Summary: God has a Nineveh for every one of us -- a place we don't want to go; a command we don't want to obey. Going to Nineveh is unpopular, it will cost us, it doesn't make sense and it's hard. But God's purpose in dealing with us is to save many souls.
ANYWHERE BUT NINEVEH
1. A city slicker pulled up to a farmhouse. He saw a farmer's wife on the front porch.
2. He pointed down the road; "Can I get to Quincy that way?" "Yep." "How far is it?" "25,000 miles!"
3. "What?" How far is it the other way?" "3 miles. It just depends on which way you want to go," she said.
4. We’re going to read about a guy who decided to go the long way.
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 …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. 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. 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 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. 2:10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. 3:1 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jon. 1:1-7,9-12,15-17; 2:10; 3:1-2 NIV.
C. PICTURE OF RUNNING FROM GOD
1. Many people find it difficult to take the book of Jonah seriously because they don't believe a man could be swallowed by a whale and live to tell the story. The following is the account of a modern-day man who underwent a similar experience. It was recorded in the Princeton Theological Review, volume 25, 1927, p. 636.
In February 1891, the whaling ship Star of the East was in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands and sighted a large sperm whale 3 miles away. Two boats were launched. One of the boats attacked the whale but was upset by the lash of its tail. One man was drowned and another man, James Bartley, disappeared. The whale was killed and pulled to the side of the ship where a crew with axes and spades removed the blubber. They worked all day and part of the night. The next morning they removed the stomach and hoisted it onto the deck. The sailors were startled when, among the contents of the stomach, was found the missing sailor, doubled up and unconscious. He was laid on the deck and washed down with seawater which revived him… He remained two weeks I raving lunatic… At the end of the third week he had entirely recovered from shock and resumed his duties. He later recounted his experience of being swallowed, being inside the stomach, where he could easily breathe but the heat was terrible. His skin was exposed to the gastric juices and his face, neck and hands were bleached to a deadly whiteness and never fully recovered their normal appearance. Otherwise his health did not seem affected by his terrible experience.
2. Jonah means "A Dove.” Jonah is a picture of the Believer. The name, Amittai, means "My Truth."
3. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Genesis 10:11-12 tells us it was built by Nimrod, an evil despot. Jonah 4:11 says it had 120,000 inhabitants. It was approximately 48 miles across. Its moral character was comparable to Sodom & Gomorrah - "Their wickedness is come up before Me" Jon. 1:1; Gen. 18:20-21.