Summary: Sermon series on the Book of Jonah. Some of my resources come from John Hamby’s sermons as well as Jerry Giffords

“Returning to God”

“On the Run”

Jonah 1:1-3

I read a story recently about a 5-year old who decided to run away. The lady who lived next door saw him go, as she was outside cutting her grass. She said that she watched him walk up and down the pavement, in front of her house, hauling his little suitcase behind him. He would disappear around the corner, and a few minutes later, he’d reappear and go past her again. After he had gone past the house several times, she finally asked: "What you doing?" He answered, "I’m running away from home!" “So” she said -- “why do you keep circling the block?" He answered, "Because mom and dad won’t allow me to cross the road by myself!!"

Have you ever wanted to run away? To be honest there have been times in my life when I have just wanted to run away, to run away from a problem or a situation or a person. We all probably have that feeling once in a while. We just want to get away. Sometimes it is even that way in the ministry. It is so hard trying to please so many people and such a strain feeling responsible for so many lives. Sometimes even the preacher can think that it might be better for everyone to let someone else try for a while. The point is that, whether you’re a Pastor, banker or a teacher, we all have fantasies of escaping from time to time.

What I’m saying is that we all have moments in life, moments when all we want to do is run, to get away, to escape. Don’t feel guilty about it, some of the greatest people who ever lived ran away: Adam and Eve in the garden after disobeying God ran away and hid from his presence. Moses ran away from Pharoah after he killed an Egyptian soldier. David who not only stood up against the giant but who also killed the giant ran away from King Saul. The disciples ran away from the Garden of Gethsemane and abandoned their Lord. The man we are going to be studying about this morning and for the next few Sunday mornings had such a desire to run away, his name is Jonah. This morning we are going to tag along and watch Jonah “Attempt to Run Away From God.”

Of all the supernatural occurrences recorded in the Bible perhaps none has received as much ridicule as the story of Jonah. To liberal scholars and skeptics, the account of “Jonah and the whale” is fit only for children and not for serious thinkers. In fact, I heard a story once about the little girl in elementary school who was in class one day studying about the ocean when the teacher told the class, “I don’t want any of you to ever be afraid of going into the sea because there are no sea creatures that can swallow you whole”. So this little girl raised her hand and said, “I learned in church that a great fish swallowed Jonah whole”. And the teacher scoffed at that and said, “That’s impossible that could never happen”. And the little girl said, “When I get to heaven I’ll ask Jonah myself and find out if it was true”. To which the teacher replied, “what if Jonah didn’t go to heaven?” The little girl said, “Then you can ask him.”

But the facts are that only three verses deal with the fish and the other forty five verses tell the real story of Jonah. It is story of someone very much like our selves. It is the story of struggles, a calling, disobedience, problems and prayer. Most of all it’s a story about second chances and returning to God and I believe that as individuals, churches and a nation we need to return to God and when we do He will give us another chance. There are three basic ways of interpreting the book of Jonah. First, we can view it as an allegory. An allegory is a long story with a hidden meaning, every character or event standing for some other character or event. The second method of interpreting the book of Jonah is to see it as a parable. A story which has one main point, Jonah as a parable would be the deliverance of Israel.

The third method of interpreting the book of Jonah is to view it as a historically accurate portrayal of real events, which is what I believe. The main reason I believe that the story of Jonah is historically accurate is that Jesus accepted it as such. When unbelieving scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign to prove that what he said was true, Jesus replied in Matt 12:39-40, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. (40) "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Jesus used the story of Jonah as a historical illustration of his own literal resurrection. If therefore, we are going to reject the historical story of Jonah we have to question the integrity of Jesus.

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