Summary: A study of the Book of Jonah.
There are some stories contained in the Bible that many people in the world who aren’t even Christians know. Stories like David and Goliath. Why, every time there is an underdog in the sporting world, the TV announcers use the analogy of David and Goliath; the little guy who defeated the big guy.
Almost everyone has heard of Noah and the ark. Moses and the Ten Commandments are well known by people.
Another story from the Bible that many people know of is the story of Jonah and the great fish. Jonah is the book of the Bible we want to look at tonight.
The book of Jonah, or more accurately, the story of Jonah is so well known that we can sometimes skip over it and ignore what the true message of the book of Jonah is. That is the task we face tonight. We want to ask ourselves, “What is the true message of the book of Jonah?”
Let’s start in the beginning of the book and work our way through to the true message of the book of Jonah.
1. Jonah 1:1-16 – You can’t hide from God!
Maybe the message of the Book of Jonah is that we cannot hide from God. Notice first of all that we cannot hide our sins from God. God not only knew what was going on in the land of Israel, God also knew what was going on in the city of Nineveh.
So many times people think they can hide their sins from God. Some think that if there isn’t enough light that God won’t notice. If I can just go to this dark room, no one will notice. However, from the book of Jonah we learn that nothing is unnoticed by the Lord. God said in verse two, “their wickedness has come up before Me.” You cannot hide from God.
The strange twist in this story is not only can we not hide from God, but that Jonah the prophet of God thought he could run away from God. What was Jonah thinking? He paid for his boat ride as far away as he could go! Jonah forgot one thing… God is in control of the weather channel.
Verse 4 tells us that God sent a violent storm on the sea. The storm was so bad the ship was in danger of breaking up. Finally, the sailors had to resort to casting lots to determine whose fault it was. The lot fell to Jonah. He was thrown overboard. You simply cannot hide from God!
Is that the entire message of the book of Jonah? No, I think we need to keep reading.
2. Jonah 1:17 – 2:10 – God listens and answers prayers!
We’ve already seen that you cannot hide from God, now we see that is true even if you are in the belly of a great fish. God can still hear and see you. This had to be the strangest location for a prayer meeting, but sure enough, Jonah prayed to God from inside the fish.
This was a time of searching for Jonah. This was a time of repentance for Jonah. After running from God, Jonah now runs to God.
And notice what happens when Jonah returns to God. Verse 10 says, “And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Once again the Bible proves that you can’t keep a good man down.
While this is a good message to learn from the Book of Jonah, we want to keep looking for the deeper message.
3. Jonah 3:1 – 3:9 – Obedience is the sign of true repentance.
After Jonah repented, he did what God wanted him to do. He preached to the city of Nineveh. Look at the results of obeying God. He had a tremendous response to the message he preached.
We are asked by God to go and tell the world the good news. Yet so often we don’t want to. But a truly repentant person obeys what God has told them to do. Isn’t it interesting that when Peter was asked by the crowd what to do in order to be saved, he put repentance before baptism. Obedience is the sign of true repentance.
But is that the real message of the book? Let’s try to go further.
4. Jonah 3:10 – 4:2 – God is a God of Grace!
Here is where we finally get into what I believe is the heart of Jonah… the grace of God. Why didn’t Jonah want to go to Nineveh? He hated them! He couldn’t stand them. And he knew just as soon as God asked him to go, that if he did, God would probably show grace to them.
God tries to teach Jonah a lesson. Jonah 4:4-11. The book ends without telling us Jonah’s response. I think it ends to give us an opportunity to respond as well.