Summary: Because of His relentless love, God does not give up on us even when we give up on Him
Show clip from “Taken”.
This gripping scene is from the 2008 film “Taken”. In that movie, retired CIA agent Bryan Mills, played by Liam Neeson, has only 96 hours to find his daughter, who has been kidnapped. Early in the movie we learn that Mills’ relationship with his daughter hasn’t always been great, due in large part to his work. But he decides to change his career path in order to try and gain back some of the time and trust he lost with his only daughter.
So Mills relentlessly pursues his daughter, overcoming all kinds of obstacles along the way. When he finally finds her on the yacht of a rich Arab businessman, where she had been sold into slavery, and saves her, she collapses into the arms of her bloodied and beaten father and says, “Daddy you came for me.” To which Mills replies quietly “I told you I would”.
For the next four weeks, we’re going to look at the story of another Father who loves his children so much that He is willing to relentlessly pursue them like that, even when they have rebelled against Him.
Most people consider that story to be the biggest fish story ever told. But it’s not a story about a fish, nor is it even a story about a fisherman. It is instead a story about God and His relentless love for all – even those we would not expect. And secondarily it is a story about a reluctant prophet named Jonah who is a lot more like all of us that we would like to admit.
My goal is to accomplish two important goals over these next four weeks:
1) I want us all to develop a greater appreciation of the love of a God who constantly pursues us even when we run away from Him, and
2) I want us all to develop a deeper love for others, especially for those who might seem far from God or who might be so much different from us.
The story of Jonah is one of the most familiar in the entire Bible for many of us. If we’ve been around the church for any time at all, it’s one that most of us learned as kids. The story itself is not all that long. In my Bible it takes up less than two pages. But I’m pretty sure that we’re going to learn some things from that story that we may not have considered before.
So go ahead and turn in your Bibles to the book of Jonah. If you’re not sure where that is, it’s between the books of Obadiah and Micah. Honestly, that might not be a whole lot of help since Obadiah, which we’ll be studying in July, is only one chapter long. So there’s no shame in using your table of contents to find it – that’s what it’s there for. Or, if you’re using the same Bible I’m using, it begins on page 774.
Before I read the first chapter, I want to show you a brief video that will give us an overview of the history and structure of the book.
Show “Jonah” video from The Bible Project (thru 2:12).
With that background in mind, please follow along as I read the first chapter.
[Read Jonah 1:1-17]
In verse 1, we read that “the word of the Lord came to Jonah”. That is a phrase that is used frequently in the Old Testament to indicate that someone is a prophet. God’s direction to Jonah is very clear – He is to go to Nineveh and preach the message that God will give him.
Jonah would have been very familiar with Nineveh, which was located in Assyria. The Assyrians had been long time enemies of Israel and the Ninevites were known for being particularly brutal and vicious. They had been known to skin alive the men they had defeated in battle and then bury them in the sand to suffer a slow, cruel death. So it’s not hard to understand Jonah’s reluctance to go there.
But in one of the many twists that permeate the book of Jonah, we’re not going to find out the real reason that Jonah disobeys God until we get to chapter 4. So if you want to find that out, you’ll have to come back in three weeks.
Now you have to give it to Jonah, when he decides to disobey God, he sure doesn’t do it half-heartedly, does he? Instead of heading east about 300 miles to go to Nineveh, he instead heads 2,500 miles in the opposite direction towards Tarshish in Spain. [Show map].
He begins his journey by going down to the seaport in Joppa – notice that in this part of the story Jonah is always going down – and there he finds a ship that is ready to sail for his intended destination. He goes down into the ship and it sets sale towards Tarshish. Jonah goes down once again into the inner part of the ship and falls asleep. And it was not a little cat nap, but rather a deep sleep.