Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 63: A Heart of Compassion
January 15, 2012
A WHALE OF A TALE
This week we continue our series through the Bible and we are now on Jonah. Jonah is without a doubt the best known of the prophets. Even those who know nothing about the Bible typically have some knowledge of “JONAH and the WHALE.”
* Rather than doing a regular sermon, I decided it would be fun to REDISCOVER the story of Jonah as a story.
The emphasis is on “REDISCOVER”; I want us to hear the story as the original readers would have heard it, so I have reset it in WW II, and replaced Nineveh with NAZI GERMANY.
* I want us to have the same EMOTIONAL REACTION to the story as they would have.
I know that I am taking a couple of LIBERTIES, so I encourage you to re-read the story for yourself after watching this.
Before we begin, we are going to need some sound effects at three points in the play:
1. The STORM: We will need wind and thunder [practice].
2. The fish VOMITING up Jonah [practice]. Potty humor – it works ever time.
3. The dry EAST WIND [practice].
PRAYER [Actors take places]
Even as we enjoy this story, help us to learn about your compassion. And help us to teach your truth to our children in engaging ways.
ACT I: DISOBEDIENCE
Act I, Disobedience.
This story takes place during in darkest days of World War II. Germany tanks had rolled through France, her bombers had decimated Poland, and Hitler’s concentration camps were working with brutal efficiency to eliminate the Jewish people from the face of the earth.
In those days, the Word of the Lord came to Jonah, a Jewish prophet living in London.
Jonah, get up right now and go to the city of Berlin and preach against it, because the stench of its wickedness has come before me.
But instead Jonah got up and ran away from the LORD. He went down to Liverpool, where he found a ship bound for America. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for New York to try to hide from God.
But the LORD sent a gale wind of the blue and such a violent storm arose that the ship was in danger of sinking. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. They threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.
How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will notice us and save us.
Then the sailors decided to cast lots to figure out who was responsible. They asked questions then threw the dice for the answer:
Is it one of us? Yes.
Is it one of the sailors? No.
Is it a passenger? Yes.
Is it Jonah? Yes.
Jonah, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?
I am a Jew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land. But I am running away from the Lord.
Even as they were talking, the storm got more and more fierce. The ship was taking on water, the pumps were not keeping up and the captain knew they couldn’t last much longer.
Jonah, what must we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?
Pick me up and throw me into the sea, and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.
But they had compassion on Jonah and refused. The sailors struggled to get back to the ship back to shore, but they could not – the sea grew even more and more wild and they were minutes from sinking in the middle of the North Atlantic. They had no choice but to throw Jonah overboard.
O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you have done as you pleased.
The sailor then took Jonah and threw him overboard. Immediately, the raging sea grew calm as a lake. The sailor saw God’s power and worshiped him, and offered a sacrifice to him.
ACT II: REPENTANCE
Act II, Repentance.
Meanwhile, the LORD sent a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD.
In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.
From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers swept over me.
I said, “I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.”
The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God.
When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.
Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
But with a song of thanksgiving, I will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.
At the end of three days, the LORD commanded the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land just outside of Liverpool.
Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time
Jonah, get up right now and go to the city of Berlin and proclaim to it the message I give you.
This time, Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Berlin. Now Berlin was a very great city – it took three days to walk around it. On the first day, Jonah walked into the city.
In forty days Germany will be destroyed.
In forty days Germany will be destroyed.
In forty days Germany will be destroyed.
The Germans believed God; they declared a fast and everyone, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached Hitler, he took off his uniform and put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes. Then he issued decree:
By the order of the Fuehrer and the German High Command: Do not let any human or animal, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. Let every human and animal be covered with sackcloth.
Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Pull out of France, rebuild Poland, open the concentration camps.
Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.
And when God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.
ACT III: A HEARTLESS PROPHET
ACT III, A Heartless Prophet.
But when Jonah saw that God has forgave the Nazis, he was greatly displeased and became angry.
O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to New York. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.
Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.
Do you of all people really have you any right to be angry about my forgiveness?
But Jonah ignored God, walked out of the city and sat down at a place east of the city. He made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.
Then the God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was beside himself with happiness over that vine.
But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew fain and he wanted to die.
It would be better for me to die than to live.
Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?
I do. I am angry enough to die.
You have been worried about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.
But Berlin has more than a hundred and twenty thousand innocent children and people who cannot even tell their right hand from their left. And there are many, many innocent animals as well. Should I not be concerned about this great city and its inhabitants?
A QUESTION TO US
The story of Jonah ENDS at a very STRANGE PLACE; we never get to hear his answer to God’s question. Do you know why it ends there?
* God is TURNING the TABLES on us and asking the same question.
This is exactly like the story that NATHAN told DAVID after he had an affair with BATHSHEBA. We are being strung along, watching someone else’s sin, only to be shown our own.
We watch Jonah as he REBELS against God, but is FORGIVEN and RESCUED. We watch as all of the PAGANS and “bad guys” obey God. We wonder what is wrong with Jonah: Our God is COMPASSIONATE, he is forgiving. WHY don’t you want him to forgive?
Q God asks you the same thing and he is more INTERESTED in YOUR ANSWER: Do you REALLY want God to have COMPASSION on EVERYONE?
I hope you get that I am not asking you to have compassion on Hitler; that is kind of irrelevant:
Q Who has HURT you the most?
Q Which SINNERS most offend you?
Q Who do you not want to SEE in HEAVEN?
Get them into your head. God asks, “Shouldn’t I have compassion on them as well?”
REPENTANCE ISN’T OPTIONAL
* Let’s be very clear: The point is NOT “everybody goes to HEAVEN,” REPENTANCE proceeds FORGIVENESS.
I have said that FORGIVENESS before REPENTANCE isn’t grace, it is ENABLING. Sin is very bad stuff. It destroys, it kills, and God will not let destruction into Heaven.
I am not a UNIVERSALIST; I don’t believe everyone goes to heaven. If you say that everyone goes to heaven you have to either believe that sin is not that bad or that God will override our FREE WILL.
* But on the other hand, I WISH I was, and I never intend to STOP WISHING I was.
I read somewhere that there is something deeply WRONGHEADED about wanting ANYONE to be in HELL. That is part of the message of Jonah:
* God LONGS to show COMPASSION on everyone, and we should LONG for that TOO.
To wrap it all up: Check your HEART, do you are a heart of COMPASSION for everyone? Do you need God’s HELP to FORGIVE anyone or LOVE ANYONE?
FORGIVENESS and LOVE does not mean ACCEPTING what they do or have done as acceptable, but that we DESIRE for them to REPENT and be RESTORED.
* PPT: Please text Janna; service is almost over: 333-4505