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The Day of Praise Procession Part

Should Not I Pity That Great City --

Jonah 3:10 - 4:11

If the only feeling that you have toward a
person is the feeling of disgusted
anger, you probably will not be able to
minister to that person. I say
"probably" because you might use all your
will power for some reason other than
love--like fear of God's judgment--and say
something or do something for a
person you despise, and God might use it
to bless the person. That's exactly
what happened to Jonah. He detested the
Ninevites. But he did not want to face
another fish-swallowing. So he delivered
God's message, and God used it to
convert the whole city.
So yes, God can use people who do right
things for wrong reasons. God can love
through you even when you are not loving
through him! But the point of the book
of Jonah is: that's not good. You do not do
well Jonah to feel the way you do
about Nineveh. The point of this book is to
show us what kind of heart for the
city urban prophets are supposed to have.
And the way God shows us what kind of
heart we should have toward Minneapolis
as a city is to show us his heart.
When we head out of this building in half
an hour and walk through 1.7 miles of
this modern Nineveh, even if every person
felt only disgusted anger at the
godlessness and sin of this city, God might
use our words to bless this city
with spiritual awakening and salvation.
That's exactly what he did for Jonah.
Isn't that amazing! Have you ever heard
anyone say, "God won't use a dirty
vessel."? It's well meant; but it's
overstated. What was Jonah if he was not a
dirty vessel? He was dirty with selfishness
and hardheartedness and
pitilessness. And God saved the whole city
through his preaching. The power of
God is not limited to our purity.
Don't ever forget that, because Satan,
between now and 30 minutes from now, is
going to say to some of you, "You are an
out and out hypocrite to walk in that
praise procession. You can't love this city,
you don't even love your wife! You
better just go home and leave public praise
to the pure in heart." Now when
Satan says that, here's what you say back
to him, "God saved Nineveh through the
words of selfish prophet. This much I
know: God is God, and I need God and
this city needs God, and I am going to go
say so. So, in the name of Jesus, just go
jump in the lake, Satan."
That might be all you can say. But I think
God has more for you this morning. So
come with me now for a few minutes into
the heart of God. God is going to take
us where we are in our heart for the city
this morning and he's going to use us
just like that. But I believe that in the next
hour God's going to change hundreds of
hearts for this city.
He is going to work on us the same way he
worked on Jonah. So let's watch him
and let him do it to us. Just put yourself in
Jonah's place as much as you need
1. God shows at least four areas where he
and Jonah agree. Jonah is not a
theological liberal. He holds fast to Biblical
First, they agree that Nineveh is wicked. In
Jonah 1:2 God says to Jonah,
"Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city and
cry against it; for their wickedness
has come up before me." And in Jonah 3:9
the king of Nineveh admitted that God
had a fierce anger against Nineveh for
their evil and violence.
Second, he agrees that God can save rebels
miraculously, because that is what
happened to him. His song about God's
rescue from the belly of the fish ends in
2:9 with "Deliverance belongs to the
Lord!" So Jonah knows that God can
rescue disobedient rebels who are about to
Third, they agree that it's God's nature to
be gracious and merciful. Jonah 4:2,
"I knew that you are a gracious God and
merciful, slow to anger and abounding in
steadfast love."
In fact, fourth, Jonah agreed that God
would very likely act this way in the
case of Nineveh. So in 4:2 he confesses very
openly that this is why he fled to
Tarshish in the first place, not because he
feared the Ninevites, but because he
knew God would show mercy to them. "Is
not this what I said when I was yet in my
country; that is why I made haste to flee to
Tarshish; for I knew you are a gracious
So the first thing God does in dealing with
Jonah is to reveal agreement. The
prophet and his God are at odds. But not
totally. God lets the agreement show.
And that's true for every person in this
room. You are not totally at odds with
God. There are some points of agreement.

2. God makes the key point of

disagreement clear. It isn't theological, its
experiential. The theological agreement
Jonah has with God is not producing a
heart agreement. They do not have the
same heart toward Nineveh.
The book closes with the words of God,
"Should not I pity Nineveh?" Jonah's
attitude of contempt and vengeance is
shown to be far from God's. Jonah's anger
consumes whatever pity may have been
there. God's pity modifies his anger.

3. But notice how God not only treats

Nineveh with pity and mercy, but also
treats his stiff-necked prophet that way
too. He is slow to anger and ready to
relent in his wrath toward Nineveh, and
toward Jonah. How does this show itself?
First, through the fish: God could have let
Jonah drown. But he saved him and
gave him another chance.
Second, through the plant in 4:6: Jonah
had gone outside the city in anger when
the Ninevites repented. He was sulking
outside town while God was rescuing the
city. It's just like when he was thrown
overboard. He saved the men on the ship
by telling the truth and was thrown
overboard. And he saved Nineveh by
telling the truth, and then went outside the
city to pout. In the sea God appointed a
fish to save him. And look at what God
does in 4:6, "And the LORD God
appointed a plant and made it come up
over Jonah that it might be a shade over
his head to save him from his discomfort."
Isn't that amazing mercy. When we shout
in the city in a few minutes, "Let mercy
triumph over judgment," this is the sort of
thing we will mean.
Third, God treats Jonah with mercy and
pity not only with the fish and the
plant, but also by asking questions instead
of giving indictments. Look at 4:4:
After Jonah said in verse 3 that he would
rather die than see Nineveh saved, God
does not explode with rage at such a
merciless attitude, he asks a question. The
Lord said, "Do you do well to be angry?"
Then in verse 9 after Jonah got more
angry at the death of the plant than at the
possible destruction of Nineveh, God
again asked a question: "Do you do well to
be angry for the plant?" God could
have blasted Jonah with tremendous
indignation. But he treats Jonah the same
way he treated Nineveh. So Jonah's life
was hanging on the very mercy toward
himself that he resented being shown to

4. Now finally, the fourth thing God did to

change Jonah's heart was to stoop
down and give Jonah some reasons for why
he has pity on Nineveh. This is why I
said the head-agreement between Jonah
and God was limited. There are things
Jonah does not realize about God. And if
he thinks about them--we think about
them as we go--he and we may find our
hearts pitying and loving Minneapolis
more than we ever have.
Take them as they come in 4:10-11.
1. And the Lord said, "You pity the plant."
What did he mean by that? Verse 9
said he was angry about the plant. But
why? Because this worm had attacked the
plant and killed it. Do you see what God is
doing? He is helping Jonah see where
his pity for Nineveh comes from. He says,
You pity the plant, should not I pity
Nineveh. But a worm destroyed the plant!
Yes, Jonah, and a worm has been at work
to destroy Nineveh ever since I planted this
city. Reckon with the worm-factor,
Jonah--the Satan factor. The god of this
world is blinding the eyes of people in
every city. Pity comes from reckoning with
a worm factor when somebody--or some
city--lets you down and falls short of God's

2. The second reason God feels pity for

Nineveh in verse 10 is that he labored
over Nineveh and made it grow. "You pity
the plant, for which you did not labor
nor make it grow." The point is the
contrast: I did labor over Nineveh; it was I
who made it grow.
Here we need to see that our strong belief
in the providence and sovereignty of
God should give us a glimpse of God's pity
for cities. Cities are not autonomous. They
do not grow without God. Even though the
people in them may think that they are
building a monument to human
independence, they aren't. They depend on
God at every minute and not a single
building in this city was built without
God's work. The waterworks, the sewer
system, the electricity, the traffic plan, the
government structure, the laws and
ordinances, the educational and cultural
and technical and entertainment
institutions--they are all there
because God's gifts and God's power and
God's wisdom have been used.
Minneapolis is God's city. He has labored
over it and he has made it grow. Cities are
not any more autonomous than people are.
They live and move and have their being in
God. And so God does not quickly or easily
destroy the work of his hands.
3. The third reason God gives Jonah for his
pity in verse 10 is that Nineveh is
a very old city. Again the contrast with the
plant is the point: "You pity the
plant, for which you did not labor nor
make it grow, which came into being in a
night and perished in a night." In other
words, its life was brief, unlike
Nineveh is referred to in Genesis 10. It is a
very old city. God has been involved with
Nineveh a long time. It's institutions and
buildings and laws bear the marks--no
matter how distorted by sin--of God's
image. All these humans who for centuries
have planned and organized and built have
been people created in the image of God,
and what they have made carries the
imprint of that image.
The work of God in Minneapolis goes back
for centuries into the Indian culture
long before any white men came. But the
city we know today took its start in
1680 when Father Louis Hennepin ( a
Belgian priest) was the first white man to
set his eyes on St. Anthony Falls. One of
the paintings that survives shows him
holding a cross over his head and blessing
the falls and the region of Minneapolis.
Who knows what blessings this city has
reaped because the first Christian man
who came held a cross over it and asked
God's blessing. This does not excuse the
sins of white people. It only means that we
may be the heirs of a
work of God that may be greater for his
glory than any of us realizes.

4. The fourth reason God gives to Jonah

for pitying Nineveh is weakness of moral
confusion. Verse 11: "And should I not pity
Nineveh that great city in which
there are more than a hundred and twenty
thousand persons who do not know their
right hand from their left?" This might
refer to little children who are old
enough to know right and left. But there's
no other place in the O.T. where
children are described like this, and the
generic word for human (adam) is used,
not a word for child.
This is what Jesus meant when he prayed,
"Father, forgive them, for they don't
know what they do" (Luke 23:34). Yes,
they were guilty. This ignorance does not
make one innocent. It is owing to real
corruption and sin. But there is also a
weakness component. "He knows our
frame," Psalm 103 says, "he remembers
that we are dust."
Knowing the right hand from the left is
basic to following the simplest
instructions. "Go to 11th Avenue and turn
left; then right on Franklin, and
right again on Park and right again on
Eighth Street." So what God means is that
the people are so morally adrift that they
can't even follow the most basic
moral instructions: like thou shalt not kill.
God looks at the moral confusion
and pities the city.

5. Finally, God closes his reasoning on an

utterly unexpected note: besides he
says, "there are many cattle." Now don't
get the idea that this is the basis of
some sentimental vision of animal rights.
God ordains that cattle be killed for
sacrifices every day. He ordained them for
meat according to Genesis 9:3.
Then what's the point. I think the point is:
God made cattle and hundreds of
other things to be useful to man. And the
tragedy of judgment is made worse when
things which are meant for good uses are
simply swept away in judgment. When
fire and brimstone fell on Sodom and
Gomorrah everything was consumed.
The point for us in all this is that in spite of
all the sin and rebellion and immorality
and cynicism in our city, God pities
Minneapolis; he has compassion
on our city. He wants us to feel that
compassion with him as we sing and march
today. I believe the Lord will use your
involvement today wherever you are in
this matter. And I think that by
participating God will give us his heart
more fully than we have ever experienced.
Isaiah 12:5-6
Sing praises to the Lord
for He has done gloriously.
Let this be known in all the earth
Shout and sing for joy O inhabitant of
For great in your midst is the Holy One of