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Summary: Those who backslide and rebel against God are in for a rough ride, as depicted by the story of Jonah, God’s stubborn prophet. But repentance will set everything right, and put us on course once again.

Backslider On A Bumpy Boat

Text: Jonah 2: 1-2

Intro: The Book of Jonah is considered to be one of the Minor Prophets. It is a relatively short book, containing only four chapters, 48 verses, and 1,321 words. Yet it holds great truths that can readily be applied to Christians of any age.

This little book tells us of a rather reluctant prophet of God, named Jonah. Like many of God’s people, Jonah balked when God’s will didn’t fit in with his way of thinking and his plans. Jonah’s disobedience literally landed him in a very messy situation.

It’s rather interesting to note the fact that the name “Jonah” means, “Dove.” Since the dove is often recognized as a symbol of peace, this idea is in sharp contrast to Jonah’s obvious disobedience to God’s instructions, the results of which were anything but peaceful. The moment Jonah decided to rebel against God’s revealed will, peace was no longer a part of the equation, for the backslider always forfeits their peace. Anytime we backslide on God, we can expect our peace to get dumped overboard, as it were.

The Bible exhorts Christians to, “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts…” (Col.3: 15a). Not only should the peace of God call the shots in our lives, as far as knowing the will of God is concerned, but it should also be the norm in our Christian walk. But the backslider is likely to find himself on a very bumpy boat, enduring a rough journey for which they never bargained. Such was the case with the prophet Jonah.

Theme: The backslider needs to be aware that:

I. THEY CANNOT ESCAPE GOD’S PRESENCE

A. Notice The Command That Jonah Was Expected To Follow.

Jonah 1: 1 “Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,

2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.”

NOTE: [1] There are some who view the Book of Jonah as merely an allegory. However, 2 Kings 14: 25 proves that Jonah was a real person, and a prophet of God, “…who ministered in the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II (793-753 B.C.).” The Lord Jesus viewed Jonah as a historic person, and saw his encounter with the big fish as a type of His death, burial, and resurrection (Matt.12: 41; Luke 11: 32).

[2] Nineveh was one of the chief cities of the kingdom of Assyria, which was an enemy of Israel, and was “…located on the east bank of the Tigris River in Mesopotamia…” God gave Jonah strict instructions to go and “…cry against…” the city of Nineveh; or in other words, inform them of God’s coming judgment (v. 2a). God refers to Nineveh as a “…great city…” (v. 2a), which simply means that it was a “…big city; for it is the number of its inhabitants that is being stressed.” In Jonah 3: 3, we are told that “Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey.” Also, we are told in Jonah 4: 11, that there were more than 120,000 inhabitants in Nineveh.

[3] Genesis 12: 1-3 indicates that God intended the nation of Israel to be a blessing to the Gentiles—the ones through whom all the nations of the earth would come to learn of the one true God. But like Jonah, they disobeyed. It was due to Jonah’s prejudice against the Assyrians that he, at first, refused to go minister to the Ninevites (Jonah 1: 3), for as he would later state: “For I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil” (Jonah 4: 2b).

B. Notice That Jonah Chose To Flee.

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

NOTE: [1] Jonah sought to run from the presence of God. That statement basically means that though Jonah knew the will of God, he rebelled against it, and sought to distance himself from it. God had told Jonah to go and warn the Ninevites of impending judgment. But due to the fact that the Ninevites were the enemies of Israel, Jonah didn’t believe they deserved God’s mercy. How could Jonah, who was himself a sinner, presume to tell God who did and did not deserve His mercy?

In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that during his student days he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in the teachings of Jesus he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India.

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