Creflo Dollar - Understanding How Merciful God Is
Praise the Lord. If you have your Bibles, go with me quickly to Psalms 145:8-9. We're talking about the mercy of God and the power of God's mercy, and tonight, we're going to spend most of our time in the book of Jonah to just show you how merciful God absolutely is. As I said last week, that the easiest thing for us to do sometimes is to blame God for everything that hits us. We forget about that there's the world, there's the flesh, and then there's the devil. So, there are other players that are involved, but for some reason people are so quick to blame God for all the things that may happen in their life. That's not good. And many of us equate our negative circumstances with punishment from God. And believe it or not, there are some people who think that God's a punisher, some people that think that God is a killer, and he is not. Essentially, we're believing that injury, illness, and negative circumstances on the earth are delivered to us by the hand of God, and that's not true.
See, when you don't know and when you don't have the right impression of God, then you'll think wrong things about him, and you've got to be careful not to have a wrong impression of who God is. God is a God of mercy, amen? He is full of love. He's full of compassion. He has love that responds to human needs in unexpected and unmerited ways. He is not the one that's making your life miserable. He's the one that wants to change and cause your life to be better than what it's ever been before. Psalms 145, verse 8 through 9, says, "The LORD is gracious and full of compassion; he's slow to anger, and of great mercy". And it says, "The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works". That is who God is. That's his character, and so that's the impression you should have of God.
Now, let's go to the book of Jonah, and we're going to spend time in Jonah tonight and just look at some things that's gonna prove to you that even in Jonah's day, God was a God of compassion, all right? And that's good to know; because when things going in your life, you've gotta know you have a God who is a God of compassion, whose love never fails, that it's brand-new every morning. And that's one thing, you can't look at God as he's the God, he's trying to get you, or he's trying to do something, or he's gonna pay you back for not coming to church or something like that. You've gotta change that. That's not the right impression you should have of God. And in Jonah, we're gonna learn some things here that I think will really be a blessing to your life.
So, we're gonna read the whole thing. We're gonna read the whole book of Jonah. It's only four chapters. And somebody said, "Well, the whole book"? It's real small. Go there. I'm making it sound big, but it ain't big at all. All right, verse 2, when the Lord gave his message to Jonah in verse 2, he said to Jonah, this is the message he gave to him. "Get up. Go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are". All right, so God's speaking to Jonah, and look how he responds in verse 3. "But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD".
I wonder how many of us that's happened to, that God spoke something to our life and spoke something to our spirit, and we went the opposite way. The will of God being revealed, and we went the opposite way. Please, if God's trying to instruct you to do something, do it. Don't go the opposite way, why? You can't run from God. I hope you hear me. You can't run from God, all right? And so Jonah got up and went the opposite way. And "He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the LORD by sailing to Tarshish". So, he's trying to run from God, all right? "But the LORD hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods". Now, you're gonna see that change. They had their gods until they found out who God was, you know.
So, "they shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. So the captain went down after him. 'How can you sleep at a time like this?' he shouted. 'Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.' Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. And when they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit. 'Why has this awful storm come down on us?' they demanded. 'Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?' And Jonah answered, 'I am a Hebrew. I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.' And the sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the LORD. 'Oh, why do you do this?' and they groaned. And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, 'What should we do to you to stop this storm?'"
What do we need to do to you in order for this storm to stop? And I can't believe that Jonah told them. He said, "Throw me into the sea". I would've been like, "Uh, uh, uh". "He said, 'Throw me into the sea,' Jonah said, 'and it will become calm again. I know this terrible storm is all my fault.'" I'm gonna pause there for a moment. Have you ever experienced things in your life, and you know that was all you? You didn't try to blame the devil. You didn't try to blame God. You didn't try to blame your husband or wife. You know, that's me right there, all right? All right. And so now watch this. He said, "Instead the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn't make it. Then they cried out to the LORD, 'Jonah's God.'"
So, they're now, obviously, their gods wasn't getting the job done. "So, they said, 'Well, let's cry out to Jonah's God. Oh LORD,' they pleaded, 'don't make us die for this man's sin. And don't hold us responsible for his death. O LORD, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reason.'" In other words, "We just minding our business". "Then the sailors picked Jonah up, and they threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once". So, the sailors looking like, "Whoa, that worked". Look what happened to the sailors. "And the sailors were awestruck by the LORD's great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him". After this, they dismissed their gods, and now they're serving Jonah's God. All right, now watch this. "Now the LORD had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights". Now, this is a perfect foreshadowing of, "As Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in hell for three days and three nights".
All right, now there's a lot of interesting things here. I love what the Bible says here in the New Living Translation, that he had prepared a fish. So, God, God was not, you know, surprised when Jonah went the opposite way. A fish was already prepared. All right? Now, we're gonna dig into some of the things that happened here. This is pretty fascinating, especially when we're talking about a foreshadowing of Jesus, three days and three nights in hell, and being raised from the pit of hell. Verse 1, chapter 2, "Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from inside the fish". Now, be careful not to fantasize this. Pay attention to what is being said here. This is pretty fascinating. I know you've heard about Jonah in the belly of the whale, but it wasn't quite like this. It was a little bit more awesome. "He said, 'I cried to the LORD in my great trouble, and he answered me.'" When did you cry to the Lord? "He said, 'I called to you from the land of the dead, and the LORD, you heard me!'"
There are two things I want you to know. Number one, when he got thrown out of the ship, he drowned, and he died, and he sunk to the very bottom of the mountains. And I don't think people really bring that point out. All right, somebody says where'd you get that from? Well, he's gonna tell us right here. "'You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me. I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.' Then I said, 'O LORD, you have driven me from your presence. Yet I will look once more towards your holy Temple. I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me. The seaweed wrapped itself around my head.'"
How many of y'all know this boy has drowned? He's drowned. He is dead, all right? So, the fantasy tells us, you know, that never happened. You know, Jonah just got, he was thrown off the ship, and a whale just caught him. Oh, you know. No Jonah's saying he's dead. And Jonah said he spoke to him from the land of the dead. Verse 6, "I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. Ain't nobody can hold their breath that long, and this is a hurricane type storm". All right now, this is interesting here. "I was imprisoned in the earth", the only prison I know that's in the earth is hell, "whose gates lock shut forever". So, Jonah died and was in hell. Lord have mercy. He died, and he was in hell. "He said, 'But you, O LORD my God, snatched me from the jaws of death! As my life was slipping away, I remembered the LORD. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy temple. Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God's mercies. But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs and a praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the LORD alone.' Then the LORD ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach".
Now, some people have this idea that he just kind of, you know, having church in the belly of the whale. He's dead, and he's not only dead, but he's in hell, and most people would read this and say, "Well, you shouldn't have went the opposite way". And what God is doing is showing his mercy. And look what Jonah did. Jonah reminds God of his mercy. All right, now watch this now. So, the fish spit Jonah out on the beach. Now watch this, chapter 3. "Then the LORD spoke to Jonah a second time". Watch Jonah. "'Get up, go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.' This time Jonah obeyed the LORD's commandment, and he went to Nineveh, a city that was so large that it took three days to see it all". That's a big city. On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowd," and here's what he said, 'Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!'"
Now, understand Jonah had just finished experiencing mercy for going opposite and disobeying God. So, he comes, and he prophesies to Nineveh, forty days Nineveh's going to be destroyed. Now, how many of you know God's mercy is new every morning? So, if anybody knows about God's mercy, it was somebody who was in hell, and the mercy of God delivered them out of hell. Now, I don't advise anybody to try that, because that was in the Old Testament before Jesus, you know? All right, now watch this. "The people of Nineveh", this is so good, "they believed God's message". Now, why is that so significant? Because had they not believed God's message, they would not do what we're about to read. Oh, if the United States of America would believe God's message, but a lot of them, they don't. Somebody says, "How would you say that"? Look at what these people did, "and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow".
So, the burlap there that they wore was a sign of their sorrow. "When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne, took off his royal robes". Check that out. That's the king doing this. "He dressed himself in burlap". So, the head of state declares, "I am also sorry". "He sat on a heap of ashes. Then the king and his nobles," or let's say the president and Congress, "sent this decree throughout the city". Here's what the decree is. "No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks may eat or drink anything at all". They're going on a total fast. "People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence, to stop all their violence. Who can tell"? they said. "Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us". Wow.
So, when God saw what they had done, and how they had put a stop, they put a stop to their evil ways, that's a pretty strong thing. Sometimes Christians suffer because they won't put a stop to their evil ways. They just trying another way to do it in the booth, in the back, in the corner, in the dark. They try to find a way where they're not seen or they're noticed. And you've got to understand, a lot of times things happen in people's lives because they won't put a stop to their evil ways. They come to church, and they shout, and they sing in the choir, and they do all that stuff, but they won't put a stop to their evil ways. And then when something happens, you stand by wondering like, "I wonder what happened. They seemed like they was a real good Christian". But you didn't see what was going on in the back, in the booth, and in the corner, and in the dark.
Listen, put a stop to your evil ways. God will forgive you. God will cleanse you. Put a stop, quit trying to find a better way to sin or a better place to sin. Some people move because they want to, you know, get away from people, so they can do what they want to do. Put a stop to your evil ways. Put a stop to your evil ways. "Well, Pastor, we're under grace". Put a stop to your evil ways. All right, so check this out. "So he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened". I'm glad God can change his mind. I'm glad that God can look at us and change his mind. We were sinners on our way to hell. But because of Jesus, God changed his mind, amen? All right, so look at how Jonah responded to this. Jonah got angry at the Lord's mercy. Think of that. Jonah got angry at the Lord's mercy.
Do you know that there are people that get upset when you forgive other people? There are people that get, you know, God says, "Be merciful even as I am merciful". Do you know there are people that get angry when they see you forgiving somebody that they think you ought to hate the rest of your life? Watch this. He said, "This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the LORD about it". Now, look what he's complaining about. "Didn't I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? Didn't I say it? Didn't I say it? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry, filled with unfailing love. Didn't I tell you, you were gonna do it"? Now, in his complaining, he is telling you the right impression of God. In his complaining, he is saying that God is merciful and compassionate, and he's slow to get angry, and he's filled with unfailing love. Complaining, he knew God's character.
Now, if he knew God's character complaining, what's wrong with Christians who still think God is the punisher, and that God is the killer, and that God is responsible for all the things going on with you? Jonah knew his God. "I knew you were compassionate, and forgiving, and loving, and your love never fails". He says, "You are eager to turn back from destroying people". Ah, that got me today. You are eager for turning back from destroying people. God's not looking forward to putting something on you. God's not trying to destroy you. God's not the one that's behind all of that. Satan comes to kill, steal, and destroy. And Jonah said, "You're just so eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me. Just kill me now. Just kill me now, Lord. I'd rather be dead than alive, if what I predicted will not happen".
Now see what he's saying. He said, "You had me go up in front of a whole city and say, 'In forty days, you're going to be destroyed, and then you're going to back up like this. How that make me look, God? What's up? Just go on and kill me. Just kill me right now 'cause they're gonna call me a false prophet and stone me. Just kill me". This boy was a trip, wasn't he? "The LORD replied, 'Is it right for you to be angry about this?' Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. And the LORD God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah's head, shadowing him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant".
I mean, check Jonah out. You're disobedient. You done died and went to hell, and you've been raised up again, and you have the mitigated gall to complain? You would think, "God, just kill him. He told you to kill him, get him out the way". But look at the mercy of God, even where God and Jonah's relationship is concerned. It's pretty strong. He said, "But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant". And you know what happened. "So it withered away. And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. 'Death is certainly better than living like this!' he explained".
Jonah trippin' again. I mean, you've been dead, bruh. Seems to me you would be so happy that you're alive. "Then God said to Jonah, 'Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?' Jonah said, 'Yes, even angry enough to die!'" Kill him, Jesus. Kill him. God's not like that. You see his mercy? This is all demonstrating his extraordinary longsuffering and mercy. You see yourself. Some of you Jonahs, you've been Jonah before. And Jonah ain't even moving God. Now watch this. "Then the LORD said, 'You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly, and it died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn't I feel sorry for such a great city?'" I was thinking about this. I'm like, why did it close like this? It is showing God's continuous mercy.