Summary: This is an exposition on the fourth chapter of Jonah, which teaches us patience, grace, and the value of not getting too angry with the small things in life or we may be overwhelmed when big trials come our way
Jonah and A Vine, a Worm, and a Scorching East Wind
Introduction: Let me begin by telling you a story about a little girl that pretty well sums what I’m talking about here. A little girl was reading on an airplane when the man beside her noticed her storybook, entitled, "Jonah and the Whale." The man asked if the little girl believed the story. So, after saying hello, he asked her to tell him about her book. She said the book was about Jonah, and how he was swallowed by a whale. The man said, "You don’t really believe that do you?" The little girl replied, "Yes, I believe the story of Jonah is true." "You mean you really believe that a man can be swallowed by a whale, stay inside him for three days, & then come out of there alive?" The child said, "This story is in the Bible & we studied it in Sunday School today!" Then the man asked, "How can you prove that the story about Jonah is true?" She thought for a moment, and then said, "When I get to Heaven I’ll ask Jonah." The man smiled, proud of his superiority & asked, "What will you do if Jonah’s not in heaven?" The girl thought for a moment then replied, "Well, if he’s not in heaven, you ask him!"
(Tim Richards- sermoncentral)
This morning we turn to the book of Jonah. Its amazing how many lessons can be pulled from such small books of the Bible. We will have to come back to some of the others at a later time. But one thing we all know about Jonah, if you have any type of Bible knowledge at all, or perhaps even if you don't, is that when we hear the name of Jonah we straightaway think of what? . . .
A whale. It is almost a synonym for his name, even though his name means “a dove,” you would think it means whale for as much as we associate the two. As Thomas Carlyle said “The problem is we spend our time wondering what's going on inside of the whale, rather than wondering what is going on inside of Jonah.”
Background: Jonah had many faults but He was a true prophet of God. He was called to rebuke and warn Ninevah (Israel's cruelest enemy at the time) that destruction was coming, but instead of obeying the LORD, Jonah ran to Joppa got on a boat headed to Tarshish, because He didn't want those 'idolaters' to be saved. His attitude was - “let them be destroyed, and let their sins carry them to hell they deserve it!” Jonah had the same spirit of the Pharisees and the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son; who grumbled when his younger brother received grace and the Pharisees grumbled when Jesus ate with the publicans and sinners. Jonah grumbled that the heathen would receive God's mercy and be forgiven. Jonah was a hard man. A man with a hide of a rhinoceros and a backbone of steel but what he had in integrity he lacked in compassion. The LORD sent a great storm where the sailors knew Jonah was running from God (1:10) and Jonah knowing his fault told them to throw him overboard, which they did then God sent a great fish (not a whale) to swallow him and Jonah was in the fish 3 days and 3 nights (Jesus refers to this Matthew 12:40) Jonah changes his attitude. It seems spending 72 hours in the slimy heat of a fish's belly apparently will do that. Jonah then repents and the great fish spat him out on dry land and the LORD tells Jonah who is now eager to obey the Lord to warn Ninevah and he warns the city: “Forty more days and Ninevah will be overturned.” They believe and repent and God saw that they repented and Jonah 3:10 says “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.”
Now you would think that Jonah, after all he had been through, would be happy that their lives, just like his own, was spared and that God used his warning to bring them to that happy place of repentance. But in the following verse we read “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD “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.” Jonah 4:1-2
Jonah was a selfish and foolish man. Many men who are called into the ministry will run from the call to preach because they don't see any good being done by it, but Jonah ran because He knew good WOULD be done by it. Jonah was a very strange prophet. What kind of prophet would dread the success of his own ministry? Yet Jonah did. He complained to God “I knew you were going to do this! I just knew that if I warned the Ninevites of destruction. They would repent and because you are so gracious and loving and forgiving, you would turn from your anger and forgive them all!” Can you imagine a preacher telling God “God I don't want to preach the gospel, because I know that you are just going to forgive them, and save them, and bless them, and answer their prayers . . . and I don't want to be a part of that!” How can someone begrudge someone for being kind and nice to other people? Jonah pours out words of praise as if they were evil. “You know God you are just a pushover, you're just too nice. Let the Ninevites get what they deserve!” Strange, Jonah didn't mind receiving mercy but He didn't want the Ninevites to receive it. Not only is this selfish, but ungrateful and disrespectful.