the message of the prophet Jonah. God Rules, O.K.?
Please read the following verses from the book of Jonah. They show us the activity of God in these events:
Jonah 1:1,2,4,9,14, 2:1,6,10,3:1,3,4,7,8,9, 4:1,6,11.
See Jonah 3:1-2 also.
Jonah is the only narrative (story action) of these minor prophets. It has caused controversy because of the main characters – the prophet, the fish and the crew.
There is every reason to believe the guilty prophet Jonah was a real person – he is mentioned as such by 2 Kings 14:25 a prophet in the reign of King Jeroboam II; and he is spoken of by Jesus as a sign to the Jewish religious leaders, Matthew 12:39-45 and Luke 11: 24-32 (especially vs 30).
The great fish, 1:17, could be a known creature, or one made by our creator God for this purpose.
The gallant crew 1:13, who tried to save Jonah from the sea, may have prepared Nineveh for Jonah’s message by spreading the story of his drowning.
But the ‘star’ of the story is none of these. It is the Lord God Himself. We’ll read the 25 verses which speak directly of God: they highlight the activity of the Lord in the life of people. Ten examples if we can!
1. God loves people in spite of their wickedness, 1:1, 2.
The population of Nineveh may have been careless of their own sins, but their sins were known to God. The people couldn’t care less – God couldn’t care more. He warned them of judgement coming. He didn’t have to, but He did.
Illustration: When writing a document, drawing a picture, making a dress, repairing something in the home – how often have you said ‘I can’t be bothered with this – let’s throw it out and start again’? Thank God He has never done that with humanity!
2. God plans to use His spokesman, His prophet, to bring repentance. “(So) the word of the Lord came to Jonah.” “Go and preach against Nineveh.”
God is so great. The super-abundant wickedness of humankind leads to the Word of God being given and the love of God being expressed. Jonah is told by God to call the people to reject the status quo. “There is time for you to change course. The course you’ve chosen now is headed for judgement.”
But Jonah disobeys! We’re told later on, why he does so, 4:1, 2. Jonah did not have God’s love for the people of Nineveh – another nationality and different ethnic group. He, a Jew, hated the Assyrian Ninevites. He wanted God to rain down fire and brimstone from heaven – they’d suffer in getting what they deserved! There is no place for racism, tribalism undue national pride among God’s people. They can take you away from God’s will.
3. God follows His disobedient prophet. 1:4. Just as God loved the wicked Ninevites and tried to win them over, so He loved His rebellious spokesman (prophet). Jonah substitutes his own will for God’s will, but God doesn’t raise up a substitute for Jonah – an alternative preacher. He could have done. The fish could have preached! He keeps close to Jonah, hedging him around, speaking to him and giving him many chances to obey.
Application: What about you? Are you ‘away from the Lord”? 1:3. Away in heart, if not in distance? You know there is something you should do, you know God’s will for you, but you are avoiding it? Running away did not change anything for Jonah – except his location! Jonah found a convenient port, and a convenient sailing – “whenever we decide to do wrong, the devil helps us.” We think we’re able to disobey God with impunity (without consequence).
He said he was “a Hebrew worshiper of the Lord God of heaven, who made sea and land”, 1:9 but his life denied it! What about you?
Illustration: Suppose you were to run 100m against the Jamaican world champion: 10,000m against three Kenyans – who would win? You’ve even less chance of running (getting) away from God!
4. God makes Jonah face the consequences of his choice
The storm hurled by God into the sea about Jonah’s ship terrified even seasoned sailors. It intensified. Jonah realised his personal guilt seriously affected others. Vs12 “It is my fault … this great storm has come upon you.” Even nature is affected by mankind’s sin!
I don’t think Jonah is being selfless when he volunteers to be thrown overboard. Some feel he did this to save the crew. I believe he still hates Ninevites and wants them to be judged. He has worked out that “death will stop him having to preach there” – so he opts for death rather than obedience! Do you invent schemes against God?
5. God used great disobedience, to win some 1:14-16.
The seamen discovered by experience how awesome the true God is and how worthless all their other gods were.
“Direct divine intervention is one of the great characteristics of Jonah.” God provided His “Word” 1:1; “a great wind” 1:4; 1:17 now “a great calm” for the crew and “a great fish” for Jonah!
The activity of God in peoples’ lives:
1. He loves in spite of wickedness.
2. He plans to use His people to bring others to repentance.
3. He follows even His disobedient spokesman.
4. He makes Jonah face the consequences of his wrong choice.
5. He used great disobedience to win some people to faith.
6. God teaches Jonah his sovereignty chapter 2.
Jonah’s conversation with God from the fish’s belly must be written from personal testimony. Vs3 he says to the Lord “You hurled me into the deep … to the very heart of the seas.” We know the ship’s crew actually picked him up and threw him. We know it was Jonah’s own disobedience which caused it to be necessary. But behind and through it all Sovereign God was working. His sovereign greatness encloses all mankind’s free choices. Jonah realises this.
Now Jonah’s mind is correctly centred on God he affirms “You hurled me into the sea.”
Application: Do you believe God works in everything in your life right now? The setbacks, the delays, the frustrations etc. God is in them all.
7. God teaches Jonah His mercy chapter 3. Vs1 “a second time” “the Lord’s word came.” God gave (vs2) the message Nineveh needed to hear and called His man to do it. Even the warning of judgement Jonah had to preach was evidence of God’s mercy to the Ninevites. God wasn’t about to abandon them, just as He hadn’t abandoned Jonah.
3:5 city-wide revival! Not a Jew in sight except for Jonah, but the population, as one person, show evidence of repentance and recognition of God’s voice.
8. God shows Jonah his own wrong attitudes chapter 4.
Vs 1 his ‘success’ upset him! Perhaps he thought it made himself look foolish – he’s preached judgement and now it wasn’t going to happen? Perhaps his racism was mad that the Ninevites had escaped!
Jonah’s view of God, eloquently put in 4:2 is only in word, theoretical, head knowledge, not deed. He believed in a “gracious, loving, self-controlled and persevering God” but he couldn’t accept the consequences of that – forgiveness for the repentant Ninevites.
Application: In your life do you have to always be right? What if you’re made to look wrong? Suppose the people you don’t like are really blessed by God! For example if there was national revival from God among northern Moslems. I am afraid some who work among Southerners are not even concerned for the salvation of Northerners. Suppose God worked revival among a different tribe, another church denomination, or another Mission’s work?
9. God engages Jonah in a battle of wills 4:4ff.
Jonah makes a shelter and settles to watch Nineveh fall away from God’s grace, revert to old ways, and receive God’s retribution. God deepens the shade and grants cooler temperatures with a quick-growing vine. But then “God provides (a hungry) worm” who destroys the vine exposing the weakness of Jonah’s shelter in the hot wind and scorching sun.
Illustration: vs9, God questions Jonah’s anger at the loss of the vine and shelter. “You’re being selfish”, God says. “You only want what you want.” “You do not really want what I want.”
Illustration: Supposing here in Sudan, God wants for 25 years, an Islamic theocracy, with no permitted Christian church worship – the expulsion Southward of all Christians; the expulsion internationally of all international Christians; the closure of Theological education; making it illegal to possess and read a Bible.
How would you respond? Something very close to that happened in China 1949 and the result 50 years on was a strong Chinese underground church – far more vibrant than any of the institutionalised churches have ever been.
Supposing God wants that here? Would you sulk like Jonah because your dreams and visions have tumbled down?
10. God reserves the right to know best. 4:11. God knew his love for 120,000 unbelieving Ninevites and He was going to warn them – and save those who repented. They all did. Jonah didn’t like it. But he wasn’t God!! Only God could be God.
The activity of God in people’s lives:
6. He teaches Jonah His sovereignty.
7. He teaches Jonah His mercy.
8. He shows/uncovers Jonah’s wrong attitudes.
9. He engages Jonah in a battle of wills.
10. He reserves the right to be right – always!
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, (There is No other way).
Where are you on your walk with God? Running away or right in step with your God?
God Rules, O.K.?
Khartoum International Church August 25th 2002.