6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: The book of Jonah is about responding to God’s greatness and grace. Throughout the book, the wind, waves, fish, sailors, and Ninevites all respond rightly to God. Only Jonah disobeys. This is the introductory sermon to a four-part series. It answers the

[This sermon is contributed by Hal Seed of New Song Church in Oceanside, California and of www.PastorMentor.com. Hal is the author of numerous books including The God Questions and The Bible Questions. If you are interested in The Bible Questions Church-wide Campaign, please visit and watch Hal’s video at www.PastorMentor.com.]

Jonah: Responding to God’s Greatness

The Book of Jonah, pt. 1

Jonah 1


(Author’s note: Sentences and phrases in all caps were made into powerpoint slides. If you’d like a copy of these slides, contact Hal@newsongchurch.com. This is the first of a four part series.)

Good morning everybody!

For these next four weeks, we are going on an adventure together. This past fall, my Small Group stumbled onto the book of Jonah and what we found there was so good, I wanted to walk you through our discoveries as well. So…

FIND A BIBLE AND TURN TO THE BOOK OF JONAH. Jonah is the section of the Bible called, “The Minor Prophets.” You can find it on p. 916. Or, if you’re a little more adventurous, you can thumb through the Minor Prophets and find it by memorizing their order. The order of the Minor Prophets goes, “HOJO A OJO MINA HAZE HAZE MA.”

Say that with me, and everybody will think we’re speaking a foreign language: Hojo A Ojo, Mina, HaZe, Haze Ma. We get that from putting together the first syllables of each of the minor prophets: “HOSEA, JOAL, AMOS, OBADIAH, JONAH, MICAH, NAHUM, HABAKKUK, ZEPHANIAH, HAGGAI, ZECHARIAH, MALACHI.” - Israel’s twelve minor prophets, all with major messages.

If you want to just memorize how to get to Jonah, just memorize this part:

“HOJO A OJO,” Jonah is the fifth minor prophet: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah: Hojo A Ojo.

He’s the only rebellious prophet in the bunch, and the most succinct preacher to ever live. With a scant eight word prophecy in English (five words in the original Hebrew), Jonah sparked what is arguably the most fruitful revival in all of history as the entire metropolitan area of ancient Nineveh repented. Jonah’s entire sermon to these people is FORTY MORE DAYS AND NINEVEH WILL BE DESTROYED. – JONAH 3:4.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, so look at the text. What we’re about to read is one of the most famous stories in all of history. Not just Bible history. Stop anyone in a Wal-Mart parking lot and ask if they’ve ever heard of the story of Jonah and the Whale, and what do you think they’ll say? – “Yes.”

The irony is, the book of Jonah isn’t about a whale. I’ll show you that a little later. And it’s not actually about Jonah. I’ll explain that in a minute.

For now, follow along as I read you the story of Jonah and the Great Fish. (read Jonah 1:1-17).

Are you ready to do some learning with me today?

My plan is to give you information on the weekends that you won’t be getting from the book , so if you picked up an advanced copy this week, you’ll still want to take notes today.


Were it not for 2 Kings 14:25, we would have no background on Jonah. Only is one O.T. verse outside of his own book mentions him. 1. JONAH WAS FROM GATH HEPHER. Gath Hepher means “the winepress of the well,” so apparently there was a winepress near a well in Jonah’s hometown, which is located just five miles southwest of Jesus’ home town of Nazareth. You can visit his shrine there today.


Gath Hepher from southeast

Jonah is one of less than a handful of prophets to come out of Northern Israel. Almost all of Israel’s prophets, except Jonah and Jesus and a few others, come from southern Israel.

2 Kings 14:15 tells us that...

2. JONAH LIVED DURING THE REIGH OF JEROBOAM II of Northern Israel. It was a time of prosperity for the Northern Israelites. The empire of Assyria (which is modern day Iran) to their northeast was in a mild decline so the Israelites felt relatively safe, for a change. The Assyrians, whose capital was Nineveh, were legendary for their cruelty. Jonah and his people hated them.

If you understand that Assyria is modern day Iran, you can see how contemporary this story is. It’s about a Jew who fears Iranians because of their potential to attack and destroy the Jewish homeland.

It’s also the story of a God who loves Iranians.


In 721 BC, 39 years later, Northern Israel is overrun and conquered by the Assyrians.

But God, who created all peoples, loved them, just as He loves the Iranians today. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, so He calls His prophet and says, “Jonah, go to Nineveh and preach to them.”

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