Summary: This series will tell the story of the holy tension between God’s Sovereignty and man’s free will.
Jonah – The Runaway Prophet
Part One – Rebellion Against God’s Call
Gages Lake Bible Church
Sunday Evening, September 22, 2010
Pastor Daniel Darling
Welcome to our series through the book of Jonah. Perhaps no book has been retold more than Jonah—every child learns the story in Sunday School and in their children’s story books.
It’s a story that is easy to tell. It’s a story even the most biblically illiterate people know. And in every culture, there seems to be a Jonah-like story. It’s a story that has been dramatized and illustrated by some of history’s greatest artists. Tullian Tchividjian’s recent book, Surprised by Grace shares some of the most beautiful paintings and renderings of the story.
Is Jonah True?
Perhaps the biggest question folks have about Jonah is this. Is the story of Jonah true or is it just a fictional allegory, a parable that shares a larger principle?
I won’t delve too deeply into the evidence that exists for this being a historical account, not just an allegory—but I do want to give you the reasons I think Jonah is a true story.
1) Jonah was a real person. He is mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25 and his ministry was during the reign of Jeroboam, son of Joash.
2) Nineveh, Joppa, and Tarsus are real places that exist both today and existed in the ancient world. Nineveh today is modern-day Mosul, Iraq.
3) Jesus affirmed the validity of Jonah’s story in Matt. 12:41; Luke 11:29-30, 32. Jesus called Jonah a prophet and affirmed the story of Jonah’s rescue. If Jesus thought the story true, then I can’t imagine why we’d question it.
4) Many doubt it because of the outlandish story of a man being swallowed by a fish then vomited up onto the shore. But besides the fact that ancient stories have affirmed the presence of large sea creatures able to swallow men, even whole ships, (anybody read Moby Dick?), If we believe a God who can create a world in six days, part the Red Sea, cause the sun to stand still, and raise Jesus from the dead, then the story of Jonah is nothing really. And that’s not even the biggest miracle in the book. The biggest miracle is the repentance of Nineveh.
Yes, I believe the story of Jonah really happened. I also believe this story is a metaphor, providing a powerful illustration of the major themes of Scripture.
Who Wrote Jonah?
A big question is, Who wrote Jonah? Scholars disagree, but I believe Jonah was written by Jonah himself. If you read the very personal information about his time inside the fish, the interactions with the sailors and their conversion after Jonah was thrown, the very honest description of Jonah’s attitudes, I don’t think they could come from anyone else but the man himself. Unless he had a really good ghostwriter.
In fact, I believe the existence of this story proves to us that Jonah did eventually repent and get his heart right. We’ll discuss this in great detail in Part Four of this series.
Why preach Jonah now?
I believe the book of Jonah has very relevant messages to us, today, the American church. You see, the story of Jonah is not a simple fish story, but is the larger story of God’s grace and redemption.
I believe we’ll see several spiritual themes in Jonah:
The theological theme: You see the difference between God and man – God is gracious and longsuffering and righteous. Man is selfish, hard-hearted, and cruel.
You see the difference in man and creation. Several times in Jonah you see God appointing or ordering his Creation. Creation bends to the command of God. But man has been given a free will and ultimately can reject God.
You see the holy tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. God calls, man rejects, God pursues, man repents. God overrules the disobedience of man and works within the disobedience of man to accomplish His purposes.
The prophetic theme: I believe Jonah was written by Jonah, a repentant prophet at the end of his years as a warning to Israel, that if they didn’t serve up their purpose—to be a light to the nations—then God would exile them for a time – before they would one day again be a light to the nations. I believe this is a prophetic picture of Israel’s future.
The redemptive theme: Jonah’s a picture of redemption. Jesus pointed to Jonah- three days in the belly of the fish as a picture of His three days in the grave. Jonah is the only prophetic book that illustrates the idea of Resurrection. Jesus suffered three days in the grave before God brought Him back from the dead. Jesus was a “better Jonah.”
The Uniqueness of Jonah