I am not going to wow you with deep theological statements or thoughts. I want to start with something that maybe everyone is familiar and can possible relate to this morning.
If you have your Bible, you can turn to the Book of Jonah:
Before I get into the book of Jonah, there are some things that I want to share with you.
1) Jonah is one of the most ridiculed books by liberal scholars.
2) No other book in the Bible has been attacked more than Jonah.
3) The story of a fish swallowing a man and the man living sounds impossible, and since most liberal scholars deny the possibility of the supernatural, they reject the book of Jonah as anything but a fairy tale. Probably everybody has heard explanations of this story. We have seen cartoons and pictures and movies about the possibilities. Some critics have came up with all kinds of arguments such as:
A. The story is a another depiction of Hercules and the Sea Monster, no similarity,
B. one states Jonah was thrown over and found refuge in a dead fish that was floating,
C. One says, “While he was asleep, he dreamed of this tale.
If that were true, then how did he end up in Nineveh? ” Despite what everyone says, Jonah is a real person, which can be validated and historically proven.
In 2 Kings 14:23-25. 23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel became king in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. 24 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Ne-bat, which he had caused Israel to commit. 25 He was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Ha-math to the Dead Sea,[e] in accordance with the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher. More evidence is found by the Lord Jesus himself in Luke 11:30 and Matthew 12:39.
Luke 11:30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.
Matthew 12:39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.
Jesus himself validates the authenticity of Jonah. This is historical, we can prove it, and the bottom line is “I believe God did it, it happened as God said it did and that’s that.”
It is difficult to pinpoint when the author of the book actually put the story on paper. It could have been written soon after the events or long after the events. Some date the writing of the book in the Persian period because of certain literary features, vocabulary, etc.What is clear is that the events of the book took place while Ninevah was capitol of Assyria.
Let’s get into the Word.
1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
Now Jonah is called. He is commissioned to do something. He has instructions to go to Nineveh. Nineveh is described as a great city, huge city among the Tigris River. This huge city had become wicked in the sight of God. So God calls Jonah to, “Go to the great city.”
I’m going to stop right there for just a moment. The Word says Romans 11:29 “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. They are not removed. Everyone has a calling on their life. Some hear the voice of God and ignore. Others hear that quite voice in your heart but refuse to give in. Many of you already know that you are supposed to be doing something you are not.
Have you ever thought, why did God send Jonah? The scripture said they were wicked; but why did he care? God is love and love is God.
Now Jonah has been given instructions and he does something different than what he was told.
3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Jappa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
He does something strange. Instead of heading for Ninevah, which was really the world power of that day, which was in the east. He goes down to Jappa and buys a ticket to Tarshish. Tarshish is the city founded by the Phoenicians like many other seaports in the Mediterranean, located off the coast of Spain. In fact they were the ones that named England which means, tin.
So who’s the problem here? God tells him to go East and he goes West. Why did he do this?
Jonah is the problem here. He hated Ninevah. They were brutal, they tortured people, and they were mean. They would take a man and burry him up to his neck, and leave him in the hot sun until he died. So you see Jonah despised the Ninevites. It’s possible based on the behavior of the Ninevites that Jonah’s home town could have raided and destroyed as well. Jonah also knew that when he preached the message of repentance and judgment and the people repented then God would save them and he did.
I believe with all my heart that this moment God would have orchestrated a real estate company, put the owners, on e of them doing real estate for over 30 years just in a position we could have this service, and raised me up under all the years of ministry and heartache just for you this morning. God loves enough that he would put all of this and all of us together just because he loves you.
Jonah wants to do things his way. He is defiant.
4 Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.
Understand what happened here. A supernatural event had occurred. The sailors were certainly used to storms at sea but this was no ordinary storm. You see this was a supernatural storm. The sailors were scared and worried to the point they called out to their pagan Gods and even threw valuable cargo over the ship just to lighten it.
God had a purpose for this storm. God will allow storms to come in your life and as a friend of mine said, “You have either just come through a storm or your fixing to go into one.” There have been supernatural events that have happened in my life to steer me back to the love of God. I want you to know there are about 5 message in this passage alone but I am going to point out a couple of things.
1) Just as God has orchestrated a real estate office to share the gospel, God orchestrated a storm in order to : 1) Save the People of Ninevah, 2) Teach a disobedient prophet.
He may allow things to happen in your life so he can bring you back to him.
So now the scene is unveiled. A supernatural storm is occurring.
6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.
Casting lots was a way to settle disputes and so forth and even though we may not approve of the way it was handled; but I believe God can still direct anything and in this case, the lot fell on Jonah, once again part of God’s plan.
8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
The sailors didn’t know a lot about the Hebrew or Israelite people but they did know they worshipped one God and one God only. So they ask him, v10.
10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)
Jonah had told them what he was doing. This brought a lot of perspective into the light.
I remember when I was first called to ministry; I didn’t want to do it. I can tell you today, I didn’t want to start this church but I remember what happened when I told God, “no.” The reason I am here is not money, it’s not for prestige or anything one would think of. When I first called to ministry I ignored it and then my son Taylor was born, God put me in the belly of the fish. We were told that Taylor was dying if he didn’t have open heart surgery and have it soon. I remember getting on my knees and telling God, “If you’ll save my son, I’ll give my life to you.” God saved my son, in fact the surgeon told me that he may have made it another week. We stayed my mothers waiting on the call from Vanderbilt to do the surgery. The fact that we were there was God speaking through her. She came and got him when we were living near Kentucky and brought him to Chattanooga when he was not acting right. God had told her there was a problem, she might not have known the problem but the Holy spirit told her there was and she drove all the way toward KY and came and got him. The doctor here found the problem. I worked at Coors electronics a couple years after that and I discovered why Vanderbilt had called us to do surgery when they did. A mechanic I worked with had a picture of his little boy on his toolbox. I asked him, how old is he? He told me that he had died at Vanderbilt in Nov of 1991. I asked him who his doctor was and he told me Dr. William Merrill. He died awaiting heart surgery. You see the reason my son was there earlier was because his son had died before Vanderbilt could do surgery and that made a place for my son. I went back to my lab and cried like a baby. Was it a coincidence this man ended up working with me, I think not. One of the chemists asked me what was going on and I had told him that I promised to serve God if my son lived. He was a Jehovah Witness and he looked at me and said, if you made a promise to God, I think you better keep it. God has ways of directing our paths. Jonah knew what he had done.
11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the LORD, “Please, LORD, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, LORD, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.
17 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.
18 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
2:1 Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish