Jonah 1:1-16 // A Runaway Prophet

Jonah Series (1)

Text: Jonah 1:1-16

Introduction: 

Over the next several weeks, what I want us to do is go through the book of Jonah together. 

  • In going through this book, I want us to see what God wants from Jonah, and ultimately what God wants from us. Ultimately, God may not want us to board a ship and go to Tarshish, but God has given us the gift of Gospel (the good news of Jesus), and that’s not a gift we can or should keep to ourselves.

    • The Gospel should be the gift that keeps on giving. God gives us life and freedom, and we should want to show others where they can also find life and freedom. 

 

Generally speaking, I’m sure we all know the story of Jonah.

 

  • God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah decides to disobey God, and go to Tarshish. Jonah climbs on board a ship, a big storm comes, Jonah gets thrown overboard, a big fish swallows Jonah whole. He takes the first air conditioned submarine ride in the digestive tract of a whale, gets vomited up on the shore of Nineveh where proceeds to preach win the whole city of Nineveh to the Lord.

  • We all know the know the story, but what we may know is how the story applies to us.

    • We have a tendency to read stories in the Bible, and just assume that if we were in the position of whoever we’re reading about that we would do the right thing.

      • “Those dumb Israelites worshipping a golden calf, I wouldn’t have done that.”

      • “Can you believe those Israelites not believe that they could take the land? Don’t they know that with God all things are possible?”

      • “Stupid Peter denying the Lord three times, I would’ve never done that.” 

 

The truth of the matter is that we have a hard time relating to those passages because we have self-inflated view of our own righteousness. So, when we read Jonah, we think, “Well, if God told me to go to Nineveh, I would go.” The truth is that you might not. I might not.”

 

So, this morning, what I want to do is talk about three ideas found in the passage. I want us to think about A People Far From God, A Prophet Far From God, and A Plan Orchestrated By God.

 

A PEOPLE FAR FROM GOD (v. 2)

“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” – Jonah 1:2, NKJV

 

Up to this point in Scripture, there’s not much mentioned about Nineveh. Nineveh is mentioned a few places in Scripture in passing, but it’s not been the real focal point of a story until now. 

 

    • We know from the time of Genesis 10 that Nimrod went to Assyria to build Nineveh, and since then it had been staple territory of Assyria. And if you’re familiar with the rest of the Old Testament, then you know that Israel had quite the history with Assyria.

      • Assyria was cruel and hateful towards people that they considered to be their enemies. They ransacked cities, raped women, kidnapped children and took them as slaves, and they even peeled the skin off people they captured, and they would decorate their city walls with that skin.

        • That’s extreme. Like, that’s something you would see a dictator like Hitler, Stalin, or Moussilini would do.

    • It’s for all these reasons that Jonah sees Nineveh as the archetype of wickedness. He wasn’t wrong to view their acts as wicked, but he allowed bitterness towards their sin to cloud his mind about how God viewed them.

    • So, Jonah had a bias in his heart against the Ninevites. Jonah had anger and hatred toward the Ninevites. How do I know that? There are some kinds of people in our minds that we all have a bias or prejudice against. It may not be a race, it may not be a nationality, maybe it’s people who dress a certain way, maybe it’s people who talk a certain way, maybe it’s people who have a certain last name.

      • Maybe there’s some kind of Hatfield/McCoy bad blood between your family and someone else’s.

    • Another way that we can tell what kind of attitude that Jonah had toward them was that his primary fear was that they might repent and believe, and that God’s wrath would be turned away from them.

      • In chapter 4 of Jonah, Jonah gets angry because God decides to spare Nineveh because they’ve repented and we finally see his motivation for disobeying God in the first place. He says, “I knew it! I knew if they repented You would be merciful!” He’s actually angry at God for being merciful to his enemies!

        • It’s God’s mercy and grace we’re dealing with! We don’t get to pick and choose who God deals mercifully with.

 

  • “God commanded the prophet to go to Israel’s enemy, Assyria, and give the city of Nineveh an opportunity to repent, and Jonah would much rather see the city destroyed.” – Warren Weirsbe

 

    • If you have to choose between seeing someone repent or seeing someone destroyed, and you choose destruction for them, then you hate them.

      • You can’t hate people AND reach them with the Gospel, and if we don’t desire to see people hear the Gospel and be redeemed, then we should consider whether or not we have even understood the love of God toward us. John tells us in 1 John 3:15 that we can’t have hate in our hearts because if we have hate dwelling in our hearts, then it’s the same as being a murderer. John says that no murderer has eternal life abiding in them.

    • This is something we can’t take lightly because we don’t get to pick and choose who God loves. We don’t get to pick and choose who needs the hope that is within us. 

 

Oh, and by the way, geographically speaking, do you know where Nineveh is today? It’s right about where modern day Mosul, Iraq is. Up until recently, Mosul was under the control of ISIS.

 

  • It would be like if God spoke to one of us today and said, “I want you to go to Iraq, and preach the good news of God’s love in Christ to the members of ISIS.”

  • God may not be calling not be calling us to the Middle East, but God might be talking to us and saying, “You know that person or those people that you don’t care for, and you wish they would go away, that’s who needs to hear the reason for the hope that is within you.”

 

We can’t read this story and pretend that this isn’t for us. We can’t read this story and pretend that we’re not like Jonah… which brings us to our next point. 

 

If Nineveh is the people who are far from God, then that would make Jonah the prophet who is far from God. 

 

A PROPHET FAR FROM GOD (v. 3)

“But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” – Jonah 1:3, NKJV

 

I think that last line in verse 3 is really interesting. Jonah is attempting to go from the presence of the Lord. You would think he would know better. Doesn’t he know Psalm 139 where David says, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.”

We’re not dealing with someone who doesn’t know who God is. We’re not dealing with someone who’s never had an experience with God before. 

 

Jonah gets on the boat, a storm comes up, and the captain goes into the boat where Jonah was sleeping to wake him up. This is where we pick up in verses 6-9. 

 

“So the captain came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.”
– Jonah 1:6, NKJV

  • They’re pagans. Their mindset is, “Let’s call on all the gods we can think of and maybe one of them will pick up the phone.” That doesn’t work so they come up with another solution.

 

And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, [throw dice] that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9 So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” – Jonah 1:7-9, NKJV

 

Notice what their immediate response is in verse 10. 

 

“Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.” – Jonah 1:10, NKJV

 

  • From Jonah’s perspective it almost doesn’t seem fair. These men are living lives of rebellion worshipping other gods, they probably get drunk from time to time, maybe they’re from other countries where sexual immorality is the norm. And now God has sent a big storm to toss their boat back and forth, and it’s not because these men are living lives of rebellion, it’s because Jonah has chosen to disobey God.

    • One of the things that Charles Spurgeon said that the book of Jonah taught us was that “God doesn’t allow his children to sin successfully.” What that means is that while everybody else in the world who doesn’t serve God may think they’re going to get away with their sin, selfishness, and rebellion. You, who serve God, should know better. You’re not going to get away with it. 

 

“Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”—for the sea was growing more tempestuous.” – Jonah 1:11, NKJV

 

One of the things we’re reminded of in the book of Jonah is that our sin doesn’t just affect us. Our sin affects other people. Those men in the boat would’ve never been rocked by this storm if Jonah, in his disobedience, hadn’t jumped on the boat and involved them in his mess.

  • The reason some people are bad parents, the reason some people are bad spouses is because they allow their sin to affect the decisions they make in terms of how they interact with their kids or their spouses. If you’re selfish, closed off, and always thinking about your needs and your desires, your sin of selfishness is going to affect your relationships.

    • What it all comes down to is this: the greatest gift you can give to anyone is your relationship with God. When your relationship with God thrives, your relationships with other people thrive. I am never a better husband to my wife than when I am pursuing my relationship with God.

 

This is what brings us to our final point. So far we’ve looked The People Far From God, The Prophet Far From God, and finally we see The Plan Orchestrated By God

 

THE PLAN ORCHESTRATED BY GOD

“And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.” 13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them 14 Therefore they cried out to the Lord and said, “We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.” – Jonah 1:12-15, NKJV

 

When I was a kid, my grandma did all kinds of crafts with plastic canvas and yarn. To this day, she still makes all kinds of things with that stuff.

Well, when I was a kid and I was travelling on the road with my grandparents, my grandma picked up this pattern book that showed how to cut out the canvas, and you could make these little Precious Moments scenes. One of them that she made was of a little boy carrying a hobo sack over his shoulder with one hand, and holding a teddy bear in the other, and the caption on it said, “You can’t run from God.”

To this day, in the back of my mind, I can still see that thing hanging on the refrigerator door at my mom’s house.

And in these verses in Jonah chapter 1, Jonah learns that lesson the hard way. 

 

Jonah finally understands that he can’t run from God. He’s been trying to up until now. 

 

  • Verse 3 – “…Jonah arose to flee… from the presence of the Lord.”

  • Verse 10 – “…the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.”

The story is clear. Jonah is trying to get away from God, and then finally Jonah realizes that this storm is God’s way of getting his attention. 

 

  • Tragedies happen and life is hard, and sometimes God uses the hard things in life to get our attention. So, what should we do? Submit to the storm. Allow God to use this to shape you and discipline you into the image of Christ.

  • Jonah knew the best thing he could do was get thrown into the storm. It didn’t matter if he died in the process of getting thrown overboard he knew he had to lean into the discipline that God was using.

  • If you’re going through a rough patch right now and you feel like God might be trying to get your attention, then lean into it because it will be over eventually, and when it is it will produce a fruit of righteousness in your life. How do I know that? Hebrews 12 says so. 

 

“If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” – Hebrews 12:7-11, NKJV

 

The plan of God was always for Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach. He could get there in a boat or he could get there in a fish, but either way he was going to end up exactly where God wanted him. 

 

  • We’re going to end up exactly where God wants us, but we have a choice. We can make the journey more painful by our sinfulness and stubbornness or we can lean into the plan of God for our lives. 

 

Jonah’s awareness of his situation and his self-sacrifice is what made the difference in his life and in the lives of those sailors. Look what happened after they threw him overboard. 

 

“Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows.” – Jonah 1:16, NKJV

 

  • It’s the sacrifice on Jonah’s part that leads to a point of real salvation for the sailors. They go from fearing the storm and crying out to false gods to fearing and crying to the real God who made the storm.

  • We don’t have to look very hard to see that there’s a certain irony in the book of Jonah. Jonah, who is supposed to be close to God, runs from Him, hops on this boat full of pagan sailors, and when it’s all said and done, Jonah is out of the boat in the middle of the sea, and it’s the sailors who have a relationship with God.

  • If we fast forward to Nineveh, Jonah preaches, Nineveh repents, Jonah is angry because they repented and he’s now left in chapter 4 sitting under a tree waiting to die.

    • From Jonah’s perspective everything worked out for everybody, but him. He wanted to see wrath and destruction. He didn’t care that people’s lives were made whole. He didn’t care that God extended mercy. 

 

CONCLUSION

This morning we have a choice: we can be like Jonah and hate our enemies or we can be like Jesus and love our enemies. 

 

I want to mention this and then I’ll close. There’s a story in John chapter 4 of Jesus approaching a woman at a well, and he asks her to get him something to drink. 

 

  • Now, this wasn’t an ordinary nice Jewish girl. She was a Samaritan woman. Samaritans were different. Samaritans were basically the product of Jews procreating with Gentiles so they were considered half-breeds. Now, that doesn’t mean much to us. We’re Gentile Americans. Who cares if Jesus is talking to a Samaritan woman at a well?

  • I said earlier that we all have biases so if it helps, imagine someone that you have a hard time loving – a Republican, a Democrat, a conservative, a liberal, a Mexican, a Middle Easterner. Jesus is talking to this woman and when the disciples return they can’t believe it. Jesus is actually conversing with a Samaritan. 

 

Now, we learn through the story that not only is she a Samaritan, but she’s also an adultress. That’s a double-whammy. 

 

Now, when the disciples came back they couldn’t believe it, but the Bible says that they didn’t ask, “What were you doing talking to her?” You know why? Because they’re not going to have the audacity to tell Jesus who He can and cannot talk to. 

 

  • But Jonah wanted to, and you know what? We do too. We have this tendency to think that the Gospel is for good people, but the Gospel but the truth is that there are no good people and bad people. We’re all bad. There’s only dead people and living people. And the Gospel is that Jesus came to raise dead people to life. 

 

So, after the Samaritan woman leaves, the disciples offer Him something to eat. He responds by saying, “I have food to eat that you do not know of… my food is to do the will of Him who sent me.” (John 4:32, 34)

 

  • So, my question is this, do you want to do God’s will? Or are you content with doing your own thing and living life on your own terms? Really, those are your only two options. 

 

You’ve got to pick between your will and God’s. Whose will it be? Let’s pray.

So, This is Christmas

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At my home church, I preach on the third Sunday night of every month, and every other Wednesday. And since my pastor isn’t really the sermon series kinda guy (which is perfectly fine for his style of preaching), I’ve decided that I’m going to use my preaching dates as opportunity to try my first shot at preaching an advent series.

In case you couldn’t already tell my inspiration for the title “So, This is Christmas” comes from the opening lines of John Lennon’s 1971 Christmas hit, “Happy Xmas (War is Over).”

When this song came out it was an anthem for peace in the UK and eventually the song got more popular over the years, and The Fray has even recorded a cover of it (which is fantastic by the way, check it out here).

What I really want to do in this series is give us a reminder that Jesus really is the reason for the season. In reality, that should be the goal of every advent series. As a matter of fact, the goal of your preaching (regardless of where you are in the Church calendar) should be to exalt Christ and present the Gospel. I think so often we’re trying to come up with original ideas for our preaching. “Maybe I can present this new idea or that new idea.” “Maybe, I can try a different approach.” While creativity in a sermon series isn’t a bad thing, it can become a bad thing when we make the focus all about how ‘original’ we are instead of how good God is. In reality there’s nothing new under the sun, and if we think it’s new then it’s probably just an old heresy revisited.

But, in case you’re interested, here’s the basic outline that I’m thinking of working with:

Sermon 1: The ‘Who’ of Christmas
Text: John 1:1-5

Sometimes we just need to return to the basics. In the hustle and bustle of the busy Christmas we try to find the right gifts for our friends and family we must remember that God has given us the ultimate gift of His son, Jesus Christ.

Sermon 2: The ‘What’ of Christmas
Text: Hebrews 2:10-18

In this message we’ll look specifically at what Jesus came to do. In this message, we’ll cover the Incarnation, a brief overview of the life of Christ, and his death and resurrection. 

Sermon 3: The ‘Why’ of Christmas
Text: 1 John 3:8

Carl F.H. Henry said, “The early church didn’t say, ‘Look what the world has become!’ They said, ‘Look what has come into the world!” 1 John 3:8 clearly says that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. That’s the ‘why’ of Christmas. So, what does that look like for us? What are the works of the devil and what does it look like for them to be destroyed in our lives and in the world?

I realize that these are not the traditional texts that one may use for their Christmas readings, but I believe that this is the guideline that I’m supposed to use in this advent season. If you like it, feel free to use it.