The Revival Under Jonah
February 19th, 1967 @ 8:15 AM
THE REVIVAL UNDER JONAH:
REPENTANCE UNTO SALVATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-19-67 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Repentance Unto Salvation. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Luke, beginning at verse 29:
And when the people were gathered thick together, He began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonah the prophet.
For as Jonah was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of Man be to this generation.
The queen of the South shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn [them]: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here.
And out of that text, I choose the reference of our Lord to the city of Nineveh, and to the preacher Jonah, and to the repentance of the Ninevites who turned at the preaching of Jonah.
The Lord expressed here astonishment at what happened in the capital city of Assyria under Jonah. That was the greatest revival in all of the annals of time. Under the delivery of one sermon by this prophet a vast city was converted and turned to the Lord [Jonah 3:4-10]. There is nothing like it in all the story of mankind. The nearest approach to it is the Pentecostal revival under Simon Peter when, under the delivery of that one sermon, three thousand souls were added to God’s church [Acts 2:14-41].
But compare that with what happened under Jonah. How big was that city? There were one hundred twenty thousand little children in it who could not distinguish between their right hand and their left hand [Jonah 4:11]. It must have been a city at least of three quarter or a million souls. And under one sermon, in the delivery of one message, there were something like six hundred thousand or seven hundred thousand people converted. No wonder Jesus was astonished at the revival in Nineveh [Luke 11:29-32]. And we are no less astonished today. Such a miraculous intervention of God from heaven is an astonishment to our souls also [Jonah 3:1-10].
In the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, it says in the Bible that the wickedness of Sodom came up to God in heaven [Genesis 18:20-21]. And that same thing is said here about Nineveh. “The word of the Lord came unto Jonah saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before Me” [Jonah 1:2]; but what an incalculable, immeasurable difference between Sodom and Nineveh. When Lot pled with the men of Sodom they laughed him to scorn, and even his own family ridiculed him and laughed at him and mocked him [Genesis 19:14]. But in this city of Assyria they not only listened to God’s servant Jonah, but they turned by the hundreds of thousands to the Lord [Jonah 3:4-10]. It is an astonishing thing! There is repentance, there is turning under great duress, facing tragic trial; and I can easily understand that.
I thought it so strange, the funeral song that the choir sang this morning; sounded kind of like we ought to look for pall bearers when you got through with that number. That’s what happened on the Titanic. There was great turning and great repentance on the Titanic. They were dancing. They were on an unsinkable ship. Everybody was having the time of his life. Then came that shudder felt through the length of that vessel. And as the announcement was made the ship was going down, what an indescribable turn in the feeling, and in the expression, and in the response of the people. No more dancing, no more revelry, no more of all of the things that worldly people do in the nighttime. What a sobriety, and a praying, and a calling upon the name of the Lord. And the dance orchestra gathered at one end of the ship when it turned like that, and the orchestra began to play “Nearer My God to Thee.” Now I can understand that; repentance in the face of an imminent disaster and certain death.
But Nineveh, what an astonishing come-to-pass. Jonah began to enter into the city, and he walked through that city three days’ journey [Jonah 3:1-3]. I would not think that the city was three days’ journey in solid metropolitan housing, but I would think that vast ancient capital of Assyria was a series, a great extensive series of towns. The king had his courts, and his palaces, and his armies, and his constabularies, and his commissaries, and all of the things that go with the center of a great empire. And as Jonah began to walk into the city, into that metropolitan area, from one gathering to another, to another, to another, he lifted up his voice and began to deliver God’s message [Jonah 3:1-4]. And under the impact of that sermon the entire city turned to God.
So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. The word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne; and he had his robe, and he laid his robe from him, and he covered him with sackcloth; and the king himself sat in ashes.
And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and the nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, nor flock, taste any thing; Let them not feed, nor drink water:
But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every man from his evil way, and from the vileness that is in their hands.
Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from His fierce anger that we perish not?
What an astonishing thing; the king of the greatest ancient empire, and the fiercest, and the most ruthless, and the most wicked, and the most godless. I haven’t time. I wish I had time to describe the veracity and the ruthlessness of the ancient Assyrian; the bitter, hasty, restless winged bull of Asshur. And to see that entire city turn to God astonished our Lord, and it astonishes us [Jonah 3:4-10]. Revival is always astonishing. When you see it, when you look upon it, when it comes to pass it is a miraculous visitation from heaven.
Our people here so prayed for that appeal the pastor was to make in the lower Rio Grande Valley. And all over this country, people began praying, and interceding, and asking God’s blessings upon that revival in the lower Rio Grande Valley. The churches needed it. The pastors needed it. And the great, vast multitude of the people who live up and down that Rio Grande River are lost. They are not saved. And revival is always an astonishing and a miraculous thing. It was held in an auditorium, a municipal auditorium with a high stage, a very, very large stage, and then an orchestra pit in front; then the people beyond, and a large, very large balcony around, thronged and crowded.
And when appeal was made, all of those people coming, coming, coming, continuing to come; so many of them finding the Lord for the first time, many of them giving themselves to God’s will for their lives, and others who had been praying, members of families, coming, coming, coming. As I stood on the high platform and watched those people come, and come, and come, I wondered who they are. “What does this mean? And what is this? And who are these people who are responding?” as I’d look at them, and look at them, and look at them.
There was a golden-haired boy, a beautiful child about twelve years old on the second seat to my right. And as the invitation was pressed he walked back, and there seated next to the aisle was a tall, fine looking man. And when I saw the boy stop by the side of that man, he looked so much like him, I thought, “This is certainly a boy speaking to his father.” When the boy went back and stopped by the side of his father, the father put his arms around him and bent down his head; and the boy began to talk to the man. And when the man lifted his head and stood erect again he had such a serious, serious look in his face as though he were fighting a war in his heart. But he stood there looking at me, straight ahead.
And the boy spoke to the man a second time and the father, with his arm around the boy, bowed his head to listen. And the boy spoke so earnestly to his father a second time. By that time my heart was just pouring out to God in prayer. I have no idea what the boy was saying. I do not know the man. But there was something for which the boy was pleading in the name of God. So the second time the father stood up with that same earnest look in his face as though he were trying to decide some great thing in his soul. And in a little while, and in a little while, the father stepped out into the aisle, and down to the front, and with those others who were coming. And it looked like God Himself had come down to lift up, and to elevate, and to save, and to glorify a man in the name of Jesus. What that means, what that means.
One of the members of the church came to me before I went and said, “Pastor, I know a family down in the valley. He is one of the richest men in the state of Texas and is a confidante of the president of the United States. I want you to write him a letter and invite him to attend the revival.” Now I did not know that there are two associations down there in that valley. One is the Lower Rio Grande and the other is the Magic Valley Association. I thought the revival was for the whole. It was for the lower Rio Grande Valley and the upper was not included in it.
Well, this man lives in the upper Rio Grande Valley. But he came to the revival. I had never seen him. I do not know him but he came to the revival. And he brought his wife with him. And he brought his daughter and her husband and their children with them. And after the glorious service that night, he came up to me and shook my hand. And introduced himself and introduced his wife, and his daughter, and her husband, and the children and expressed to me appreciation for my taking time to write him a letter and to invite him to the meeting. To my right here in the family circle stood a stripling of a boy, a young teenage boy. And that man said to me, “What a great night this has been for us.” That stripling of a boy, his grandson, that night had given his life to God and had come down to declare before men and angels his acceptance of Jesus as his Lord and Savior [Romans 10:8-13].
One of the pastors in one of the south cities of Texas came to see me during the revival. He said, “Today, today one of the finest businessmen in our city came to my study and said, ‘Last night I gave my heart to the Lord. I have been saved.’” And the pastor said, “Well, what happened?” And he replied, “At ten-thirty last night I listened to a television program.” On Tuesday night they televised the program. They taped it and at ten-thirty that night played it on the station. And in this other city away from our association, this businessman had sat there and listened to that televised service and to the appeal that I had made, and he had given his heart to the Lord. And he came to the pastor in the city and said, “Last night I was saved, and I have come to talk to you about being baptized and belonging to the church.”
And the pastor said to me, “And not only that man, but another businessman sought me out that day and said, ‘Pastor, last night looking at a television program,’” and described our program, “he said ‘I rededicated and reconsecrated my life to the Lord. And pastor, I want you to put me to work. I have wasted my life. I want to work for God. Put me to work.’ Why,” the pastor said to me, “I did not even know there was a television program on.” And even I had forgotten about it and failed to look at it.
One of those football coaches working among his men, leading those boys to Jesus; and the pastor of one of the churches said to me the next day, he said, “Oh, this is like glory! This is like heaven.” Then he said to me the next day, he said, “You know, one of those football players that the coach won to Jesus,” he said, “that boy came up to me today and he said, ‘Preacher, I am so happy.’ He said, ‘When I was saved, I had begun to pray for my best friend on the football team, and for the girl that he dates.’ And he said, ‘Preacher, last night that friend was saved and the girl that he dates was saved. We are all saved now.’” Who are these people? A revival is an astonishing thing. It is like the hands of God lowered earthward, like the presence of God felt. “And there was great joy in that city” [Acts 8:8].
Wouldn’t you have thought that when this happened in Nineveh, that the prophet Jonah would have shouted all over the Tigris Valley? Wouldn’t you have thought so? “Look, look what God has done. Look, look, look.”
“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, exceedingly. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry” [Jonah 4:1]. Now you know what happened there? One of the most sorrowful things you will ever look at in your life is the weaknesses of preachers. Oh, oh, the pettinesses, and the littlenesses, and the bickering, and the jealousies of preachers! I suppose there’s jealousy among the doctors and there’s envy among the lawyers, but I don’t know where there is envy, and jealousy, and looking askance among anybody in the earth as there is among preachers. Isn’t that a sorrowful thing? And you get a good instance of it here in the life of Jonah. What was the matter with Jonah? “It displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry” [Jonah 4:1], because his pride was punctured. Why, he had been preaching, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed” [Jonah 3:4]. And when Nineveh repented and turned to the Lord [Jonah 3:5-9], and God did it not [Jonah 3:10], why, Jonah felt that he was a fool. “Here I am preaching the destruction of this city [Jonah 3:4], and God’s not going to destroy it at all [Jonah 3:10]. Here I am all lightning, no one’s turning around; all thunder and no lightning. Or here I am, all bark and no bite. Here I am preaching the destruction of Nineveh and God’s not going to destroy them at all.”
He was displeased exceedingly, and he was very angry [Jonah 4:1]. Now with whom was he angry? He was angry with God. And he said:
That is why I went to Tarshish. Because I knew Thee that Thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest Thee of the evil. And I knew that if these people turned, and if they repented of their sins and believed in Thee, I knew You would not destroy the city.
While Jonah preached that sermon with a vengeance, he despised those Assyrians. He hated them. And when he came into their midst and began to say, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed” [Jonah 3:4]. I can see the spirit of Jonah adding, “Hallelujah,” to it, “God, put them all in the eternal fires of hell.” And he rejoiced at the prospect. And when God didn’t destroy the people and saved them instead, it displeased him exceedingly, and he was very angry [Jonah 4:1].
So the Lord did something to Jonah. While he was sitting on the side of the hill to see what would become of the city [Jonah 4:5], the Lord prepared––God did this––the Lord prepared a gourd, and made it grow up, and the vines over his head shielded him from that hot Assyrian sun. And Jonah was exceeding glad because of that gourd and because of the shelter and the shade [Jonah 4:6]. Then God prepared a worm the next morning, and it cut the gourd at the root, and it withered and died under that hot Assyrian sun [Jonah 4:7]. And Jonah was so discouraged, he said, “It is better for me to die than to live” [Jonah 4:8]; and prayed God that he might die. Then God said to Jonah, “Do you well to be so angry?” [Jonah 4:9]. And Jonah said, “Yes, I do well to be angry. I’ve been proven a fool; the sermon I preached didn’t come to pass. Not only that, You have saved and spared all of these uncircumcised, blaspheming Ninevites; I do well to be angry.” And the Lord said to Jonah, “Why, look, Jonah, look at this shriveled up gourd; you had pity on the gourd. You did not plant it. You did not make it grow. It came up in a night and it perished in a night; and you have pity for the gourd that a worm cut down” [Jonah 4:10]. Then the Lord added, “And should I not spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein more than six-score thousand children live, that cannot discern between their right hand and between their left?” [Jonah 4: 11].
We make His love too narrow
By finite limits of our own.
We magnify His strictness
With a zeal He would not own.
For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man’s mind.
And the love of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.
[“There’s A Wideness In God’s Mercy,” Frederick W. Faber]
Wherever men are who will turn, there God’s presence is to save, to convert, to heal, to forgive, to make well again. Any men, any people, anywhere, anytime, that’s God. God punishes men for their sins; this is the delivery of the message of Amos. They are all alike in the sight of God; God punishes men for their sins:
For three transgressions of Tyrus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof . . . For three transgressions and for four, I will not turn away from Edom the punishment thereof . . .
Thus saith the Lord, for three transgressions of the children of Ammon, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof . . . Thus saith the Lord, For three transgressions and for four of Moab, I will not turn away the punishment thereof.
Then he came down to the chosen people, “Thus saith the Lord, For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof” [Amos 2:6]. God punishes men wherever they sin. But, “At what instant,” says the Lord God, “at what instant I shall speak concerning a people to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy; if those people, against whom I have pronounced this punishment, turn; I will turn, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them” [Jeremiah 18:7-8].
Wherever people turn to God, wherever there is the spirit of confession and contrition and acceptance, wherever men call upon the name of the Lord, there God bares His strong arm to save [Psalm 50:15]. Aren’t you glad? Aren’t you glad? God saved you when you turned in confession, and in repentance, and in acceptance, and in faith unto Him. God saved you [Ephesians 2:8]. That’s a marvelous, glorious, incomparably precious message of the grace of the gospel of the Son of God [Ephesians 2:8]. Wherever men will turn and look up to heaven, and ask for forgiveness, and for the love [John 3:16], and mercy of God [Titus 3:5], there does God bow down His ear to hear His people pray. There does the Lord bare His arm to save. There does God save and bless and send revival. Oh, I’m so grateful! I’m so encouraged. I’m so blessed in my soul. I’m so full of gratitude and thanksgiving.
Now we must sing our song of appeal. And while we sing it, somebody you give himself to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]; a family you to come into the fellowship of the church, a half a dozen families you, as the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, would you come this morning? On the first note of the first stanza, make your way down here to the front. “Pastor, this is my wife. These are our children. All of us are coming today.” Or one somebody you, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front: “Here I come, pastor, and here I am. I make it now. I make it this morning.” Do it. Do it, while we stand and while we sing.
REVIVAL UNDER JONAH – REPENTANCE UNTO SALVATION
11:29-32, Jonah 3:1-9
I. They repented at the preaching of
A. The astonishing
thing to Jesus (Luke 11:29-32, Matthew 12:41)
B. The results of the
greatest revival in history
1. One sermon
brought an entire city to God
C. The astonishing
thing to us
D. Revival is always
II. The sullen, bitterly complaining
A. His reputation as a
prophet was at stake
B. He was angry with
III. The lesson of the gourd
moved by unhappy fate of the gourd
not God be moved by Nineveh?
God punishes sin (Amos 1, 2)