Tag: Jonah

God Will Be Gracious

Jonah 4:4-11

Two verses, frequently used as proof texts – Exodus 33:19; Rom. 9:15. Used to “prove” God’s absolute sovereignty – see, God does what he wants to whoever he wants, so get over it. What God said does show that. Yet also shows something much more important (there are other places that make his sovereignty clear) – God says “I will have mercy”. God under no compulsion to be merciful, yet he freely chooses to be abundantly merciful.

Grace and mercy go together, opposite sides of same “coin”. Mercy vs. grace: hold back what is deserved, give what is not deserved; hold back what has been earned, give what cannot be earned. Message of Jonah: God will be merciful and gracious to lost of Nineveh, nothing will hinder his intentions and purpose for them, not even Jonah. And… God remains gracious to Jonah in spite of bad attitude.

Jonah pouting, Jonah resentful, Jonah angry with God, yet God graciously continues to teach his prophet about grace, adding to personal experience, further equipping for ministry.

A. a gracious question v.4, 9a

God doesn’t ask questions for his own benefit

“Adam, where are you?” – God knew, giving Adam opportunity to respond; “is it right?” keeping Jonah engaged in conversation

someone calls suicide help line, keep them talking – leaving to stew facilitates downward spiral of thinking, never good

intended to challenge / instruct

God also expecting Jonah to give due consideration to his question, come up with reasonable (if wrong) response

helps us remember God is gracious – doesn’t automatically smack us down when we speak or act wrongly.. even toward God

keeps us engaged so will be influenced in right direction – truth is if God left us alone, Satan right there to fill in the blanks

provides opportunity for re-thinking and repenting

remember Adam, Eve, Cain – where are you? who told you? what have you done? why are you angry? – God not on detective mission

each question should prompt re-thinking… from God’s perspective – if He’s asking, must be something ought to give more weight to

since God is asking questions, must be something wrong, must be need for repentance – question offers ideal opportunity

two different responses

silence – guilty conscience (4)

at this point, still had enough God sense to be ashamed, not want to talk – preferred to walk away, hope God didn’t follow

had not yet worked through full justification for sinful attitude, not that ready to challenge God and his actions

was uncomfortable being in God’s presence… again – had yet another reason for thinking God was wrong in dealings with now both Ninevites and Jonah

quick retort – defiance (9)

24 hours later, more firm in his resolve (code for hardened in his rebellion), defiantly defensive and overly dramatic

this time answers question… plus – yes, I’m right, even more right than before, right enough to die whether God agrees or not

is interesting: as drama / dialogue progresses Jonah displays less maturity and more childish petulance, not acting physical or spiritual age

B. two lessons v.5-8

the helpful plant

God’s provision after man’s sorry attempt – just like the Garden – made coverings that were temporary, God graciously replaced

Jonah sat in shade he made for himself, only temporary and certainly insufficient – what happens when rely on human genius

should have prompted thanksgiving – Jonah didn’t ask God for shade, yet God provided… for wayward prophet, and still no response of thankfulness – taking for granted if he even grasped that God had done it

God regularly and often makes up for lack in his people, supplying what they need and have no power to acquire

the hot wind

God prepared plant, now prepares a worm that loves that kind of plant – cut off supply of nourishment so plant began to die

then God prepared a wind – plant, worm, wind all specifically designed and sent by God to teach Jonah about God and his grace

three everyday things, unremarkable in appearance, all sent by God – how many times has God done similar for us, are oblivious to it and his intended lesson for us or someone else

discomfort, perhaps even danger – combination of wind and sun can quickly go from uncomfortable to deadly in that climate

don’t forget… Jonah sitting in hot sun by his own choice – no requirement whatever that he endure such hardship

could just as easily have chosen to go find shelter and safety – except bad attitude prevented that, fueled anger toward God

should have pushed Jonah toward God – still not at point where Jonah would acknowledge he needed God’s grace – still thinking he had earned God’s favor

C. an encouraging rebuke v.9-11

truly a rebuke but not delivered that way – are you sure you’re right?? you really need to think about it from different POV

patiently leading Jonah toward truth, not smacking him silly – really accurate rendering of how God treats all his children from time to time

much God could have criticized in Jonah – could have told him how little he deserved, how much aggravation had cost God, how wrong his attitude toward Nineveh was

and that’s just for starters – if God fully revealed to Jonah (or to us) full extent of our sin as he sees it, would drive to despair

instead pointed out what was commendable

you had compassion for the plant, wanted Me to spare it – true, partly selfish… benefit of shade that meant a lot to Jonah

but yet, Jonah wanted God to show compassion to a plant, something that has little value beyond its immediate usefulness

should I not have compassion for 120,000 lost men, women, boys, girls and spare them? – Jonah begrudged compassion on Ninevites, made in God’s image, “worth” his redeeming love

appears Jonah had hard time making that kind of connection, seeing the contradictions in his own thinking, grasping just how contrary to God’s perspective his own was

Most important thing Jonah did not get: if God did not love his enemies, show compassion toward them, be gracious to them, every last soul would die in their sins. Was because God loved his enemy that Jonah was a prophet. Same true for each and every one of us. If we are to truly follow Christ, we must demonstrate same loving compassion to God’s enemies and ours. We must depend on him to use us, even when our “message” doesn’t seem very evangelistic, to draw lost to himself.

The Bible Project is a non-profit animation studio that produces short-form, fully animated videos to make the biblical story accessible to everyone, everywhere. Website – thebibleproject.com; YouTube channel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLIabZc0O4c 9min.

Disappointed by Grace

Jonah 4:1-3

Is really easy to find all sorts of fault with Jonah – should have been like this, done that, thought this way, acted that way. Many times, though, Jonah is who we see in mirror. God directing us to do something, we run in opposite direction. God has particular way of thinking about people or circumstances, we persist in thinking differently. Story of Jonah should give us encouragement – like people of Nineveh, God didn’t leave us to our doom. Like Jonah, God patiently uses less than perfect instruments to do his work. Praise him for that!!

Given how Ninevites responded to God’s message, Jonah should have been delighted, not displeased. Should have rejoiced, not resented God’s grace. What should have brought Jonah before God in worship brings him to complain. Example given here not to encourage copying Jonah but to give hope in God – he will pursue ruined sinners, will use redeemed sinners, his purpose will not be frustrated or derailed.

Jonah displeased, not with events, with God! Jonah disagreed with what he knew God’s plan was for Nineveh. Was disappointed to be right about God. If was baseball instead of Bible, Jonah a classic strikeout who swings wildly at precisely wrong time.

A. displeasure v.1

not just little difference of opinion

more like directly opposing views of redemption – Jonah wanted maximum benefit for minimum crowd, God intended maximum benefit for maximum size group

two or three kids, huge box of toys, dump out and one scrambles to grab all toys if possible, guard for own use – Jonah wanted Gospel grace dispensed on terms he was comfortable with

Jonah understood basics of God’s character – gracious, loving, longsuffering… consider Israel’s history, how God treated them

seems Jonah only saw and appreciated that character in relation to his people, not at all interested in sharing

Jonah did not grasp breadth of God’s purpose – finally got it that God had good things in mind for Nineveh, at least for his generation

probably would have had huge meltdown if suspected Nineveh simply one example of all God intended for rest of world

see in next verse Jonah familiar with Exodus – should have gone back to Genesis, God’s immense promise to Abraham (12:3)

or the infinite supply of God’s grace – like everything else related to God, his supply of grace has no limit, cannot be measured

at least did not work out practical implication of that truth – God can bestow grace on 5 people or a million w/o diminishing what is available… to all of them and more

have little frame of reference, all we work with has limited supply, not so with God; side note – why we can ask big things

intensely displeased

strong expression of conflicting ideas – Jonah had his idea / mental picture of how it should be, refused to accept any other version

convinced not only that his way was a right way, strongly believed his way of understanding and applying redemption the only right way

wasn’t simply that Jonah was “afraid” God might be gracious – knew from history, esp. personal experience God is gracious

problem was Jonah’s list of candidates for God’s grace far shorter than God’s list, and Jonah not interested in modifications

Jonah firmly convinced God was wrong to be gracious to Ninevites – was matter of principle, not preference, for him

offended preference doesn’t generate death wish – this a principle Jonah believed of ultimate importance… he was right

if YHWH could only be proper God for Israelites and none else, YHWH is too small to be kind of God fallen world needs

led to anger… and pride

anger God didn’t see it his way – put kid in timeout, often says what he thinks expected to shorten stay whether genuine or not

Jonah said lot of right things in prayer from fish’s belly… doesn’t mean he embraced those truths and all their consequences

perhaps some said through clenched jaw, angry that God used his prerogative to do things his way – anger one of first sins mentioned… “Cain was very angry” (Gen. 4:5), some other parallels there, too

pride because his way was best – Jonah convinced he was right, God should have listened, offended because he didn’t

B. disagreement v.2

I knew this would happen

no doubts about unchanging character of God – knew how God had acted in past was how would continue to act in future

also recognized good principle – God always acts consistent with his character: names describe, actions display character

so convinced it would happen, took matters “in own hands” – was rational belief, not irrational like some who go to even greater extreme

20 years ago, Heaven’s Gate cult, Hale-Bopp comet had spaceship in tail, would take souls to higher plane

were many valid reasons for Jonah to maintain conviction that God would indeed continue to be unchanging in character

seemed to forget God’s unchangeable plan included Jonah! – God had tagged Jonah for mission, was not going to back out

God could use reluctant prophet to do his work just as easily as change hearts of Ninevites to genuinely repent

I didn’t want this to happen

given no clear reason why Jonah thought as he did – apparently God thought specific reason not important for us to know

leaves us to look for principle(s) to apply in variety of circumstances, not just one kind that looks like Jonah’s

could have been expected threat from national enemy – Assyria on/off hazard to Israel for many decades, no desire to show them favor, encourage them in any way

could have been fear response, thought Gentiles a sub-species – might not have had clear basis, just afraid of them because of past reputation

note: same basic attitude has persisted in church down to today – at one time, blacks viewed as less than human, not deserving of the Gospel or opportunity to worship

present culture: fear of Muslims, distaste for homosexuals and others, attitudes that have serious impact on evangelism

I ran so this wouldn’t happen

Jonah figured he was God’s Plan A, God didn’t have Plan B – was right, not because God couldn’t, he didn’t need one

Jonah didn’t figure on God’s persistence, creativity – for at least a while, Jonah thought he could frustrate God’s plan all by himself… he’s repeatedly finding out otherwise

and… Jonah didn’t figure on God’s plan for Jonah for Jonah – not told final outcome for Jonah, would be reasonable to think God eventually brought him around to right perspective

I knew you would make it happen

perhaps getting at root of Jonah’s problem: notice what Jonah quotes – even in anger/frustration Jonah goes to Bible, kinda think was misusing it though… applying in way God did not intend

goes back to God’s revelation of his name to his covenant people – Exodus 34:6-7, Moses on way to get 10 Commandments, 2nd issue

Jonah didn’t want God to have covenant kind of relationship with any but Jews

happens in personal relationships, particularly controlling types – you can have any kind of relationship you want… with me, no one else

happens in Christian / religious circles – hostility toward Gentiles in Jesus’ day; Gnostic secrets exclude all but chosen few

if don’t dress particular way, use certain version of Bible, show anointing of Spirit by outward signs, not “real Christian”

C. disappointment v.3

death is better than this

Jonah too angry / resentful / disappointed to want to live… too chicken to take own life – could also be attempt to manipulate God!

doesn’t’ seem to get the irony – he prefers death because he has hope, a hope he would deny Ninevites

apparently has already forgotten 3-day submersible experience – was willing to concede certain things if God would get him out of fish’s belly

yet he would consign Ninevites to far worse in spite of God’s intention to show them love and grace – shows how unrestrained anger feeds itself and grows

better to die than see them live

if Jonah lives, he gets to see Ninevites live, too – not his idea of fun – had worked himself into such state, no longer cares about people on any level

may have understood God’s grace, did not fully grasp God’s judgment / wrath – had taste of abandonment, had no real experience of God’s wrath… means also didn’t fully grasp awfulness of sin

if he did, was meaner, more lacking compassion than an prophet had right to be – had no right to be vindictive toward Assyrians, vengeance if / when warranted belonged to God

totally upside down from Paul – Rom. 9:1-4

I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,who are Israelites”

Paul, like us, knew that was impossible – even apostle’s death wouldn’t save anyone – is clear way of showing Paul’s commitment to do all he could to bring them to faith

it’s the thought that counts – should reflect depth of our compassion for lost, whether Americans or not

actually only one race, the human race; two kinds of humans, saved and lost – those are categories God uses, so should we

when God brings lost to country, city, neighborhood, workplace, should respond in way that shows God’s grace and mercy

when are around saved people, need to do same – show God’s grace and mercy as we encourage one another

Only way to do that – make sure our tank is full all the time. Focused on Christ, listening to Christ, depending on Christ, becoming more like Christ day by day as we draw nearer to him.


The “Results” of Jonah’s Preaching

Jonah 3:5-10

When Christians report on work of evangelism, is common to write or speak in way that fails to do justice to what really took place. Much of time emphasis is on numbers – “11 people sought Christ” – “we converted 21” – “hundreds responded to the invitation” – “29 salvations, 8 re-dedications”. The impression given is that evangelist, short-term missions team, camp ministry, represented one half of equation, responders the other half. I/we did this, they did that in response. Contrast that sort of ministry reporting with Bible – Ac 2.41Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” Ac 2.47 “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

I’m sure if challenged, some at least of those who make report would acknowledge better way to state details, to make clear who is responsible for conversions. Is easy for us to give priority to what we see, let what we know to be true fade into background. Story found in Jonah good reminder not to do that. What we see today as results of evangelistic presentation no less a work of God than conversion of people of Nineveh. We look at what Jonah preached – simple message of impending destruction, are blown away by how many salvations there were. Would be more accurate to look in chapter 4 to find results of Jonah’s preaching, instead see here in chapter 3 mighty moving of Spirit of God giving gift of repentance to thousands in Nineveh. This in perfect keeping with closing statement of Jonah’s prayer, Jon. 2:9Salvation is of the LORD.”

God is most pleased when his servants obey willingly with sincere heart, proclaim truth with genuine desire for God to bring about results. However… God can use any instrument, willing or not, to achieve his purpose. At one time even used donkey to speak truth to wrong-headed prophet! Jonah, grudging and reluctant all the way, did speak God’s truth to residents of Nineveh, outcome was indeed what Jonah expected. More on that in next chapter. Also had precise outcome God intended, city of Nineveh was turned upside down.

A. the people v.5


impression given by our text – people heard God’s proclamation, immediately responded to it – if aerial view, see waves of action spreading out in all directions w/Jonah at center

this a perfect illustration of Paul’s statement Rom. 10:17So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

also Isa. 55:11 “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”


immediate reaction to preached word: belief, confidence that this God Jonah represented would do exactly as threatened

why did they have greater confidence in Elohim than gods they worshiped? because God enabled them to recognize truth, gave desire and will to respond appropriately


fasting and sackcloth typical traditional activities associated with mourning, humiliation – not limited to Jewish people

what were they mourning? gotten caught? their sin, exposed by nature of threatened consequences? would seem the latter

right response never comes about when message begins with God’s love instead of his holiness and righteousness

what seems harsh often most loving thing we can do – God is love, also holy/ just – sinners need to be warned, not stroked

all without distinction

from greatest to least – no social or economic distinctions, not even political – a message that could be understood by absolutely anyone as Spirit of God moved

given conclusion of story, perhaps author means to include idea of “oldest to youngest” given who God said he had in mind

but not without exception – whatever exact numbers were, overwhelming majority responded properly even if a few holdouts

B. the king v.6


not given strict timeline, expect news traveled quickly as effect of hearing God’s word snowballed, reaching highest levels

no indication that was Jonah who brought message to king, most likely not Jonah – was reports of what was happening

when Spirit of God at work, can and will use all sorts of ways for people to hear truth – yes, appointed prophet necessary, but not only means God used

humbled himself

completely out of character for king to remove all signs of authority, level the playing field, stoop to take his place beside everyone else in city

king goes step beyond everyone else – replaced royal robes with sackcloth and sat in ashes – even greater act of humiliation along with mourning

accepted responsibility

for himself – shown by his actions, showing no desire to pull rank, no evidence of attitude of superiority – taking heat along with everyone else, expressing sorrow over his own guilt

for his people – king stood for people as their representative, also shown by his actions – did not stand by himself and issue decree only for people

set an example

showed first how all should respond, then gave further instruction through his edict – the way any good leader acts, far too rare in today’s world

had right effect on those in government – “decree of the king and his nobles” – universal gov’t approval of national response

side note: this the kind of character we should look for in elected officials at all levels of government, kind we should display in our leadership roles

C. the edict v.7-8


this one a strict fast – no food or water, for unspecified duration – long enough to demonstrate sincerity of their grief

included animals, domestic beasts, who added their voices to those of people – together, from greatest to least, man and beast to participate in national repentance


all without exception to show outwardly their inner state of mourning and humility; showing also their unity, having put aside outward measures of distinction


king by example and decree focusing people’s attention and activities… together crying out to God for deliverance from threatened calamity

not just a few sentence prayers, instead continued strong, vigorous, insistent and persistent crying out loudly to God

not the kind of ritual repetition prophets of Baal engaged in on Mt Carmel – this the genuine outpouring of people sorrowing over sin… seeing their evil ways as God did, worthy of God’s anger


king’s edict included himself… “let everyone turn” – king understood and impressed on people: must be more than just words

if any hope at all of receiving mercy from God, must be radical change of behavior, complete turning away from evil/violence

mre evidence that king truly understood point God was making – conduct of king and people had been evil, sinful… king calling their actions what God did

D. the attitude v.9


not taking anything for granted – if we do this then God must do that – no stated or implied reasons why God should respond favorably to their prayers

did not question justice of God’s fierce anger – simply accepted God’s assessment of their conduct without making excuses


king’s final statement leaves outcome entirely in God’s hands – they will persist in prayer and repentance depending on God’s mercy for reprieve

E. the result v.10

God saw they repented

doesn’t say God heard their cries, says he saw their works – of course prayer included in works… but not the only thing

saw they turned from evil way – not just stopping the next planned evil thing or two, actually beginning new way of life

“In 1951, Red Skelton and a party of friends flew to Europe, where Skelton was to appear at the London Palladium. As they were flying over the Swiss Alps, one of the airplane’s engines failed. The situation looked very grave and the passengers began to pray. Skelton went into one of his best comic routines to distract them from the emergency as the plane lost altitude, coming closer and closer to the ominous-looking mountains. At the last moment, the pilot spied a large field among the precipitous slopes and made a perfect landing. Skelton broke the relieved silence by saying, “Now, ladies and gentlemen, you may return to all the evil habits you gave up twenty minutes ago.””

Ninevites did not do that, at least not in near term – repentance widespread and sincere enough that God saw and approved

God relented

not that God changed his mind – for him to bring calamity after they repented would not have been just, perceived threat had desired effect

and… really a sense in which Nineveh was overthrown/overturned – anyone who visited Nineveh day before Jonah’s arrival, then 41 days later would think were in totally different city

Ninevites turned over new leaf, completely different priorities, behaviors, attitudes – no longer prime for judgment

same for us

when God confronts with message about something we need to change, rather than get defensive or make excuses, should respond….

as quickly as Ninevites – didn’t dilly-dally, rationalize or justify… simply heard and responded in sorrow and repentance

as sincerely as Ninevites – was genuine enough to “convince” God so he withheld threatened judgment

And remember: our job to communicate God’s truth as he directs us, his job to bring about results he intends. He may intend hardening as with Pharaoh, may also intend repentance as with Nineveh. Either way, is God’s call and he who gets glory.

The Power of Five Words

Jonah 3:3b-4

Over and over Bible makes clear principle Paul declared to Corinthian believers:

God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;” (1 Cor. 1:27)

How can God do that… repeatedly?

“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Cor. 1:25)

Classic illustration of this in story of Jonah. If main plot line highlights length God goes to in order to bring men, women, boys, girls to salvation, secondary theme is this: expect to be surprised by God. He doesn’t do things in ways we would or use resources we view as suitable. Fact is at times we wonder how God’s methods can actually work… and for good!

What mission board would accept a candidate who didn’t want to go, didn’t think target people group should hear Gospel, resented idea God might save some of them? Add to that, already tried to escape going to that place, now only considering it because in quotes “God told them to”. Jonah had no heart for people of Nineveh, no burning desire to see them saved / escape destruction. Besides, absolutely no known converts among Ninevites, none who wanted missionary to come. No way Nineveh could be considered “waiting city”, ready to fill church planted by someone from away.

Yet this was individual God used to accomplish unbelievable results, the agent God worked with and through to provide deliverance from destruction for thousands. May think of Nineveh as being much different from today’s cities – in some ways yes, other ways no. No more or less godless than many modern places, same kind of people with same problems and needs – lost sinners headed for hopeless eternity unless God intervened… which he intended to do… in spite of Jonah’s reluctance. Truth is Jonah’s reluctance further highlights God’s persistence, determination, desire to save the lost in Nineveh.

As Jonah approached target city, faced large and daunting task; started out small; didn’t say much.

A. a large task v.3b

enormous city

one of great cities of ancient world – became capital of Assyrian Empire (followed by Babylonian, Medo-Persian), rising superpower of Jonah’s day

among most brutal oppressive world powers in all of history – first to establish large effective army to project power over wide area

Sennacherib moved capital to Nineveh, used brutality toward captives to intimidate and control, think ISIS tactics and worse

booty taken in war financed building program, captives provided skill and labor – Sennacherib built palace for himself in Nineveh

reliefs, sculptures depicting Sennacherib’s exploits, from palace alone side by side would stretch for 2 miles

Nineveh becoming an international city, estimated size: 1800 acres, population in heyday: 175,000; Jerusalem only about 160 acres, population of entire region of Judah smaller than Nineveh

3-day walk

uncertain exactly what the “extent” or “breadth” refers to – walk all streets in city itself or cover Greater Nineveh urban area

located in heart of enemy territory, weeks away from border and safety for someone on foot… who likely pretty distinctive in appearance

Jonah certainly observed during travel, maybe had minder assigned to him and reporting activities and whereabouts to king

even if Jonah said nothing, walking around in Nineveh for three days almost certain to draw attention, perhaps even following

surrounding area

by some estimates could have been home to upwards of 500,000 to 1 million people or more, maybe some less than that during Jonah’s visit

by ancient standards, a megacity and major population center of world… and God expected one reluctant prophet to effectively warn

long before public safety messages, emergency broadcast system, social media, other forms of mass communication

entirely dependent on word of mouth to blanket entire area and… had less than 6 weeks to make it happen

B. a small beginning v.4a

Jonah’s mindset

could easily have been discouraged, overwhelmed – approached city, saw magnitude of task before him, sat down and questioned God

“you sure about this?” – more to accomplish here than 10 prophets could, and I’m only one,, still recovering from the fish thing

could have figured great size was in his favor – no way he could do enough in allotted time to have effect he thought God wanted… but Jonah would be pleased

perhaps grumbling “don’t want to do this, don’t think it’s gonna work, afraid it is gonna work, will do exactly what you said, however turns out is your problem”

whatever Jonah was thinking, seems clear from Biblical record he did what God expected in spite of having bad attitude

began to enter

first day’s walk – expected would take at least 3 days to do minimum amount God expected, more to thoroughly blanket area

notice how all of modern techniques for evangelism and church planting are missing – preplanning, leadership team, surveys, arrangements for large venue, and on and on

as soon as reached sign “city limits”, started to cry out message God had given him – did not wait until at certain place, encountered group of people, saw likely prospect

as soon as someone to declare message to who looked like belonged to Nineveh, Jonah began prophetic task as he was called

Jonah, for all his shortcomings, avoided common trap – people who look at magnitude of task, are overwhelmed by it, give up before starting

whether he could achieve what he understood goal to be, Jonah started… “he began to enter” – continued his obedience by doing what came next

step-by-step obedience helps keep focus off outcome/results – first duty is to do as God expects, God responsible for outcome

cried out

not what we might think of as prophet of doom – guy with sandwich board proclaiming end of world standing on street corner

nor is it situation like ice cream truck playing music while driver makes rounds looking for customers to come running

much more like fellow who makes you real uncomfortable – homeless or panhandler who gets your attention, makes eye contact, engages you in conversation

Jonah does similar – cries out so as to get individual’s attention, delivers message to one or group of people

doesn’t care if is embarrassing, if others stop / look / listen… when they do it makes his job way easier, ensuring message is heard by maximum number of people in shortest possible time

is warning directed to entire population of Nineveh yet delivered personally – notice how persistent and specific God is

God not interested in sky-writing, notice on town bulletin board, communication that could be overlooked or ignored as not pertinent to particular individual

C. a brief message v.4b

complete message only 5 words in Hebrew – od / ar.ba.im / yom / ve.nin.ve / neh.pa.khet:

this God’s message in God’s words Jonah was to proclaim to people of Nineveh – v.2 makes clear Jonah had no liberty to improvise

a gracious introduction – 40 days

just as God did through Moses to Egyptians – gave warning that included built-in delay… not momentarily, not tomorrow

time enough for all who would be affected by calamity to get message and respond, not react – God does not require people to act without thinking, comprehending what they are doing

God expects prompt obedience but not blind loyalty – say jump, ask how high on way up

40 days long enough period for sincerity to be apparent – if response is quick, resolve would begin to weaken if no obvious threat

a specific target / focus – Nineveh

not Assyria in God’s immediate view, not Tigris River valley – instead, the city itself, its surroundings, really the 100K+ people

similar situation to Sodom and Gomorrah – those two cities had become so evil their neighbors complained; perhaps similar true for Nineveh, certainly would be that way eventually

no reason not to expect God’s judgment to be precisely targeted – he didn’t need laser-guided munitions to achieve his purpose

good to remember God is just as particular in his judgment as he is in showing mercy – Ninevites certainly deserved judgment as much as S&G, Egypt, any other place we might name

a clear warning – overthrown

city would be overthrown – God has liberty to carry out his purpose directly or use other means as his instrument of justice… e.g., a foreign army or aggressor like Babylon

people would understand clearly what God meant, what was being threatened – overthrow of a city signifies what you think it does: death, destruction, pain, suffering

the word Jonah used – neh.pa.khet – used number of times in OT, one of first and common uses with reference to S&G… overthrow, as in destroy

yet also used in sense of turning or overturning – forty days and Nineveh shall be overturned – could be direct synonym for overthrow, …or have different sense… stay tuned

Are things both positive and negative to learn from Jonah as he begins ministry to Nineveh. Obedience is good, doing as God commands / expects. Attitude is not good – should obey willingly, should desire same outcome as God, whatever that might be. Beginning the assignment just as important as finishing, even when task looks to be impossible.

Really, Jonah was picking up from where someone else left off, continuing what they had started. In big picture, Jonah would complete his portion of task, yet would require many more generations to completely finish. We today are part of bigger picture, taking message of love for lost, hope for sinners to needy world. God has same desire to save lost today as he did for Nineveh… he expects us to do our part wherever he leads us to share truth with others. We can expect God will move future generations to continue what we have been part of until day Christ returns.

A Second Chance

Jonah 3:1-3a

God does not allow us to fail or disobey and then just move on. There is purpose to such experiences for our good. In fact, God has a purpose in all things he does, all things he permits. Big purpose over all subordinate ones – that God would be glorified. Next to that, God is working all things out for the good of those he has called – necessary steps to conform us to image of his Son. Don’t forget… we were called “according to purpose”, in this case… God’s purpose.

Shouldn’t live in past, at same time must not simply forget either. Things that took place before our past were done and written down for our instruction. God intends our past experiences to change and equip us for greater usefulness to him, more conformity to Christ. True as much for Jonah as for us. God did not expect Jonah to live in fish’s belly, is why he ended up back on dry land. Yet, even if he could forget, God did not want Jonah to leave that experience behind and not be changed by it.

Regardless of what he thought, Jonah not in good place when God first told him “Arise, go to Nineveh”. Jonah perhaps comfortable where he was, yet lacking one essential trait – not comfortable in obeying / pleasing God in all things. Could obey willingly, could do what was pleasing to God so long as God didn’t ask him to do certain things… like witness to people he disliked, ones he thought of as enemies. Jonah demonstrated unwillingness, yea, outright rebellion… until ran head-on into God’s firm hand of discipline. Notice, I said discipline, not punishment. God’s goal in Jonah’s life was correction, not simply consequences. In fact, God’s desire was for Jonah to do right thing for right reasons… because Jonah desired to do what was pleasing to God

Once again are introduced to God’s plan for Jonah’s life, at least his next assignment. Then are informed of God’s instruction to Jonah, finally the impact Jonah’s experience had on him.

A. introduction v.1

God takes the initiative

has not abandoned Jonah – did not tell fish to spit up Jonah, then leave to fend for himself as best he could… like we would

true in more than ultimate sense of eternal destiny – think of John 10:28-29 in that sense, no one can snatch sheep out of either Jesus’ or Father’s hand… at any point during this life either

makes clear: Jonah’s time in submersible meant to correct, not condemn – don’t know for sure the exact way Jonah “heard” God, but he knew who was speaking and what was said

when heard God again, same tone of voice, letting Jonah know they were reconciled – perhaps there on shore when Jonah got reoriented, perhaps after sacrifice and paying vows

God still sovereignly working his Plan A – Jonah’s bad behavior had not forced God to come up with another plan for Nineveh

God’s original plan A included that piece… for Jonah’s learning and for all those who hear his story

communicates verbally, not visually

primary way God communicates with mankind – words, spoken or written – prophetic intro: “thus says the Lord”

when God did use visual aids, always included explanation – Passover, dad explained; Ezekiel, living visual aid… with explanation; true even in Revelation

btw, written word carries same weight as spoken – authority comes from source of the word, not the means of communication

parent, leaves instructions, expects same response as if spoken in ear; God expects no less from his children, his Word

pictures illustrate what words say/mean – pictures rarely communicate whole story… movie adaptation of book for example

picture of OT sacrifice, NT Lord’s Supper aid understanding and remembrance, still need words to get details

a second time

Jonah a competent prophet, but… was lacking one of essentials that would make him even more useful to God

did not have thorough understanding of God’s mind and heart toward lost sinners, thus how he should think/feel/act

divinely provided instruction – gave Jonah small preview of what would be like to face imminent death without sense of God’s presence

took Jonah most of 3 days and nights to catch on but he did – decided he really didn’t want to go that route

now, let’s try that again – do that often when training children: explain wrong behavior, remind of right behavior, give another opportunity for practice

same for Jonah – bad behavior not going to earn him a pass; God wanted Jonah and all those who hear story to know just how determined God is to take Gospel to world

B. instruction v.2

Get up

“let go and let God” sounds pious but is unbiblical – at least in sense of quietly, passively letting God do whatever he wants

Jesus said “take my yoke”, means some kind of work; Paul pressed toward the goal, told Corinthians to run so as to win, Philippians to work out their salvation

“let’s go and follow God” what was expected of Jonah – let go and let’s go… let go of prejudices and follow instructions

often need to let go of things so we can be useful to God – pet ways of doing things, comfortable places to be/things to do, hangups that get in way of willing service

get out of recliner – Jonah not to be in cheering section but in the game, involved as God’s mouthpiece with skin on

God wasn’t going to pick another prophet to do Jonah’s assignment; same true for his people today – each has a divinely appointed place of service


beyond limits of your comfort zone – Jonah would be content to stay within boundaries of what he knew and liked

had no desire for minstry to Nineveh, partly because knew God intended to change his mind about people of that city

place / people you think undeserving – God and Jonah not on same page about Ninevites, especially value of their souls

Jonah convinced (like most of Jewish people) that enemies were worthy only of condemnation and destruction

obvious friends welcome to immigrate, put down roots, maybe even convert to Judaism but not those treated as enemies

couldn’t come to terms with truth of God’s perspective – Jews apart from God just as lost as Ninevites… or any other people

all are just as undeserving of God’s grace and mercy, yet God loves all kinds of people and intends to redeem them from ruin

don’t expect them to make first move – even if Ninevites figured out what was missing in their lives, would never go to Israel to find it… animosity went both ways

Jonah got a fair hearing because of his experience – his story probably known, may have even been obvious from appearance something strange had happened

God uses all sorts of ways to bring people within hearing of Gospel – we need to be careful what means we try to use

Give the message

don’t add – particularly needful for Jonah to stick to script: very tempting for him to add all sorts of harsh things to message

God’s gonna get you, it will be horrible, prepare for long slow excruciating death, and there’s no way to avoid it

don’t subtract – Jonah really didn’t want Ninevites to get saved, could easily left out things that would lead to genuine repentance

whether in evangelism or other teaching, God expects his entire truth to be told – remember warning in Rev. 22:18-19

“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book;and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

from God’s message – whether Bible as Jonah had it, as we have it, or smaller portion intended for Ninevites, was God’s word

Jonah had no authority on his own, nor do we – authority and power of Bible comes from God as he accompanies proclamation of his Word

work of preacher as well as prophet – to “declare to you the whole counsel of God” – not sticking to easy parts, comfortable ones, popular texts

one of merits of preaching and teaching through books or large portions of Scripture – get to cover it all

good reminder: we cannot make God’s word and Gospel more attractive or effective by modifying it; God has expressed himself perfectly and we must be content to communicate what He said

Grasp the change

1:2 “Cry out against it” – same as calling down judgment on city because of sin of its people… similar to God’s action against Sodom and Gomorrah

3:2 “Preach to it the message” – specifically the message God would give to Jonah, no more, no less

in change of wording a hint at least of grace God was planning to show to people of Nineveh, in spite of Jonah’s reluctance

C. impact v.3

he got up

same as before – as soon as God spoke, Jonah moved… he arose from his comfort zone, knowing where he needed to go

so far so good – obedience is good even when only incremental baby steps; besides, God knows us, is patient

he went

first time he ran – pretty sure he knew what outcome of his prophetic ministry in Nineveh would be, wanted no part of it

second time he went in proper direction – north, then east over several hundred mile journey, thru dangerous territory

he obeyed

this behavior nearer goal God had for Jonah – ultimately God would be pleased if Jonah developed same heart and mind for Ninevites (the lost) as God has

doing right even though not feeling it – to do less is to increase guilt before God… not following instructions and bad attitude

God prefers undivided heart – one that is fully loyal to him, desiring to obey him and please him in all things

graciously works with less than perfect instruments – this is really good thing, none of us will arrive in this life, yet we can be blessed when we serve God to best of ability

God still gives second chances, still expects us to move past comfort zone. Closer we are to Jesus, easier it will be to be obedient, more useful will be to him.

Salvation Is All of God

Jonah 2:9-10

Right in middle of studying through mighty acts Lord God performed in land of Egypt to deliver his covenant people from slavery. Perhaps something unique to USA and particular history – word slavery brings to mind first black and white picture… in all various ways that statement can be understood. BW photograph, black and white with no gray areas in opinions and beliefs, black vs. white with regard to skin color and associated privileges. Modern spin on slavery terminology – used to refer to those in some form of debt bondage, despicable blight on world landscape of sex slavery or trafficking.

Bible uses language of slavery – referring to bondslaves, indentured servants, domestic servants – and makes little distinction between godly and ungodly. Is presented matter-of-factly, certain kinds of slavery exist as matter of course in fallen world. In every circumstance, whether biblical or historical, every slave without exception is powerless to free him or herself from their bondage. Many slaves in American south worked diligently to purchase freedom from master; yet even when every condition had been met, were still at mercy of master to declare them free… and not all masters would do so.

Is of great importance that we remember perspective of apostle Paul declared in Rom. 6 on topic of slavery. He even describes one governing principle of master slave relationship in v.16

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?”

2x in following verses he goes from general to particular, from slavery in general to Roman believers in particular”

v.18 – “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” …then v.20, speaks of them “having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God,”

Praise God that though we “were slaves of sin”, we have “been set free from sin” and become “slaves of righteousness”. Truth is vast majority of people around us in world are slaves to sin, slavery of the worst kind. All other forms of slavery end with death of master or slave, iow, condition limited to this life and its threescore and ten. Slavery to sin is for eternity… unless God steps in to free the one enslaved.

“While we must always remember that it is our responsibility to proclaim salvation, we must never forget that it is God who saves. It is God who brings men and women under the sound of the gospel, and it is God who brings them to faith in Christ. Our evangelistic work is the instrument that He uses for this purpose, but the power that saves is not in the instrument: it is in the hand of the One who uses the instrument. We must not at any stage forget that. For if we forget that it is God’s prerogative to give results when the gospel is preached, we shall start to think that it is our responsibility to secure them”. J I Packer; Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

This was some of what Jonah needed to grasp, begin to come to terms with – God gave him 3 days on the bench to get started. Some of Jonah’s best theology – salvation is of the Lord; acknowledging that prompted his release from timeout. Like many, Jonah understood better after God showed him truth in addition to telling him.

A. Salvation is of the Lord (9c)

we think of this as theological word

basic meaning is deliverance – as in saved from harm, delivered from danger… brought through or out of what is difficult

has larger significance in many contexts – national deliverance of Israel from neighboring enemies, from slavery brought on by outsiders… Pharaoh, Philistines and the like

then is what is alluded to by Paul in Romans… delivered from paying penalty for sin, slavery to sin and Satan, darkness into light, power of darkness into kingdom of beloved son

given “evangelistic” theme of Jonah, probably means what you think

expect Jonah’s first thought… salvation/deliverance from wherever he was to place he recognized – knew was not getting out on his own, could be very long swim if he tried

is also likely Jonah had Nineveh at least somewhat in mind, given what he knew of God’s plan for them

how well developed Jonah’s soteriology was at that moment… uncertain – often/usually Holy Spirit had much more in mind than original writers of Bible

following example of NT figures and writers, will unpack 5-word statement in light of rest of God’s word the Bible

is God and God alone who saves

even first parents when tainted by only handful of sins lacked wits to figure out solution – best effort only temporary clothes

if did have ability to come up with solution, lacked power and authority to make it happen – was God, after all, who was offended, whose demands must be satisfied

according to God’s decree, only God could come up with satisfactory plan, only God could satisfy God’s demands

no human has ability to pay penalty of death and gain sufficient merit to achieve life – is only God who can do that

according to God’s plan alone

since was God who was first offended by sin, is his prerogative to establish conditions for reconciliation, what is acceptable

because it is God who must be satisfied, he is under no obligation to consider alternatives, certainly no duty to accept any other solution man might devise

especially now post-Calvary, is ludicrous to think of offering alternative – Christ has met all of God’s demands in place of sinners he came to redeem… why would rational God even think about accepting alternative

is the glory of Christianity – only religion known to man where burden is not on fallen man to somehow pull himself up to God

God has come down to man in the God-Man, done for man what he could not do for himself at cost of his own life, only requirement is for sinner to have faith in Christ

applied to people of God’s choice alone

because God is God, he gets to decide all details – who he will save, how he will save, when he will save – all for his glory

Ex. 33:19“I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (cf. Rom 9:15)

God under no moral obligation to save anyone, certainly not required to save all mankind – God according to reason / purpose known only to him saves who he will

when we consider what ails people around us, must think and pray and act properly – may be slaves of drugs, alcohol, position, power, possessions… always in conflict, forever enslaved in debt, pursuing next thrill or adventure

greatest need not freedom from any of that; greatest need not to straighten up and fly right; sure that would help… but greatest need is deliverance from slavery in sin… that only God can provide

means we need to pray diligently for their salvation, point them to Christ as their only help, share Gospel truth whenever possible

B. Jonah released by God (10)

God spoke

Jonah had at least given lip service to concept God well within his rights to save Ninevites if he so desired, whether or not Jonah thought was good idea

was some change of heart for Jonah, God had achieved his purpose for Jonah’s timeout, gave orders to the fish

not a moment of Jonah’s time in the fish that he was out of God’s protecting care… as much as he desired distance from God

the fish obeyed

unlike Jonah, fish obeyed on first command – did as God ordered, and here again see gracious provision for unworthy prophet

God would have been justified to let Jonah swim for it, at least for little while – instead fish brought him back to shore, dry land

Jonah delivered

most obvious, Jonah was delivered from the storm, the ocean, predators lurking in the ocean, and from the fish

was being delivered (was a process!) from bad attitude toward God and others, mostly his own sinfulness – didn’t happen immediately, God committed to Jonah for long haul

would be roller coaster kind of ride – Jonah doing as God commanded, pouting, complaining, waiting to see God work, more complaining… yet God didn’t lose patience

how many of us would have said “not worth the work, forget about it” and left Jonah along with Ninevites to own misery – not God, is committed to saving the lost and making them fit for his family

C. pictures are best

Jonah reminded – how it feels to be “lost”

all we need to know for faith and practice – what to believe, how to behave – contained in God’s word the Bible… do not need any further source of revealed truth

but…God knows his children learn in different ways – some by reading or hearing, some by seeing, many by doing / experiencing

where Jonah was – perhaps grew up in Christian home, Christian parents, church that many times a week, immersed in God-fearing and godly atmosphere

had a three-day taste of what is like to be in dark, clueless where you are and what comes next, surrounded by silence, no awareness of God’s presence… iow, to be lost

came out of fish with deeper understanding of what means to be lost, how lost people need compassion not impatience or hatred

his deliverance from the Lord, too

from sin and submersible – Jonah gained better understanding of what God had graciously delivered him from

almost as if Jonah treated his own salvation as something due him, a right – of course God would deliver him, he was Jewish

gained better perspective of how great gift his deliverance truly was, how little part he actually had in it

yes, had responsibility to respond in proper way to Heavenly Father, but was God who did the work of delivering

further equipped for task of evangelism

those best able to bring Gospel to others are ones who have best understanding of their own need, who best recognize measure of grace God has given

not necessarily the most gifted speaker, most persuasive personality, things we usually think of as gifts evangelist needs

rather is those who have love for God, grief over own sinfulness, kind of heart for the lost that our Heavenly Father has

Keep in mind what Packer said:

“… it is our responsibility to proclaim salvation, we must never forget that it is God who saves. It is God who brings men and women under the sound of the gospel, and it is God who brings them to faith in Christ. Our evangelistic work is the instrument that He uses for this purpose, but the power that saves is not in the instrument: it is in the hand of the One who uses the instrument.”

Jonah Prays

Jonah 2:1-9

Debate over historicity / plausibility of this chapter in particular. To disbelieve its authenticity is to impugn Jesus’ integrity/honesty… as well as his resurrection accounts.

Matthew 12:40“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.”

Plain sense of what Jesus said – speaker comparing Jonah’s experience in past with Jesus experience in future. Either Jonah endured and survived trip in whale of a lifeboat or Jesus is still dead. Spiritualizing text does not eliminate problem, only changes one for another. Make Jonah’s experience some kind of legend or metaphor or parable, same must be true about Jesus. Then what does that mean about Jesus death and resurrection? If Jonah not literally inside the fish, then Jesus not literally in the grave. Thus, no death, burial and resurrection… iow, no atonement / redemption.

Heb. 9:22And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

And that’s just for starters! If truthfulness of Jesus is questionable, so is accuracy of NT writers… both with regard to facts, also interpretation of those facts. They believed what is written about Jesus is accurate and true – what he said, what he did – and wrote accordingly. Further, believed what was written strongly enough to write doctrinal conclusions based on their belief. Entrusted eternal destiny to those conclusions, encouraged others to do same. Either all true, to be understood as written, or is gigantic hoax. Can easily see how strong position on nature of Scripture – inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility – essential to proper understanding / application.

Jonah’s prayer a good one – doesn’t quote Scripture directly but prays in Bible language, expresses concepts and principles in way consistent with what rest of Bible teaches. Prayer says right things about God, keeping him in rightful place, many of themes touched on here and in Psalms. Are 7 penitential Psalms (Psalms of confession) – 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143. This prayer not one of them – Jonah acknowledges God’s hand in his circumstances but not his own. Jonah shows degree of repentance by some of his actions, appears to still carry chip on shoulder to very end of book. Yet God never abandons him, continues to teach / direct / use somewhat reluctant servant.

A. Jonah acknowledged God (1-3)

prayed to God (1)

have to go to v.10 to find indication of timing – appears that when finished prayer, God spoke to fish and Jonah discharged

would appear Jonah spent time cooling his heels before getting on his knees – takes a while sometimes to overcome stubborn heart, even in follower of God

likely from ch. 1 Jonah had gotten out of habit of praying – wanted to escape from God’s presence, means no interest in communication… unless God had new instructions

required significant attitude adjustment before could pray to God and expect some kind of positive response

cried out to God (2a)

during time on boat, was captain and crew crying out to their gods for deliverance, Jonah noticeable because of his absence

even after captain challenged him to pray for his God to help, no evidence he did so… didn’t want help for himself, didn’t care about others and their fate

Jonah smart enough to know – if prayed with that attitude, at best God would ignore him, at worst make things way more difficult/painful to teach what Jonah didn’t want to learn

did come to point where figured was better to humble at least a little, call for help rather than die stubborn… esp. since didn’t have clue where he was, how long he would be there

unlike Pharaoh, Jonah’s pain and suffering drove him to God for relief and ultimately deliverance – Pharaoh only wanted deliverance

key point: Jonah cried to the Lord “because of …affliction” – not yet praying for mercy, forgiveness, no mention of sinfulness

don’t overlook – Jonah’s plea for deliverance accompanied by commitment to keep his commitment, obey God albeit not with a smile and happy heart

answered by God (2b)

Jonah because of circumstances none the wiser if God had acted w/o speaking – fish swimming in circles, e.g., then heads for land at God’s command

Jonah’s vision / comprehension of what took place leading up to and during confinement clarified by hindsight – could recognize God’s fingerprints, God’s voice

could understand after the fact just how merciful God was to him when he in no way deserved it – was still in rebellion even though compliant

little boy, sit in time-out: may be sitting on the outside but standing up on the inside – Jonah going through motions of what God commanded but heart wasn’t in it

important note: God doesn’t wait til his children come all the way back from disobedience before answering their prayer

disciplined by God (3)

gave God credit for not only masterminding his experience but actually actively carrying it out – “You threw me overboard”; “your billows” “your waves” nearly drowned me

discipline effective in part because Jonah feared God, as in afraid of God esp. when he is angry – not ready to play tough guy given what God had done already

no secret to Jonah what God’s purpose was – had announced his defiance to ship’s crew, could easily connect dots from there

notice, too, God not like earthly fathers – His discipline is always precisely right thing at right time and for right duration

God knows his own strength, never uses more than is necessary to achieve his purpose w/o destroying his child

B. Jonah missed God (4-6)

God gave Jonah what he wanted (4a)

on occasion God gives child what he/she thinks he/she wants, particularly when child is not listening to reason, is determined to rebel

Jonah didn’t want to hear “Go to Nineveh”… his solution – put up wall (if possible) between God and him even if best he could do was lots of distance

acting like little child, hide and seek – hand in front of own eyes, you can’t see me… because I can’t see you; made even more concrete by darkness inside fish

God gave “silent treatment”, waiting for Jonah to make first move – added profoundly to Jonah’s sense of isolation

Jonah had real sense of abandonment, did truly feel that had escaped from God’s presence and watchful eye – his perception was real… but wrong

God not being deceptive, was veiling himself from Jonah’s senses in order to teach powerful lesson – what life for prophet/child of God would be like without any way to see/hear/feel God

Jonah “thought” he died (5-6a)

describes his experience from physical perspective: reciting themes from Psalms, using poetic language to refer to experience that felt like it must be he was going to die

entirely possible God let Jonah flounder a while until fish swallowed him; could also be description of near death experience inside fish… feeling like was falling, total darkness, silent except for fish noise

Jonah’s experience was real, what he described as being like dying wasn’t made up – he simply had no familiar frame of reference while was happening

at time of praying, could look back on previous hours and realize was still alive – obviously God must have some purpose in keeping him alive

Jonah discovered the truth (4b)

God had given Jonah what he was seeking – no sense of God’s presence, watchfulness – reached conclusion quite quickly wasn’t what he expected

even though not inclined to comply joyfully with God’s plan, did know he wanted God in his life – desire for God’s presence far outweighed prospect of final abandonment by God

when God wasn’t available to Jonah’s perception, Jonah missed him, wanted him back… even on terms Jonah didn’t want

God delivered Jonah (6b)

Jonah recognized his life had been in God’s secure hands all along – just as much when Jonah couldn’t “see” him as other times

knew, given what he had been through, only true God could have delivered him – notice, too, Jonah calls him “my God”… are at least on speaking terms again

C. Jonah remembered God (7-9b)

lost nearly all hope (7a)

describes his experience now from spiritual perspective: felt like very near point of death – “when my life was fainting / ebbing away” – basically running out of time to do something

not so much an “if you’re out there, if anyone out there, please help” kind of prayer, rather a “since you have answered my need before, I’m back needing again”

has pretty clear grasp of God’s faithfulness, could have benefited from recognizing his own lack of it and dire need for it

cried for mercy (7b)

“remembered the Lord” – not just bare remembrance of person, calling to mind character and situations and experience, iow to remember favorably and with intention to do something

in this case, since was God who threw him overboard, greatest need is for God to show mercy and preserve his life

Jonah could pray with some confidence because God had heard and answered prayer before… in some pretty dire circumstances

declared futility of idols (8)

from his vantage point, to pray and worship like sailors a futile exercise since gods of wood and stone can’t do anything

of greater significance, Jonah does give lip service to idea that idol-worshipers actively forfeit the hope that could be theirs

he does begin to recognize Nineveh’s problem and solution to it… he just doesn’t want to be part of the solution, thinks they don’t deserve that kind of mercy

committed to obedience (9ab)

true, for Jonah to keep his word God had to deliver him from captivity in the fish… but Jonah did not articulate that – not making deal with God, simply stating his honest intent

truly is what God expects from all his people – single-hearted purpose to do what God commands in total dependence on him

As disobedient as Jonah was, as far from God as thought he was – here’s the beauty of how God treats his children – moment Jonah turned from disobedience and rebellion by turning to God, God was right there! God never leads his people into temptation, may lead them into discipline and correction. God never abandons his children, may withdraw sense of his presence from them. He may veil himself so he cannot be easily detected… to help individual better grasp preciousness of knowing he is here, the importance of staying closely connected with Heavenly Father.

Also good to note: God would not be swayed from his redemptive purpose toward people of Nineveh. At same time, would not change his purpose regarding Jonah. Intended Jonah to be useful servant, also intended countless people of Nineveh delivered from destruction. God not like us, wanting personal space. God wants his personal space overflowing with children, his children as close to him as possible.

Pursued on the Sea

Jonah 1:4-17

Might think “why do we need to know from the OT how determined God is to save people? He sent his Son…” True, does show the depths of God’s love for his people, also love Father had for his Son. Father loved the Son so much he gave him his heart’s desire – a people who would be one with him, redeemed by him, purchased as his inheritance.

A different aspect of God’s character is shown here in Jonah. Simply sending Jesus did not accomplish everything lost people need to be saved. Remember Paul: “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” The lost, regardless of BC or AD need to hear truth, hear good news in order to come to faith. And… through Jonah God demonstrates just how much he loves the lost and how much he will do to bring them to salvation. God didn’t simply say “I made the way, it’s up to you to find it.” Jonah would have been quite content with that approach. Jonah not happy with God’s methods, God’s persistence and determination to save people Jonah thought didn’t deserve salvation. We must guard against thinking of the lost as Jonah did… regardless of reasons we might have to think that way.

Jonah was determined, if God insisted on saving some of people of Nineveh, he would have to use some other prophet. Jonah’s preference for them to stay lost, his definite intention whichever way God moved he would not be part of solution. God had other ideas, and no cranky sinner like Jonah would derail God’s redemptive plan for either Jew or Gentile, before or after hinge of history at the cross. And… God would make it absolutely plain to all concerned what he intended to do and who he expected to do it. At same time, God showed patience and gentleness beyond measure to reluctant servant who in no way deserved it.

A. God sends a wind v.4-5

an extraordinary wind

great wind, great tempest – piling on the words to communicate just how fierce storm was that God “hurled down” on the sea

ship itself “considered breaking up” – personified, in life and death struggle with the storm, moaning and groaning and about ready to give up the fight

should have served as rebuke to prophet – what we think of as “forces of nature” fully cooperated with God, he did not!

frightening prospect

journey from Joppa to Tarshish not for faint of heart – long and often dangerous, usually attempted only by experienced highly skilled sailors

those who knew worst nature normally threw at them thought they were gonna die, seriously – doing everything they knew to keep from drowning

emergency measures

appears from description was a cargo ship, not passenger vessel – carrying expensive items from middle and far East to western European port

many things at risk solely because of Jonah’s disobedience: ship itself, expensive cargo, supplies for sailors, lives of all aboard

self-willed prophet jeopardizing sailor’s profit – had to lighten ship so wouldn’t sink, needed enough ballast so didn’t capsize

sleeping prophet

ship threatening to disassemble around him, Jonah oblivious to it all, sound asleep – perhaps figuring out of sight, out of mind… God’s mind at least

important note: here a genuine servant of God, should have major guilty conscience, could turn down volume enough to sleep through his world coming apart

B. God sends a word v.6-9

awakened by the captain

captain and crew well aware this no ordinary storm, will take more than ordinary means to survive – requires divine help

some god, any god, pray for help so we don’t all die out here – least you can do, if not going to help any other way, is pray!

was Jonah going to pray? to his God? NOT! he knew truth of their situation, knew also how God would respond if he did pray… except in sincere repentance

Jonah not even close to repentance at this point – probably at point of stubbornness where would say at least better to die than go to Nineveh, and by actions showing total unconcern for how many he took with him

rebuked by the crew

sailors figured out – by no means normal kind of storm, a fury that could only come from divine being displeased with someone

cast lots to figure out who was cause of danger – relying on divine power of some kind to oversee lot and direct its outcome

lot fell to Jonah, crew fell upon Jonah with words if not hands, demanded whole story – perhaps thought details would help them form successful strategy to stay alive

knew from the lot Jonah was guilty, were holding him accountable for his sinful action, if for no other reason than he put them at risk by foolish actions

cornered by confession

identified himself, identified his God by name and description – he worshiped YHWH, creator God as distinct from sailors’ gods

had previously told them, probably when he booked passage, he was running away from his God – likely thought he meant one of tribal territorial gods with limited range

no longer a mystery – everyone knows Jonah trying to hide from god of sea/land… iow, one who can hunt him down anywhere

sailors may have connected YHWH with legendary accounts of his mighty acts on behalf of Hebrews – think Rahab and Red Sea

C. God sends a wave v.10-15

running out of time

now they’re terrified, more certain than ever they’re gonna die – their “why” question could have number of qualifiers: why this stupid thing, why involve us, why this way of escape….

all the while fury of storm is increasing – remember source of wind, “God hurled…”, and his purpose not simply to cause fear

put burden on Jonah – it’s your fault, you got us into this, what do we do to you so we don’t all die? …giving Jonah full accountability for foolish and dangerous action

one last try

don’t like Jonah’s answer, to throw him overboard, even though made full confession, took full responsibility for predicament

God knew Jonah’s heart, didn’t want to be back on dry land – looking for “suicide by sailor” as way out of God’s appointed task

Jonah would have stayed asleep until all drowned but sailors had higher moral standard than Jonah – would continue to risk their own lives if could save his in the process

God had different plan, as we know did not involve any loss of life… only temporary loss of freedom for Jonah

“forgive the sin we are about to commit”

sailors were not absolutely convinced Jonah’s solution would work – afraid Jonah’s god might take anger out on them for how treated Jonah

at same time, were completely out of options – all would be in the water any minute, last chance to do as Jonah had told them

what they did, hoping against all odds he was right and all on board would survive, escape punishment by Jonah’s god

instant relief

deep breath, look around, check to make sure it’s real – as soon as Jonah hit the water, calm wind and sea as he said

almost more unsettling than fury of storm the instant calm that followed – without question the result of supernatural power

D. God receives worship v.16

fear increased

feared for their lives, feared power of storm, fear the God who governs it all more than all the rest, not sure what to expect

are swift enough to know this God above all others deserves worship and honor – may have added YHWH to god-shelf, but for a time was first in line before the rest

they did get some right – “You, O LORD, have done as it pleased You.” – is totally correct, Jonah will eventually learn from experience God always gets his way

thankfulness expressed

had received undeserved favor from God, they were idol-worshipers after all – correct response to express thanks to right God

probably did not offer animal sacrifice on the spot, they did take vows to do so at first opportunity – needed to find land soon and resupply, find another cargo

F. God sends a whale v.17

prepared by God

was right creature with right characteristics to serve God’s purpose – don’t know all details how God prepared fish, is enough to know that God did it

nice, heartwarming to know some scientists (or others) have found/seen sea creatures large enough to swallow man whole

don’t forget fish isn’t star of the story, neither is Jonah – central figure is God, his unquenchable love for lost people and determination to save them

positioned by God

fish precisely on target according to God’s knowledge / plan – impeccable timing / location, personal rescue vehicle for Jonah

llike the storm, was God’s intent that Jonah first, then all who hear/read the story will know none of this occurred by accident

preserved by God

fish was prepared to preserve Jonah, not digest him! is a one-on-one training / correcting / disciplining session Jonah needed to complete so he would serve God’s purpose

Jonah not easily persuaded to obey, had deeply embedded prejudices not fully overcome even by end of his story

God does only what is necessary for Jonah to be useful even though reluctant servant

Don’t be too hard on Jonah, he just put into action what many of us would given the opportunity. What is more amazing / surprising / encouraging is incredible patience and gentleness God showed toward Jonah. Didn’t give up on him, didn’t abandon / throw him away, didn’t punish him with lost opportunity. Step by step God brought Jonah to place of submission and usefulness while at same time keeping redemptive plan on track.

Key to it all is this: people need change of heart. Not just hard-hearted pagans who need God to change their heart. God’s children need heart change also. Brought to point of submissive obedience to God’s will in all things, large and small, public and private.

Run Away from God? Seriously?

Jonah 1:1-3

Perhaps one of the most startling statements uttered about prophet of God – purposely takes steps to run away from God, to flee from the presence of the Lord. Not as though had poor track record – know from 2 Kings 14 he was right on target regarding Amaziah. Every reason to believe God was pleased with Jonah’s performance of duty, might continue to use him in prophetic ministry. Problem appears to be: God and Jonah not on same page about what next assignment should be.

Truth is Jonah by no means only child of God with that issue. Happens frequently God has particular act of service in mind for us, our mind goes elsewhere. Many possible reasons for difference in perspective or ministry priorities. Can be task doesn’t fit our idea of what we should be doing, what it all means for us. A little different for Jonah – assignment didn’t fit his idea of what God should be doing. Jonah had good understanding of God’s character, what God’s purpose likely was for Ninevites. Jonah way underestimated God’s determination to carry out his plan for both Jonah and residents of Nineveh.

Story begins with God’s call to Jonah, followed by charge given. In response we see just how contrary a servant of God can be, then God’s inescapable presence.

A. God’s call v.1

was God who made first move

Jonah probably content living and doing the status quo – satisfied to live well inside his comfort zone, no need to take risks

God sent word to Jonah, not told how, do know God communicated expectations clearly to Jonah, intended Jonah to respond

spoke in a way that Jonah understood who was speaking

was not first time Jonah received word from God – at least second time, maybe more, accompanied by real sense of God’s presence… strong enough made Jonah uncomfortable

good to keep in mind – this the same God who spoke and things came into existence out of nothing, can certainly speak to prophet so Jonah knows exactly who he is hearing

also important that God’s call to particular service directed to particular person – identified clearly and specifically: Jonah son of Amittai, no other individual in view

and what was expected

not only God’s identity clear, so also what he intended his prophet to do – required action that would take him far outside his comfort zone and far from home

not what God expects of all his people, sometimes not far from home; usually outside the choices would make on our own

often have smaller view of things than God, what he can accomplish; and… God wants his kids to grow to maturity… does what is necessary to bring that about

note: God doesn’t use riddles or confuse his servant

some things God said/did in Bible may puzzle us… because we lack context or information, not because God didn’t speak clearly

when God has something particular for his servant to do, God makes will known clearly in way tailored to that individual

B. God’s charge v.2

get up and go

not something Jonah could do from comfort of own home in Gath Hepher – needed to pack bags, go to place of service

plainly not something Jonah could delegate – particular task only Jonah could do, not because no one else was capable

God had far more in mind than simply getting warning to Nineveh – God knew how Jonah would respond, intended to use that to demonstrate even more of God’s gracious character

preach against it

a message of impending judgment that God would bring on Nineveh for their sinful behavior – had been center of worship of Ishtar, fertility goddess, for centuries

was type of culture that promoted pursuit of pleasure without restraint, living for the moment, giving little thought or preparation for future

God has reached his limit

“their wickedness had confronted him” CSB – implied, wickedness of Nineveh had become so great God could not hold back

two ways of looking at situation

if evil grew any greater, people would be beyond point of responding favorably to warning – God graciously determined to act before reached that point… God saving them before it was too late

if evil grew any greater, God would have no choice but to destroy them – think Sodom and Gomorrah, God’s righteous judgment on those two cities, without warning; here, God warning Nineveh before it was too late

important conclusions

God’s law the standard for all mankind w/o regard for ethnic origin, religion, geography, social status – the law by which everyone will be judged

either the individual or an acceptable substitute must satisfy all requirements of law in order to have eternal life

in order for wickedness to come to God’s attention (NET) God had to be paying attention – what the wicked does matters to God… both for their sake, sake of God’s people

yes, are words on the page: “ ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways!” Eze. 33:11

and… “all things work together for good to those who love God” Rom. 8:28

words take on form and flesh in this part of life of Jonah and his mission to Nineveh – God shows length he will go to so wicked don’t stay wicked

C. God’s contrary servant v.3ab

one thing right – he got up

God told Jonah “Arise!” – maybe a point for that, probably not since his motivation as demonstrated quickly was all wrong

two things wrong

intending to disobey by going in opposite direction

500 miles to Nineveh, 2500 miles to Tarshish (as crow flies) – Nineveh near present-day Mosul, 250 mi. NW of Baghdad

Tarshish beyond opposite end of Mediterranean on Atlantic coast of Spain, pretty much end of known world for Jonah and shipmates, potentially highly dangerous journey

hoping to escape God’s presence

determination so great is emphasized – inclusio of v.3 – intention was to escape / run from presence of Yahweh

know from details elsewhere in book – Jonah not like most Americans, was not Biblically illiterate by long shot, quite the opposite

Jonah had good understanding of God’s character, too – knew deep down God is merciful and gracious… didn’t want Ninevites to know it

hoping against hope he could escape God’s notice, if not his presence – wanted to escape constant awareness of God’s presence… and disapproval of his actions

yet God shows grace

know from later scripture God could have stopped Jonah in his tracks (Saul/Paul), could have warned Ninevites himself (Belshazzar)

instead, God showed great grace and patience, allowing Jonah to disobey… and appearing to get away with it…for a while

note: just because God seems to allow wrong behavior, don’t think he will allow it forever, especially in one of his children

D. God’s continuing presence v.3c

already cannot get away, only 60 miles

Joppa was not far enough for Jonah to escape; determined to keep going, however far and long it took to find relief

truth is… really trying to outrun his conscience – as long as had sense of God’s nearness, was aware of how sinful attitude and actions were… conscience doing its job

“assumes” he can at end of the world

copying attempts of Adam and Eve – first tried to hide from one another behind clothes, then in bushes from God’s presence

if only Jonah could get far enough away, maybe would escape God’s notice, be able to push conscience down so it wouldn’t make so much noise

“Sin makes us stupid.” Maoz should not look down on Adam and Eve or Jonah; anyone wilfully disobeying God acts in same way

but the LORD pursued him

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; / I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways / Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears / I hid from Him, and under running laughter.

Up vistaed hopes I sped; / And shot, precipitated, / Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears, / From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.

The Hound of Heaven, Francis Thompson

not to “get” Jonah, for sake of Ninevites

wasn’t case of God determined to get his own way, pursuing Jonah to make it happen, not letting Jonah get away with disobedience

God had good purpose in mind for residents of Nineveh, intended to use Jonah including his disobedience to make strong points about: his grace, his mercy, his longsuffering, commitment to save the lost

Questions for us –

what would cause us to want to live outside God’s presence? Is futile to try, God will not allow that kind of harm to come to his children for long.

to what lengths would we go to bring Gospel to doomed people? when seems God is moving us in particular direction, do we resist?

Whatever the case, we should have desire to be reconciled to God ASAP when sin gets in the way. And… should have same heart for lost that God does.

God’s Missionary Heart

Jonah 1:1-2

As we commence study of Jonah, lessons from this prophet’s writings about prophet himself. More significant things to be learned about God, his purpose for his people and all mankind.

Tempting to summarize story that is told this way – Jonah in a fish; Jonah in a fix; Jonah in a revival; Jonah in a rage. Besides we all know the bit about the fish is especially significant, right? Actually… not right. Will talk about the fish, will talk about Jonah, but neither of those are lead character. Will get to that later!

This evening: what kind of book is Jonah; who was its namesake; will identify the lead character; consider purpose for the book and the prophet, as well as its use to us.

A. the book – what kind is it

unique in prophetic literature… primarily a narrative with single prophetic statement

Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4) – one and only thing Jonah instructed to tell residents of Nineveh

certainly had more to say – who he was, who he worshiped, etc. – enough so Ninevites could respond intelligently to warning

learn as much or more from how God acts throughout book than what he says to Jonah – that he is God for all nations

how does the world view it – including many “Bible scholars”

depends in part on view of “laws of nature” – are they inherent part of structure of cosmos and absolutely binding at all times

if so, then is allegory or parable or perhaps symbolic narrative – not to be taken as accurate description of historical event

rules out possibility of anything miraculous, perhaps written much later in Jewish history… after exile, more like one of Aesop’s Fables – a fun little story with some kind of moral lesson

how does the Bible view it

if “laws of nature” describe ways God usually operates in governing his creation, he is free to work however he chooses – iow, miracles, not merely possible but actual

would then expect Bible might have something to say elsewhere to confirm that view… like – a reference to Jonah the person in a historical context, e.g. 2 Kings 14:25

identified by name, ancestry and home town and associated with events taking place during time of Jeroboam II

once is adequate to establish historicity of Jonah, the man and the book – add to that references on two occasions by Jesus to Jonah and his mission to Nineveh (Matt. 12:39-41; Luke 11:29-32)

Jesus spoke as if Jonah a true account of real individual in known place, his experiences taken as strictly factual – to believe other than what Jesus did casts doubt on Jesus’ character and deity

even if written by other than Jonah, is historically accurate account written by personal acquaintance – only Jonah knew particular details of chapter 2

B. the prophet – who was he


“The only reference to Jonah in a historical context is found in 2 Kings 14:25Heater

He (Jeroboam II) restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher.”

immediately preceded by Elijah & Elisha; Hosea and Amos contemporaries – first half of 8th century BC (782–745 B.C.)

son of Amittai, home-town was Gath Hepher – tribe of Zebulon, between Nazareth and Cana in Galilee… large city in its day

details like genealogy and home-town give added weight to Jonah being real historical figure, unlike Lazarus of Jesus’ parable

also identified in historic narrative as prophet, and a legitimate one – Jeroboam II’s accomplishments according to prophecy

comes to time of prophetic ministry described in book with an established reputation as true prophet of God

has strong influence on Jonah’s responses to God’s commands and actions – wanted to protect reputation

missionary – “someone sent on a special assignment–especially a religious or charitable mission to a foreign country”

prophet from Galilee in Israel who had prophesied to own people being sent by direct command of God to capitol city deep in Assyrian territory 600+ miles east of Gath Hepher (30 day walk)

many of Jonah’s fellow prophets prophesied against surrounding nations – Jonah first one sent from Israel to foreign territory

not merely country next door, speaking distinct but related language; Assyria the dominant world power. already requiring payment of tribute from Israel – iow, seen as enemies of Israel because of aggression

hostile attitude of Israelites toward Assyria made more intense by Assyrian cruelty and violence and fact they were Gentiles

basic mindset alluded to by Jonah, 4:1-2, could see no good reason for God to show mercy to people as cruel / evil as Assyrians

C. the lead character – is it Jonah?

by the numbers: God – 15x; LORD – 26x; Jonah – 19x; he – 17x Jonah, 4x God — pretty even — God 45x; Jonah 36x

need to consider more than word frequency, look at kind of action taking place and relationship between different ones

strong clue given in opening words of book: is Yahweh taking initiative, moving first, speaking first to his servant Jonah — structure not accidental

The author of this book had an impressive command of Hebrew. His language is rich, evocative and extremely well constructed. He avoids the emotional, incoherent and incomplete sentences with which Hosea addressed his nation. He uses none of the flowery terminology of Isaiah or the studied elegance of Habakkuk. In fact, the Hebrew is so well rounded that many Bible colleges and seminaries use the book of Jonah as part of their courses in biblical Hebrew.

The author was obviously a capable writer. He says no more than is necessary, uses vivid language, and describes events as building from one to the next. He displays a solid understanding of human nature, and employs a multitude of literary devices; humor, questions, ambivalent language, suggestive quotes and anthropomorphisms. …It is a masterpiece of spiritual and moral instruction.” Baruch Maoz

Jonah a character, not a leader

obviously a primary character but not the one who has lead role – a reluctant servant at best, dissatisfied with his assignment

had sequence of events followed direction Jonah desired, story would have significantly different outcome, not good for Nineveh

is wonderful testimony to God’s longsuffering – use less than ideal individual in precedent-setting ministry, example for countless generations who have come since

one taking lead, setting direction: God

is God who gave assignment to Jonah – God picked place of ministry, people ministered to, person to do ministering, proclamation to be delivered

is God who would not accept refusal, who did not gratify heart desire of missionary, who did recognize and respond to change in target people, who continued to instruct messenger

D. the purpose – for the prophet, for the book

the experience for benefit of Jonah and those like him

already knew from multiple situations God could govern actions of his own to suit his purpose; same true for pagans, even those inclined to resist God’s will

what about those unwilling among own people – how far would God go to bring about compliance with his eternal plan? …now we know!

reluctance to obey no hindrance to God – is hindrance to rebellious servant, prevents experiencing joy over God accomplishing good

good reminder: God gets his way, always; our part in God’s plan most satisfying when we obey with proper attitude

the book for benefit of those subsequent to Jonah

nature of oral communication such that true message would be lost after several generations

Adam => Methusaleh => Noah => Abraham => Jacob; Adam overlapped following 8 generations

then came need for written record so true account preserved for subsequent generations down to present and beyond

“The message of the book of Jonah may be stated as follows: The eternal redemptive purposes of God are clearly revealed in the relentlessness of His sovereign missionary heart. A simple outline of the book in terms of this central message follows.

1) Chapter 1- The Missionary Heart of God is a Pursuing Heart

2) Chapter 2- The Missionary Heart of God is a Delivering Heart

3) Chapter 3- The Missionary Heart of God is a Relenting Heart

4) Chapter 4- The Missionary Heart of God is a Longsuffering Heart.” Charles Parker, Seeing the Minor Prophets Redemptively

how do we know this?

the message – Jonah 1:2cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me” – cry out… but how, to what end?

cry out against” – when is God, usually message of judgment, impending catastrophe, evidence of God’s wrath against sin

must have been something in God’s tone of voice – Jonah pretty sure that was not what God had in mind; see Jonah 4:2 – “I said it would turn out this way”

the modifier – Jonah 4:11should I not pity Nineveh”

God confirms Jonah’s estimation of him – same heart God expressed through prophet Ezekiel 2 centuries later

Eze. 33:11 ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’

that is kind of heart God desired to see in Jonah, desires to be present in all his servants – threatening judgment, recognizing repentance, and rejoicing in deliverance

Every aspect of God’s dealing with Jonah permeated with grace – Jonah deserved consequences, not continued instruction. Before you get too confident, we’re right there next to Jonah… at least some of the time. Reality is – only way we achieve any good for Christ and his Kingdom is by grace he supplies.