Summary: Whoever and wherever you are, God’s love is pursuing you.
Big Idea: Whoever and wherever you are, God’s love is PURSUING you.
Max Lucado: “You are valuable because you exist. Not because of what you do or what you have done, but simply because you are.”
Philip Yancey: “There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less.”
Augustine: “He loves each one of us, as if there were only one of us.”
Who is Jonah?
• He is a PROPHET of God (2 Kings 14:25).
o He prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II, the king of Israel from 793-753 B.C.
o He is the only prophet to be sent to a foreign nation. Daniel was captured and deported to Babylon, but Jonah was told to go to Assyria on his own.
o He is the only prophet to refuse to carry out his mission.
o He was a great preacher. When Jesus gave Simon the name Peter, after his great confession of Jesus as the Christ, He calls him by his surname “Simon son of Jonah” (Matthew 16:17). This reference may be more than coincidental, considering Peter’s later effective preaching in Jerusalem (Acts 2:14-42).
o Both were from Galilee (Gath Hepher was only a short distance from Nazareth).
o Jonah struggled with his call to preach; Jesus struggled to do the will of the Father (at Gethsemane).
o Both caused the storm to cease after sleeping through it (Jonah through repentance; Jesus through His divinity).
o Both willingly chose death for the sake of others.
o Jonah entered the jaws of a fish; Jesus entered the jaws of the tomb.
o Both were kept for three days.
o Both were raised up again by the Father.
o Jonah’s obedience in preaching led to the conversion of a great city; Jesus’ obedience led to the conversion of many people around the world.
1. God’s love pursues those who are AGAINST Him (like the people of Nineveh).
“Go to that great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me” (v. 2).
Nineveh was a “great” city:
• It was great in size. It was possibly the largest city in the world at that time. Its population could have been as high as 600,000.
• It was great in importance. Within 50 years Nineveh would become the capital of the Assyrian Empire.
• It was great in wickedness.
“But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish” (v. 3a).
Did Jonah really think he could hide “from the Lord” (literally, “from the LORD’S presence”)?
• Jonah would have known Psalm 139:7-10: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”
• To flee from the Lord’s presence probably means to flee from the temple (“I will look again to your holy temple,” 2:4).
• Many scholars believe Tarshish was located in southern Spain. That would make it the farthest point west known in Jonah’s day. The Lord would not have been honored or known there. Jonah knows he cannot really escape the God of the universe, but he can try to forget Him in the midst of another culture.
Why did Jonah not want to go to Nineveh? (Not because the mission was too difficult or he was afraid.) He didn’t want Nineveh to be FORGIVEN. The Assyrians were famous for their extreme cruelty, and they were Israel’s worst enemy. (They would eventually conquer Israel.)
“O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (4:2).
Jonah subscribes to the thinking, “What goes around comes around.” He wants God to be consistent: to destroy the wicked prosper the righteous. He believes God is making an inconsistent and dangerous move by offering to forgive the people of Nineveh. Jonah would rather die than go to Nineveh.
“But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (4:11).
God’s love is always UNDESERVED:
• Nineveh deserved to perish in their sin, but God sent Jonah.
• Jonah deserved to perish in the sea, but God sent “a great fish.”
• We deserved to perish in our sin, but God sent His Son (John 3:16-17).
2. God’s love pursues those who are UNINTERESED in Him (like the sailors).
“At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him” (4:16).