allow him to get a breath of air.
Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence.
Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’
“I sank beneath the waves,
and the waters closed over me.
Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.
I was imprisoned in the earth,
whose gates lock shut forever.
Jonah was drowning in the middle of the sea with huge waves crashing over his head and in his words, my life was slipping away, I sank beneath the waves. Jonah was drowning. Not only did God allow Jonah to be thrown overboard He allowed Jonah to think that he was going to die.
Then and only then did God send a whale swallow Jonah and save him from death by drowning.
“But you, O Lord my God,
snatched me from the jaws of death!
As my life was slipping away,
I remembered the Lord.
And my earnest prayer went out to you
in your holy Temple.
Those who worship false gods
turn their backs on all God’s mercies.
But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise,
and I will fulfill all my vows.
For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.”
The whale brought Jonah back to where he boarded the ship and God said to Jonah a second time: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”
And this time Jonah went. He preached. The whole city accepted the Lord and turned away from their since.
Now what can we learn about this wonderful story? We can learn that God is a God of second chances. We may disobey God the first time he speaks to us; but then He will make our lives so miserable until we submit and yield to Him. God told Jonah to obey Him and Jonah disobeyed. Jonah got thrown into the sea and almost drowned. Then Jonah listened to God the second time God told him what to do.
The sailors also disobeyed God because they didn’t throw Jonah overboard as they were supposed to. So the storm got worse.
“Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”
Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it.
The sailors lost cargo, they incurred damages and expenses, then they listened to God and threw Jonah overboard. The sailors were given a second chance.
But the Assyrians, who were sinning violently against the Lord, only had to be given the message of salvation once before they listened. As soon as they heard the message of the Lord from Jonah the king of Assyria and all his inhabitants turned from their violent ways and accepted the Lord and worshipped Him.
So my dear Somali listener, if you are hearing this message from the Lord for the first time – believe what is being said. God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for your sins so that I you believe in Him you will receive forgiveness of sins and receive eternal life. Turn away from your sins and your violent way of life. Put away your anger and hatred of God and for others and ask God to forgive you. Don’t wait for a second chance. Do it now. The Assyrians accepted God the first time they heard the message. So if this is your first time hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour and you will be saved.
“Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city:
“No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.”
Yes. God will turn back from the destruction that awaits you if you listen to His voice and accept Him as your Lord and Saviour.