This sermon is number 2 in a series of 7
Let My People Go - Part 2
"For The Sake Of The Children"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2016 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Well, evening all! It's good to be with you again tonight. We're turning in our Bibles to two portions of Scripture this evening. The first is in the book of Exodus, leading on from where we were last evening, so we're going to Exodus chapter 10, and then we're going to look at the book of Jonah. Now, let me just allow you right now to look at the contents page of your Bible and find Jonah, alright. Just be honest! I'll do the same, because it's a hard one to find - but it's page 1252 in my Bible, I don't know what it is in yours - but it's a hard one to find there! OK, so Exodus chapter 10 first of all - we're not going to read it just right away. If you were with us last evening, you will know that we looked quite extensively at Moses, and how Moses is like the Lord Jesus Christ - we'll not go into all that, we'll not repeat it from last evening - but just how that our Saviour, of course, supersedes Moses. We know from Hebrews that He is greater than Moses, but how there are many pictures in the book of Exodus about the Lord's deliverance of us. We also saw that Pharaoh was a very graphic picture of Satan, the evil one. We know that also Herod was a picture of the devil as well, in that both of them slew the innocents, the children, the massacre of the children.
I was chatting to someone last evening over a cup of tea, and we were talking about how there is still with us today in our modern generation the spirit of Pharaoh and the spirit of Herod. I hadn't really thought of that an awful lot until last evening, and just on the way home I was listening to a sermon on a podcast - if you don't know what that is, I'll educate you later on over a cup of tea - but this gentleman (and he wasn't speaking about Moses, and he wasn't speaking from Exodus) and he just threw this in: he threw in how the spirit of Pharaoh wants the children. Did you know that?
I want you to look here at chapter 10, this was actually - I think - my reading today in my own Bible reading, Exodus chapter 10. I had never seen this before in my life, verse 7 - now this is in the context where the plagues are starting to be visited upon Pharaoh. You remember I told you last evening that each of these plagues represented a deity or deities of the Egyptian religion, and God was judging them. We're just about to see the locusts coming upon Egypt - but look at verse 7: "Then Pharaoh's servants said to him, 'How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go", note that please, "Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet know that Egypt is destroyed?'". So what's going on here is: Pharaoh's advisers are telling him, 'Let the males go, but we will keep the women and the children'. Effectively what they were wanting to do was tap into the following succeeding generations, to get a foothold in the progeny of God's people. But look at verse 8: "So Moses and Aaron were brought again to Pharaoh, and he said to them, 'Go, serve the LORD your God. Who are the ones that are going?'. And Moses said, 'We will go with our young and our old; with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and our herds we will go, for we must hold a feast to the LORD'".
Satan wants the children. The spirit of Pharaoh, the spirit of Herod today wants the children - but the mighty message of redemption, which is what Exodus is all about, salvation, it's found in verse 26 of this same chapter: 'Our livestock also shall go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind'. Amen? That is what the cross of Jesus has done for us! Not a hoof has to be left behind - in other words, there is nothing that the power of the blood of Jesus cannot effect in our lives. Do you understand? There is no problem too big - you need to hear this tonight, whether you're not a Christian or you are: there is nothing in your life that is too great a problem, that the power of the cross cannot rectify.
But the spirit of Pharaoh is still alive and well, and it holds people captive just like this ancient despot did. It holds people captive in spiritual bondage and fear, it's a kind of anti-Christ spirit that denies the true and the living God. It sets itself up as a deity and it demoralises God's people - in fact, it wants to crush the Lord's people. It brings a hardening effect into people's hearts. In fact, Jesus talked about this in Matthew 13:15, He says, quoting Isaiah: 'The hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them'. Maybe you've been afflicted by this yourself, you just can't see this Gospel stuff! No matter how many times you hear preaching, it just doesn't sink in. Could it be that there is an actual spirit of Pharaoh that has gripped you, a hardening of the heart? An extinguishing of light and life, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ should shine unto you and you should be saved. There is also the spirit of Herod, and like the spirit of Pharaoh, it kills the young. It kills the young through abortion, through poverty, and through all sorts of addictions and also sex-trafficking. It murders the dreams of youth. Just like Pharaoh and Herod engaged in a massacre of the innocents, that spirit is doing exactly the same today - now, not in some ethereal spiritual dimension, but in real-time terms in our own nation.
There have been 8 million abortions since the 1967 Abortion Act in the UK. You just think about that. That's a Holocaust - 8 million. This very day, because on average there are 552 abortions take place in Britain - do you know that's equivalent to? The entire school roll of over two typical primary schools in the UK slaughtered every day. You can't tell me that the spirit of Pharaoh and the spirit of Herod is not alive and well in our society, and of course that's because Satan is alive and well. But there are other spirits: there is the spirit of Goliath, who mocks God's people, who intimidates them. There is the spirit of Jezebel that still seduces with sexuality and seeks to control and manipulate through various forms of witchcraft. There is the spirit of Absalom that continues to divide between parents and children, not only dividing homes, but dividing churches and every conceivable relationship there is. All of this is because the devil, Jesus said in John 10:10, is a thief. He comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. Don't be under any illusion: the devil is not your friend, he wants to murder you, and he wants to take you to hell along with him.
Yet, in the midst of all this chaos and destruction there is another spirit at work, stronger than all the rest combined. I want to declare to you tonight the message of God, and that is that the most powerful spiritual force in the universe is alive today on our planet and in this very meeting. It is none other than the power of the Holy Spirit of Almighty God - more powerful than the spirit of Pharaoh, the spirit of Herod, the spirit of Saul, Absalom, Goliath, Jezebel, the whole lot of them. The Spirit of God is working to save the children. Do you believe that? John 10:10: 'The thief comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy', but Jesus says, 'I am come that you may have life, that you might have it to the full, that you might have it in abundance, that you may have it to overflowing'.
Now, this is where we turn to Jonah, so come with me please to Jonah chapter 4 and the very last verse, verse 11. God is speaking, and He says: "Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left; and much livestock?". Do you see that? Look at it again: 'Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left', that's children, 'and much livestock?'. Do you know the pity, and the mercy, and the compassion that God has towards children? It's incredible! If you keep a marker in there and come back with me to Deuteronomy chapter 1, there is a very interesting verse. The children of Israel have wandered around forty years in the wilderness, through disobedience they have not entered into the promised land, and here in verse 39 God makes this astonishing remark: 'Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil', that's the same as not being able to tell between the left and the right hand, they have no knowledge of good and evil these young infants, 'they shall go in there', into the promised land, 'to them I will give it, and they shall possess it'.
Now, I need to give you the context of such a statement. The great excuse of Israel why they wouldn't enter into the promised land, the land flowing with milk and honey, was that their wives would be killed and their children would be killed - that was the excuse they made in unbelief at a place called Kadesh-Barnea. They said: 'If we go in and take the land, our children will be killed!'. Now, God answers that excuse here in Deuteronomy 1:39, and says: 'You will be killed, but your children will live, and your children will enter the land'. You see, this is the heart that God has for the children.
I'm involved in Portadown House of Prayer, and every Friday - nearly every Friday - we pray a prayer that was devised in Wales by a place called 'Ffald-y-Brenin', another house of prayer - some of you may have read the book 'Grace Outpouring', the whole story about that place. But it's called 'The Caleb Prayer', this is how it goes:
'O High King of Heaven
Have mercy on our land.
Revive Your church;
Send the Holy Spirit
For the sake of the children.
Let Your kingdom come to this nation
In Jesus' mighty name
What we have here in Jonah 4:11 is God's heart for the children. There are 120,000 of them that cannot discern between their left and their right hand. But we've also got God's compassion for the city, the city of Nineveh, we will see in a moment what a wicked city it was. We've even got God's compassion for His creation, for the animal kingdom. This is very instructive. I don't know whether you've ever read Hosea chapter 4, you might want to turn to it - it's a number of books just before Jonah - Hosea chapter 4, an astounding passage, verses 1 to 3. Just listen to it if you can't find it: 'Hear the word of the LORD, you children of Israel, for the LORD brings a charge', that's a legal complaint, 'against the inhabitants of the land: 'There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed', now watch this verse, 'Therefore the land will mourn; and everyone who dwells there will waste away with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air; even the fish of the sea will be taken away'. The land mourns when there is ungodliness committed on the land by the inhabitants of the land, you and me. God even had pity, not only on the children - because the children were innocent - but on the animals that were innocent. In fact, Romans chapter 8 and verse 19 tells us that creation groans: 'For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed'. Now, I'm not going to go into all that that means, but do you know one of the things of that does mean? That the whole of creation is just waiting until you understand your identity as a child of God, if you're a Christian, and you start to live according to your inheritance. Everything is waiting on you, you getting with it, getting with God's programme, believing His promises, living in the destiny that He has chosen for you before the foundation of the world, stepping into those works that were before ordained for you before the foundation of the world.
Now I've got a message tonight from the book of Jonah, and the first part of it is a message to the church, and the second is a message to the lost - but it will all be mixed together as usual, so you'll not need to worry. What I want you to see, if you go to chapter 1 and verses 1 and 2, the beginning of this book of Jonah: 'Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 'Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me''. So we see right away the wickedness of the city, and then in verse 3: 'But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD'. So we see the wickedness of the city, a preacher is sent to warn them and he flees. Now if ever there was a picture of the modern day church, it is that! We are in great darkness, perhaps unprecedented - certainly in modern times - but where are we as the church in the midst of all this? Oh, we want the presence of God, don't we? But part of what that actually means, the presence of God is where vision is imparted, the presence of God is where burden is begotten as we share God's heart. Jonah is fleeing from the presence of God.
Look at verse 4: 'But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up'. This is what God does, He puts pointers and obstacles in our way to remind us of our responsibilities as the church. Look at verse 5: 'Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep'. The church! That's the church! Do you know what perhaps is an even greater tragedy than the church being asleep? It's that some of the ungodly, we might even call them the heathen, are more in touch with the perilous situation as it is than we are! Look at verse 6: 'So the captain came to him', to Jonah, 'and said to him, 'What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish''.
Now I know that there are mockers today, saying: 'Where is your God? Where is this supernatural power? Where are the claims of the Gospel?'. I know all that, and Peter warns us that in the last days there will be more mockers: 'Where is the promise of His coming? Everything is going on as it always has done in aeons past in history!'. But, you know, there are also a crowd of unbelieving people who are broken, who are needy, who are crying out for someone to waken up, to waken them up. Amos chapter 6 verse 1 says: 'Woe to those who are at ease in Zion!' - that's where the church is in the West, I have no doubt about it whatsoever. I can be called a prophet of doom, a naysayer, a depressive - I don't care, because I believe that God has made it very clear: the spiritual stupor that the church of Jesus Christ is in in the Western world, in Western Europe in particular.
Paul, in his book of Ephesians, reflects this when he says in Ephesians chapter 5 verse 14: 'Therefore He says: 'Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light'. See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil'. What time is it? What time is it in biblical history? What do you think? Romans 13, in Paul's day, in verse 11 he says: 'Do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed'. Listen: the night is far spent. If you're not a Christian tonight, you need to sit up and listen, because the signs of the times are all pointing to the fact that Jesus is coming again very soon, and you need to get ready! You need to get ready! But believer: you might be able to discern the signs in the sky of the weather - red sky at night, shepherd's delight, and all the rest - but you cannot discern the signs of the times. You're living your life, you're marrying and giving in marriage, you're eating and drinking, and making merry and making money - but you don't realise the time is short, and it's your job to buy up the truth and sell it not, to redeem the time, to walk circumspectly.
Do you know what that means? That's a big word, 'circumspectly'. Where I come from in East Belfast, a lot of people in terraced houses, they had an entry and they had a yard wall - some had a yard toilet as well, but we'll not go into that. But on the yard wall, to keep bad people out, and maybe sometimes to keep folk in, they put broken glass bottles around the top of the yard wall. Maybe you've never seen this, but if you've ever seen a cat walking on that yard wall, if you've ever seen a cat walking circumspectly through all that glass, carefully, walking carefully - not as fools but as wise, understanding what the will of the Lord is. That basically means: knowing what time it is. Do you know what time it is? The church is asleep.
Look at verse 10: 'Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, 'Why have you done this?'. For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them'. We as the church must share in guilt concerning the state of our society. Now some of you will not agree with that, but I believe that is true. We share responsibility for how our society is. You can point the finger at the government, you can point the finger at certain political parties, and the ones you don't like and all the rest; but as the church, so goes the world - there is an element of truth to that. We're not to blame for everything, but certainly in a land like ours where we have had a Christian heritage, and we've been living in the end glow of the blessing of years of revival gone by - we have responsibility as to what we have done with the stewardship that God has given to us.
We are meant to be salt and light, aren't we? 'How shall they hear without a preacher?', that's what we're seeing here in the book of Jonah. Our society is exactly the same: we are the ones who have got the answer. A recent survey was done in 2012 by Life Way Research Group, probably in the United States, and they found that 61% of Christians failed to share their faith on a regular basis. Now, I want to tell you, I think that that's a very conservative estimate. I would have put it up in the 90s, but that's me. 61% never share their faith. But let me ask: if we don't affect our society positively with the salt and the light of the Gospel, how have we affected our society? How have we? Do you know what I think our society in Ulster and in Ireland could say? What these Mariners say in verse 10, look at it: 'Why have you done this?'.
What am I talking about? I'm talking about how we have affected our society in our own country. We'll talk about it a wee bit later, but how we have mixed the Gospel with politics, and a form of man-made religion and tradition that's got nothing to do with heaven. Do you understand what I'm talking about here? Things that have been done in the name of religion, whatever colour and hue on the spectrum that might be, I'm not hitting any particular denomination or group or persuasion, I just want us to waken up. The whole world could turn to the church and say: 'What have you done to us?'. Even Mahatma Gandhi believed in Jesus, he believed He was a great religious leader and teacher. A man by the name of E. Stanley Jones on one occasion, a Christian missionary, asked Gandhi: 'Why is it you quote Jesus so much, but you have never followed Him?'. He said: 'Dear man, my problem is not with your Jesus, my problem is with your Christians - because your Christians are so unlike your Jesus'.
Look at that verse 10: 'Why have you done this?'. Verse 11: 'Then they said to him, 'What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?'; for the sea was growing more tempestuous'. That's very gracious, isn't it? Sometimes the godless can be more merciful. Now, I know that Jonah was very courageous here in verse 12, because he agrees to be picked up and thrown into the sea that the sea may become calm, 'For I know that this great tempest is because of me'. 'Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them'. It's amazing, they tried their best not to have to throw Jonah over the side. You see, sometimes the children of this world can have more compassion and more everyday goodness than the church. Now, I know this is hard for us to take, but we need to waken up to this. You see, that's what the parable of the Good Samaritan was about - did you realise that? The priest and the Levite walked by the man that was beat up on the roadside to Jericho, but it was the Samaritan that came to his aid. Now, you've got to be putting yourself in a Hebrew's shoes listening to that story, and basically what that's saying is: the person that you most despise in the world (the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans, they hated them), he's the one who's got more goodness in his heart than you. That's what Jesus was saying. So if you can imagine the person - whether it's politically, or religiously, or ethically, or whatever particular philosophical persuasion you might have, or even lifestyle wise - you think of the person that is most detestable to you, and you put them in the place of the Samaritan. That's the story: they had more goodness in their heart than the Jew had at that particular time.
Here we see these mariners, in fact in verse 14: 'Therefore they cried out to the LORD and said, 'We pray, O LORD, please do not let us perish for this man's life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O LORD, have done as it pleased You''. Do you see it? They were concerned about having innocent blood on their hands! Are we? Are we? Ezekiel says that if we don't warn people we have blood on our hands. Paul said about the Ephesians, that he had discharged the Gospel and he had no longer any blood on his hands. Ah, but does that mean us? Look at verse 17: 'Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah'. They threw him over the side, and God had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah, and he was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. You know, I believe this is prophetic, what I'm about to say: God is preparing a fish for the church. God is preparing a fish for the church in the West. What am I talking about? I'm talking about a time of testing, a time of breaking, a time of purging, a time when we will be thrown out, we will be swallowed up, we will be churned around, we will then be spat out. I believe it, because we're asleep! We're asleep, and the world is crying out for a message, it is crying out for hope, it's crying out for light and meaning, and we are silent! Jesus said this in Matthew chapter 5 verse 13: 'You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men'. Imagine preaching a sermon: 'Good for nothing Christians, good for nothing churches!' - that's what Jesus said! If the salt loses its flavour, it's good for nothing, and to be thrown out and trodden under the foot of men. If you want to know what that means: it means that you will mean nothing, your message will mean nothing, and your significance will mean nothing to people outside - they'll just tread it underfoot.
'Oh, you're being too harsh' - well, Jesus said in Revelation 3:16 of a church that thought they had need of nothing: 'Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth'. 'I will vomit you out of my mouth, I will spew you out of my mouth!' - that's Jesus, gentle Jesus, meek and mild. Do we know Him?
If you're unsaved tonight, and you don't know Christ as your Saviour, God might be preparing a big fish for you too. Maybe you're already in the belly of that fish, because the Bible says the way of the transgressor is hard. This is what the prodigal son found out when he went to the far country, and he went there because he wanted to be happy. Most people do things because they want to be happy, but he believed the devil's lives: that thief who wants to kill and destroy. He hit rock bottom, and it wasn't until he was at the floor that he realised that there was bread in his father's house, and that to spare, and even the servants were living better lives than he was. You see, this is the lie of the devil. Sometimes God has to prepare a big fish to swallow us up, to churn us up, and to spew us out.
That's not the end of the story, thank God, look at verse 1 of chapter 3: 'Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time'. Are you glad tonight that God is a God of the second chance - and, praise Him, the third, and fourth, and keep going? That is our God! He spoke again, and I don't know how many times God has spoken to you in meetings like this, or missions that you have attended, maybe even in this very week He has spoken to you several times - but He is coming again this very night, and He is speaking again. But look at the message in verse 4, it's a message of judgement: 'Jonah began to enter the city on the first day's walk. Then he cried out and said, 'Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!''. Now I want you to see this: this is just a message of judgement, this is doom and gloom, this is hellfire and brimstone stuff - alright? It's even worse, and here's why I know it: he doesn't even say 'Repent!'. You'll not find Jonah saying 'Repent!', unless I missed it today. He just says: 'Ninevites, judgement is coming, 40 days and it's over!'. No hope, no escape. Look at the response, verse 5, immediately: 'So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh', right to the very top of society, 'and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything', the animals fasted, 'do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish? Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it'.
Now let me ask you a question: if you knew that there wasn't a way out, would you still repent? Be honest with me. Christian, tonight, you be honest with me. Do I need to repeat the question? If you didn't know there was a way out, and all you heard was a message of judgement, and all you knew was that God was holy and you had broken His commands and you were doomed and damned, and He didn't give you a way out - He didn't give these Ninevites a way out - but they knew their sin, and they recognised the authenticity of the holy God of heaven, and they said: 'We're going to repent, because it's the right thing to do' - the right thing to do. I'm led to believe that in the Hebridean revival, when Duncan Campbell was preaching, that at least at the beginning of that particular move of God he would have preached judgement messages. He wouldn't get very many invites to the churches these days, but he preached judgement messages, and he wouldn't give an invitation and he didn't even preach the Gospel. He didn't preach the Gospel, what he did was pronounce judgement, close the meeting, and anybody who was concerned about their soul would come to him afterwards and then he would preach the grace of God. I'm not saying that's the way to do it, that's the way he did it - he lived through revival.
All I'm wanting to point out here tonight is that sometimes it is because we know there is something in it for us - and, praise God, there is something in it for us! It's good news, and we're not in any way diluting that, but what I want you to understand is: these Ninevites didn't get a fire exit from hell, and yet they still repented! Now look at verse 1 of chapter 4, this is priceless: 'But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry'. What? Is this not a preacher's greatest dream? To preach one sermon, and see revival? A whole city, potentially a nation impacted for God - and he's displeased exceedingly, and he is angry! Now hold on a wee minute, because I can be too hard on Jonah, and so can you - and here's the reason why: he was a prophet of God, do you know what that means? He was hearing from God - I hope you are, but he was. He was a representative of God, he was speaking for God. He wasn't just a petty minded bigot that some people make him out to be, and here's the context of why I'm saying this, listen: Assyria was the rising power in that modern world. Do you understand? It was actually our modern day nation of Iraq. Assyria was rising, Nineveh was the capital, most likely it was the largest city in the whole world. So here is this one man revival walking into the biggest city in the world of the rising empire of the world, and add to that that this man knew his Bible. He knew that 20 years before his ministry a man called Isaiah prophesied that Assyria would spoil and destroy Israel, OK? So he knows Scripture, and he also knows that the Ninevites were notoriously brutal - if you want to know more about that, read Nahum chapter 3 verses 1 to 4. If I could give an illustration of what the Ninevites were like, they were like present-day ISIS, Islamic State - that's the way they were. I read today of a military leader in Nineveh who recorded that he beheaded so many people he made a pyramid of their heads, the butchery of the Ninevites. Add to this fact that Jonah lived in a border town with Assyria, and probably at some stage in his life, if he hadn't seen their savagery he had heard the stories over the years.
So Jonah, the prophet of God, was a patriot, and he had a heart for the nation, and he had a heart for God - and do you know what his biggest fear was? Look at verse 2 of chapter 4: 'So he prayed to the LORD, and said, 'Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm'. 'I know what You're like, Lord!', so he chose not to go - that's why he went the other direction. Do you understand? He was afraid that they would repent, they would become strong again, and they would destroy Israel, God's people. So he's torn between what God seems to be saying, and what his whole background says, and what even Scripture says. Here's a principle folks: people do the wrong things so often for the right reasons. Now you'll need to tease that out, but you might want to write it down: people do the wrong things for the right reasons. They've got the right motivation, the right reasoning and rationale, but it's the wrong thing they do.
So over here is the heart of God, and over here is the heart of Jonah, and they aren't meeting - there is not a meeting of hearts. I want to ask you here tonight: where is your heart in relation to God's heart? Let me bring this home, OK? When revival comes to Ireland the majority of converts will be from a Roman Catholic background. Look at the demography of the island, it's just the way it's going to be. You can't argue with me on that one. That means they will be from a nationalist background. And when revival comes, in a sense they will take over the church in numbers - are you ready for that? Oh, I'm ready for it! I'm not telling you how to vote, you can vote however you like - but listen: this is what it looks like. Do you know what it's going to look like? If you think anything of this is new, all you have to do is go to the Acts of the Apostles chapter 6, and even the Jews were fighting among themselves. Some of them spoke Greek, they were Hellenistic Jews, and some of them spoke Hebrew from Jerusalem, and they were fighting over how the charitable deeds were given out - the Jews were fighting among the Jews. What do you think happens when you come to Acts chapter 10 and Gentiles start to be converted, and the Holy Spirit falls on them just like it did upon the Jews in Acts chapter 2? Peter goes through a whole dilemma: 'How can this be happening?'. He accepts it one minute, and the next minute he won't even eat with Gentiles. God comes along and He says to him: 'Do not call unclean what I have cleansed, what I have purified. Do not call common what I have purified'. I don't know if I'm prophesying or not, but I think I maybe am: that there are people going to be displeased when God starts to move in the Roman Catholic community, people in the churches.
It's serious, look at verse 3: 'Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!'. 'Oh, woe is me, this is not what I envisaged my career to be as a prophet, I thought I was going to be a prophet of God's people to save God's people, and now You've got me to go to the enemy, and now You've raised them up and You've saved them'. There's maybe another way of interpreting this, I don't think this is necessarily what Jonah meant, but you've heard the expression 'Over my dead body' - have you heard that one? It's a wee bit like what he's saying, isn't it? 'I can't face this, You'll have to do this without me'.
Look at verse 6, he's sitting there, he makes a shelter, sits under it depressed, feeling sorry for himself until he sees what will become of the city - he's waiting for hell to come down. Verse 6: 'And the LORD God prepared a plant', or a gourd, 'and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah's head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, 'It is better for me to die than to live''. Do you see what's going on here? Sunstroke, he weeps for this plant that is destroyed by the worm, but listen: the point of all this is that he is more concerned for the gourd, the plant, than the lost! Do you understand? This comfort and protection that he's been given, and he's been given it by God you understand - and there are many blessings that we in the church have been given by God, but we can value those more than the lost outside! Do you understand what I'm meaning? There are so many other gourds of our traditions, our ways, our evangelical subculture, and we are more concerned about preserving those than saving the lost!
Look at verse 9: 'Then God said to Jonah, 'Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?'. And he said, 'It is right for me to be angry, even to death!'. But the LORD said, 'You have had pity on the plant for which you have not laboured, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left; and much livestock?''. Here's the heart of God: 'For the sake of the children, Jonah, for the sake of the children, is it not worth it?'.
There is a message to the church, but there is a message to the lost: what is God like? Even God in the Old Testament! Look at verse 2 of chapter 4: 'I know', Jonah said, 'that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm'. Do you know that is God? Do you want to know what God is like? Here He is - in the Old Testament now - loving the world, and coming to redeem and save a godless, wicked people for the sake of the children! Isn't He wonderful? His heart is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Do you know that's why the day of judgement hasn't come yet? Did the Ninevites deserve judgement? Yes. Do you deserve judgement? Yes. Does ISIS deserve judgement? Yes. But He is withholding judgement, He's not willing that any should perish, but that all to come to repentance - that's why He hasn't come yet. It's not because He's forgotten, or He's not true to His promise, it's because He is waiting for you to come to Jesus. He's waiting for Ireland to be saved!
In Matthew 12 Jesus said to an unbelieving people who were looking signs from Him - we were talking about signs and wonders last night - He said: 'No sign will be given to you, except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth'. You see Jonah's whole book, his whole experience, his whole belly of the fish experience was a picture of Jesus Christ. I mean, if you look at chapter 2, look at verse 2, this is what Jesus endured on the cross: 'Out of the belly of Sheol', the grave, 'I cried, and You heard my voice. For You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the floods surrounded me; all Your billows and Your waves passed over me. Then I said, 'I have been cast out of Your sight; yet I will look again toward Your holy temple'. The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; the deep closed around me; weeds were wrapped around my head. I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever; yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God'. This is Christ's experience on the cross! The greatest sign ever: as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the flesh, so Jesus is three days and three nights in the earth. He paid the penalty for your sins on the cross, He was buried, and the third day He rose again.
This is the great sign to those that are lost, because God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abundant in lovingkindness, and relents in doing evil. Do you know how much God loves you tonight? Oh, I wish I could describe it to you - but God loves you, and He sent Jesus to the cross to die to save you. That's why we read in verse 9 of chapter 2: 'Salvation is of the Lord'. It's not about church, it's not about religion - whether Protestant or Roman Catholic - it's not of any religious leader or any single philosophy in this world, it is only through the Lord. Salvation is through the Lord. You need to come to the Lord tonight! You need to come to the Lord! You need to come to that cross where Jesus bled and died for you. You need to know that He has a heart for you, He has a heart for your children and your children's children - those that can't even know their right from their left, those that can't yet discern right from wrong. God has a heart for this nation! God has a heart for the children!
It's interesting, if you look at chapter 1, God prepared a great fish, didn't He, for Jonah? Then in chapter 4 and verse 6 He prepares a plant for Jonah. Then in verse 7 of chapter 4 He prepares a worm to eat the plant. In verse 8 He prepares an east wind to clear away the clouds and bring the sunshine to give him sunstroke - all was done for Jonah. God is preparing for you to, He has prepared for you to be here tonight, He has prepared the pathway - made straight the way of the Lord tonight - so that you could be here, so that you could hear a word from the Lord. But do you know something else that God was preparing in Jonah? He prepared a people ripe for harvest. He prepared a people ripe for harvest, but the tragedy was: Jonah didn't want it. That's incredible.
Do you know what Jesus said in John chapter 4 and verse 35? 'Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!'. Do you believe that? Do you? That the fields out there are white unto harvest? Do you really? Well that's what Jesus says, it has to be true. But let me give you the context: the Samaritan woman, John chapter 4, who said 'The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans'. She was untouchable because she was morally unclean, she had been married five times, she was living with a fellow - and she was a Samaritan, religiously and ethically unclean to the Jew. She gets converted, finds water, spiritual water that she will never thirst again, in Christ. She goes to the men of village, and says: 'Come see a Man that told me all things that ever I did, is not this the Christ?'. It says that many of them believed, and it was in that context when Jesus saw a crowd of Samaritans who were coming to Him, that He said: 'Behold, the fields are white unto harvest'.
Do you know something? The Protestant community in our country has had the Gospel for years, and their hearts are hardened - but there are fields white unto harvest around us, but we're not lifting up our eyes to see them. The tragedy is - and I'm going to make a very strong statement here, and I'm speaking to my own heart too - it's a harvest that some people don't want. Luke chapter 10: 'The harvest truly is great', Jesus said, 'but the labourers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest'. We're all good with that, aren't we? 'Lord, send the missionaries, please, send the missionaries to those poor people. Raise up young men, Lord' - get off your backside and go and tell them! Don't pray for labourers to go into the harvest field when you want go in! That's hypocrisy! I analyse my own heart tonight as well, and can I say to you tonight - listen, listen carefully, I'm bringing all this to a close: 'But the men of Nineveh', Jesus said, 'will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here'.
Jesus is here! He was there in Matthew 12, but He's here now. The God Agent that we have dealings with is the Holy Spirit, who brings Christ to men and women, who convinces of sin, of judgement and righteousness, and witnesses Christ to men's hearts and minds. Jesus is here, a greater than Jonah - and maybe you haven't repented yet. Will you repent tonight? Christian, will you repent? Here's why you need to repent, whatever you need to repent of - listen: for the sake of the children, for there is a harvest, and I believe it's going to be a harvest of kids and young people. We need labourers, will you be one? Let us pray.
Let me just take a few moments here now. Is there anyone in the meeting tonight and you're not a Christian? I'm not talking about 'Are you baptised into the church?' - that's not what a Christian is. A true Christian is someone that has a personal experience of realising that they are a sinner, and confessing their sins, repenting of them, and believing in Jesus Christ for their Saviour. You cannot be born into that, do you understand? You can be born into Christendom, you can be born into the church, but you can't be born into Christ. You must believe into Christ. Is there anyone here tonight, whether from a religious background or none, and God has spoken to you this evening? You know the time it is, you know the help that you need, and you know you need rescued. You know right from wrong and you've got a conscience. You know that Jesus died for you. You know the sign of the cross, and His burial and His resurrection - and you want to be right with God tonight. Is there anyone here - while heads are bowed and eyes are closed - is there anyone that will just raise their hand to say, 'I want to trust Christ tonight, I want to make Him my Saviour'? We're putting the net out, and we want to give an opportunity for anyone that is here - there might not be anybody that is unconverted here, but I want to ask you, if there is: will you take that step to Jesus tonight? Just raise your hand where you're sitting - anyone.
Are there any backsliders here tonight, and you know that you're not redeeming the time, you're frittering away the time, you're wasting the time, squandering the time. You've sold the truth, and you've sold out Christ - but you want to come home tonight, you want to make things right. Is there anyone who has backslidden? You once walked with the Lord, you once professed faith in Jesus, but you're far from Him - would you raise your hand say that you're coming home, and we will help you in a prayer? Just where you're seated.
Now, church, I said to you last evening that I believe the church needs converted, the church need saved. God has spoken to you tonight - heads bowed and eyes closed, please respect that it is between God and people - is there anybody and God has really spoken to you tonight? Maybe you have been a Jonah running the opposite way, and maybe it's because of things you don't understand, things God has told you, or things God has been doing, and you just don't understand - but you know God is going one way and you are going the other. You need to stop saying: 'God bless what I'm doing', and you need to start getting with what God is doing. I don't know what else it might be, it might be sin. I don't know what it is, but it might be sectarianism, it might be bigotry, it might be that you have wrapped this message - in your psyche, or in your behaviour - you've wrapped it up in a flag or a political persuasion. You've married it with something that is - listen to my words tonight - something that is idolatrous, it's idolatrous! God will not share His glory with another.
Is there anybody tonight who would raise their hand, while heads are bowed and eyes are closed, to say: 'I'm repenting of this, I'm repenting, I'm repenting'. God bless. God bless. Praise the Lord! Worth it for one, it's worth it for one! Is there anybody else, anybody else? Is there anybody who will raise a hand and say tonight: 'Not only do I want to be part of the end time harvest, but I want to make myself available to be a labourer for the harvest field'? Now that might mean going to your next door neighbour, it might mean going down the motorway, across the border, but it might mean more! It might mean more. Is there anybody who will say 'I will be a part of it'? Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
Father, I thank You for what You are doing tonight - and I want to keep my hands right off it. Lord, I just pray that You will do what You alone can do, and that what You are birthing in spirits right now, and hearts, Lord, that You will incubate that. There are those struggling - and I can understand that - we've all had the struggles with our own past, and our upbringing, and scars. Some of us have lived on borders and we've seen atrocities, just like Jonah, and we've heard about them. Lord, it's not easy, we're not saying it's easy, Lord. It wasn't easy for Jonah, and it will not be easy for us - but Lord, I pray that You will bring the gestation of this child forth, and give us strength to give birth. Lord, that we will see a new thing born in our day and generation in Ireland, north and south, with both Protestants and Roman Catholics, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and people of no faith. Lord, that the one new man that You envisaged when You died on the cross, Lord Jesus, to bring together Jew and Greek, bond and free, male and female, that it will be finally realised, finally realised - not just in some kind of airy-fairy spiritual form, but on the earth, that people may know that Jesus Christ has come as the Saviour of the world. This is what this world needs, and Lord this is what we need. Thank You for what You're doing here, thank You that You can meet every need. We pray that whatever needs people have here tonight, that they will find them met in You, just like that woman at the well. O God, we pray - but Lord, for the sake of the children, for the sake of the children have mercy, even for the sake of the animals, Lord, on the land that is defiled have mercy. Oh, High King of Heaven, have mercy on our land, revive Your church, send the Holy Spirit for the sake of the children, let Your kingdom come to our nation, in Jesus' mighty name, Amen.
Don't miss part 3 of Let My People Go: "Wonder-Working Power"
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Brookeborough Elim Church in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his 'Let My People Go' series, entitled "For The Sake Of The Children" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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