Genuine Repentance

Jonah #2jonah – An exposition of Jonah 1:17-2:10. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, March 14, 2010.

It was the defining characteristic of the preaching on John the Baptist and it was the hallmark of the preaching of our Lord – “Repentance.”  Unfortunately repentance has fallen out of favor.  One might even get the impression it is on the “do not use” list.  Calls for repentance have come to be associated with more primitive times.  It congers up images of red-faced evangelists and protracted meetings.  We don’t have time for such nonsense anymore.  We’re busy people.  Places to go, people to see and that whole repentance thing is offensive.  We’re struggling to pay the bills and keep the doors open we can’t afford to run folks off.  The problem is without the message of repentance we have no Gospel.  Without repentance there is no salvation.  With no Gospel and no salvation we might as well close up shop because we have nothing to offer.  Jonah was called to take God’s message to Nineveh the capital city of the Assyrian Empire.  But Jonah didn’t want to go.  He didn’t want to preach to them because he knew if he came preaching God’s judgment they might repent and if they repented – God would forgive them and Jonah just couldn’t live with that.  So Jonah set his sights in the opposite direction.  He was determined to go as far away from God’s call as humanly possible.  He went down to Joppa, payed the fare and got in a boat heading for Tarshish.  But God’s severe grace hunted him down.  God hurled a great wind onto the sea and threatened to break up the ship.  After an intense struggle it was finally discovered that Jonah was the problem.  After some debate the sailors reluctantly tossed Jonah overboard.  That’s where we pick up the story and it is at this point Jonah learns about repentance.  Our text this evening is found in Jonah chapter 2.

Text: Jonah 1:17-2:10
Remember I said last week we can divide this book into 4 sections.

  • Chapter 1 – Rebellion
  • Chapter 2 – Repentance
  • Chapter 3 – Revival
  • Chapter 4 – Regret

This evening we deal with repentance.

Before we get into that though let’s deal with the controversy of this chapter and the book of Jonah.  There are those who believe this story is, at best, an allegory or a parable.  The problem is that it doesn’t read like that at all.  There is nothing in the text to indicate we should read it or understand it in anyway other than literal.  Others say it is purely myth.  Come on, a fish swallowing a man, the man lives for 3 days and nights in the belly of the fish and then is spit up on dray land?  That’s quite a tale!  That will put some fishermen to shame.

The truth is if you begin by saying, “Miracles do not happen because miracles cannot happen” it doesn’t matter what proof is set before you – you will not believe it.  If you start with a God who created the universe by the power of His word this is not a problem.  You don’t need an explanation.

The truth is there are whales and other sea creatures capable of swallowing a man.  For instance the average sperm whale might have a mouth 20 feet long, 15 feet high, and 9 feet wide.  It is know they feed mostly on squid, which are often larger than a man.  According to the Library Research Service of the Encyclopedia Britannica there are documented cases of whalers being swallowed by whales and later cut out of whales still alive.  One such case involved a whaling ship names The Star of the East sailing off the coast of the Falkland Islands in February of 1891. A large sperm whale was spotted and two boats were dispatched.  One of the boats was capsized in the process one sailor drowned, the other, James Bartley disappeared and could not be found.  In time the whale was killed and brought alongside the ship.   It was secured and its blubber removed.  The next day the stomach was hoisted onto the deck.  When opened the missing sailor was found inside.  He was unconscious but alive.  After some time he resumed his duties on board the whaling vessel.

Is it possible Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and survived as the Bible plainly teaches?  Yes, but the real issue is not what went on inside that great fish but rather what went on inside of Jonah? A great transformation took place and from it we learn about genuine repentance.

I want to point out 3 characteristics of genuine repentance from Jonah’s prayer.

  1. Genuine repentance begins with an honest assessment of your circumstances.
  2. Genuine repentance rightly assigns blame and demands nothing in return.
  3. Genuine repentance gladly takes its place in the presence of the ungodly and turns from rebellion to trust in God alone.

This is genuine repentance and without it there is no Gospel, there is no salvation.  May God grant us hearts of genuine repentance continually.

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