Summary: Be careful when you read the story of Jonah that you are not distracted by the big fish, the big city, or the popular prophet. The story ks about the God who is bigger and above yet completely involved in the story of grace.
Intro: Top 10 THINGS TO DO INSIDE A BIG FISH
10) “Can you hear me now?” 9) Pray the fish is ….. bulemic 8) Bonfire and a fish fry! 7) Open a sushi bar 6) “Consider it pure joy” 5) Floss . . . the whale 4) Finally get motivated to read Moby Dick 3) Listen to tapes of your preacher’s old sermons 2) Call your mother 1) Run and run and run and run and run . . . until you’re all pooped out.
Now you are laughing and unfortunately that is what many do with the book of Jonah. Often this booked is laughed off and not taken seriously. Some discount it as an allegory only good for teaching a lesson while others simply discount it as a fairy tale copied from other made up stories from the time. What we find if we honestly examine the book is a real life encounter with a follower of the living God. It pulls no punches and clearly communicates the rebellion and mistakes of one of God’s own. The story of Jonah also shows a God who never turns His back on a wayward prophet. The story also reveals God’s great grace toward a people that deserved judgment and destruction.
In this book we find out why bad things happen to good people. We also discover why the consequences are so drastic when we disobey God. Here is a book where a loving God sent a prophet with a message of judgment in order that the people would repent and be saved. This is the answer to how can a loving God allow such things to happen. This is a beautiful moment in history of God dealing with His people. We see God’s sovereignty even as He allows Jonah to deny and disobey a direct call. We also learn that Jonah was faithful because God was involved in his life at every stage of Jonah’s life.
I. A moment in History
A) The prophet Jonah
Jonah’s name means dove. He was meant to be a messenger not only to the people of Israel but also to the people of Assyria. God had a special plan for Jonah. 2 Kings 14:25 says that He prophesied that Israel would regain land that was lost due to Babylonian and Assyrian invasion. Jeraboam 2nd fulfilled this prophecy about the time that this book was written. Jonah is also mentioned in the book of Tobit. This is an apocryphal book dating about 200 BC. Jesus himself mentioned Jonah in Matthew 12:39-42 and Luke 11:29-32. He said just as Jonah was a sign to Nineveh Jesus would be a sign to Israel. Jonah was a sing to Nineveh by surviving the belly of a big fish. Jesus didn’t speak of Jonah as allegory or story but as an historical person. God had a plan for Jonah.
The correct way to respond to a call and direction of God is obedience through faith. Jonah responded with religious, national, political, and racial pride. We must be careful to guard our hearts from these types of pride because they blind us to our true spiritual purpose. We should learn from Jonah to guard against a false moral superiority. God has given to us the ministry of reconciliation. We see a great truth in Jonah’s response to God. You can know God and be completely misguided and mistaken. Jonah was mistaken that he could flee from God’s presence. Jonah was misguided about the intentions God had for the people of Nineveh.
B) The people
1) Israel – God’s chosen people. The plan was for them to share the light and love of God with the world. They failed in this purpose.
2) Nineveh – Israel’s political and social enemy. They were oppressive and violent. The kings of Nineveh recorded horrible torture and post war atrocities. They burned children alive and did horrible things to captured and defeated enemy soldiers. It was to this group of violent people that God sent Jonah.
C) The place – Ninevah
1) Its size
The city was said to be a three day’s journey from side to side. The walls of the city were so wide that chariot races could be held on the top of them. The city was old as well. Genesis 10 records the beginning of the city it was at least 2000 years old. From man’s point of view the city of Nineveh was great size, culture, resources, money etc. The Assyrians and the city of Nineveh were not known mainly for their large city, great culture or great history but their brutality and violence.
II. The mission for God’s servant
A) Tell them judgment is coming
Arise and Go! Tell them judgment is coming. This mission was supposed to override any thoughts or ideas Jonah had about the people he was sent to. Jonah 3:3-4 clearly told them destruction or judgment was coming. Church we were given the same mission in Matthew 28:19-20. Acts 1:8 and other passages. Arise – be active in telling people the reality of a life that rebels against God.