Summary: The first sermon in a series on Jonah, concentrating on 3 timeless truths: God takes notice of sin (and takes it seriously), running from God is not healthy, and God always pursues us.
The Running Man: A Pursuing God
In 1987 a movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger called “The Running Man” came out. This was a movie about a futuristic game show (set in todays time) that used convicted criminals as what they called “Runners” who, if they defeated all of the gladiators (the good guys) would receive their freedom. It was a life or death situation, and the reality of it was that all of the convicts were set up for failure. The game was rigged. Arnold played a character named Ben Richards, who was a ex-military helicopter pilot who had been set up in a failed military mission. He was innocent, but to win this game to prove his innocence to the country.
Today, we are going to look at a Running Man from the past named Jonah. I am sure you have all heard of Jonah. If you have been in church since childhood you probably know that Jonah was the Israelite prophet swallowed by a fish, spent 3 days in his belly, and then was spit out onto the beach. But there is so much more to this story than the “fish story.” As we look at the movie the Running Man and see that its idea of what today’s society was going to be was probably a little off, but looking back to the year 700 b.c., we see that Jonah, even though he lived in a much different time period, was a lot like us in many ways. We see a man who was called by God, who did everything he could shirk his responsibilities. We see a man who had been blessed by God, who takes it for granted. We see a man who keeps receiving the forgiveness and mercy of God, who keeps falling back into the same old patterns of sin. In fact, Jonah’s attitude and actions were representative of his nation Israel, who had been given God’s blessing and continued to shirk their responsibilities, take their blessing for granted, and fall back into the same sin, and no matter how many times they did this God saved them. As we look back on Jonah from 2015, I want you to see that in many ways we have the same tendency as Jonah to run from God, to run from our calling, to run from obeying God. We are as much “The Running Man” as Jonah, and we need to recognize that and start running to God and not from him.
So, with that in mind, today we are going to begin looking at the book of Jonah, and if you have your Bibles with you, we are going to read all of Jonah 1. If you don’t have your Bibles, it will be on the screen.
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.”
3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, 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.
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. 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. 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.”
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.)
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.”