Summary: Taken from Jonah chapter 1, this message contains three truths about God's ways with those who attempt to run away from Him.
Jonah, Running from God
CHCC – August 7, 2011
Jonah chapter 1
Just about everyone is familiar with the Jonah story … the ultimate big fish story. The book of Jonah is a short book – only 4 chapters – and it’s arguably the most entertaining, action-filled book in the Bible. It’s also controversial.
I heard about a Christian woman who was reading the Bible on an air flight.
The passenger next to her kept looking over at her and finally asked, “You really don’t believe all that stuff in there, do you?”
The woman responded, “Of course I do; it’s the Bible.”
The man said, “Yeah, but what about that guy that got swallowed by a whale?”
She replied, “Oh, you’re talking about Jonah. Yes, I believe that’s true.”
He asked, “How do you think he survived inside a whale?”
The woman said, “I don’t really know. I guess I’ll ask him when I get to heaven.”
The man responded, “What if he isn’t in heaven?”
She said, “Well, then, I guess YOU can ask him.”
People may argue over whether the story of Jonah is historical or allegorical, but I think it’s BOTH. Jesus vouched for the authenticity of Jonah.
Look in Matthew 12:38-41:
Jesus answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.
Jonah is much more than a “big fish story.” It’s a God story. Jonah’s three days and nights in the belly of the fish were a foreshadowing of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The main lesson of Jonah is God’s desire to love and forgive even the worst of sinners. Today, we’re going to look at chapter 1, and we’ll learn from Jonah what happens when you attempt to run from God.
Here’s how the book starts: The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. Jonah 1:1-3
Jonah ran from the LORD, and the first he learned is that:
1. If you’re running from God … God will pursue you.
These events probably took place around 750 B.C. at a time when Assyria had tormented the northern tribes of Israel. Jonah himself was a Galilean, which means he was from the northern tribes that were all too familiar with Assyrian attrocities. And God was telling Jonah to go to Nineveh … the capital of the Assyrian Kingdom … and preach to them.
Jonah had every reason to hate the people of Nineveh. Assyrians had starved, killed, tortured, displaced, and sold Israelites into slavery. Somehow Jonah had escaped, but he feared and hated the people who had terrorized his friends and family.
It’s quite possible that Jonah had been preaching in Judea with great success … warning that unless they repented, they would suffer the same fate as Galilee. Maybe he even asked God, “Where do you want me to take my successful revival message next?” Imagine his shock when God commanded him to go to Nineveh.
Now Jonah loved to preach, but not to THOSE people! To Jonah they were literally the scum of the earth --- wicked idolaters, brutal and cruel people who deserved the full wrath of God.
Jonah wasn’t just disobedient, he was defiant. The map on the screen shows that he didn’t just head the other direction; he headed for the ends of the earth. Joppa is the location of modern-day Tel Aviv. Nineveh is now called Mosul, which is located in Northern Iraq. The ruins of ancient Nineveh spread over 1800 acres. It was an immense city, seven times larger than Jerusalem.
So what did Jonah do? He ran to the ticket office of the Pan Mediterranean Cruise Line and booked passage on the Tarshish Express. Tarshish was a city in what is now Spain. To Jonah it was the furthest edge of the world. In fact, tradition has it that the Latin phrase ne ultra was inscribed on the rock of Gibraltar as a warning “no more beyond.” This was as far as any ship would take him! But Jonah would discover it wasn’t far enough.