Summary: Was preached to a pastor’s conference. Two vows are mentioned in Jonah which has particular application to preachers.


Years ago there was a trial in Chicago. The famous lawyer, Clarence Darrow, was making his closing arguments and said of one man’s damaging testimony, “Why, a person could as easily believe this man’s testimony as he could believe that the whale swallowed Jonah.” Well, there were some people on the jury who believed that the whale did swallowed Jonah. They also believed that his client was guilty and convicted him.

I’m sure that all of us here accept the account of Jonah and the great fish. If we don’t, then we are at odds with what Jesus said in Matthew 12:40, “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.”

I have begun a series of messages on the Book of Jonah. I have come across a couple phrases about “Vows” that have spoken to my heart as a pastor and want to share this with you this morning. There are two vows mentioned in this small book.


I think too little is made of salvation today. It is so easy to pray a little prayer and to be told that you now are saved. How many times have you witnessed to someone who’s life is in a mess only to hear them say, “Oh, I’ve been saved.” They can tell you the time and place where they were baptized but they haven’t been in church for ages. We have been too eager, as pastors, to get them counted then to make sure of their salvation.

The sailors on the boat with Jonah and the Ninevites show the attitude needed to receive God’s salvation. There is:

A. Supplication (Prayer)

1:14 Of the sailors it says, “Therefore they cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We pray, O Lord, do not let us perish…’”

3:8 says that the Ninevites “Cried out mightily to God.”

B. Sackcloth (sorrow and repentance)

Jonah 3:6

6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. NKJV

2 Cor. 7:9 says that, “godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation.”

C. Sacrifice

“They feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord.” (1:16)

What must we give up? Habits. Affections. Relationships. Position.

The Hymn says it, “All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.” This was the problem of the rich young ruler.

D. Surrender

1:16 “They took vows.”

3:8 “Let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.”

I like the old Continuing Witness Training (CWT) presentation of the gospel, which includes repentance, faith and surrender, all as integral parts of salvation.

There is the VOW of salvation here but for us preachers there is also:


Jonah says, “I will pay what I have vowed.” Jonah was a prophet. Jonah was called to preach. He had surrendered to a call. How do we pay our vow to preach?

A. It Requires an Acceptance of Assignment

Moses had trouble accepting his assignment. Gideon had trouble. John Mark accepted his then ran from it. Jonah finally accepted his assignment. First he ran away. Instead of east he went west. Instead of up, he went down (down to Joppa; down into the ship; down into the lowest part of the ship; down to the bottom of the sea.)

Illus. When God called me to go to Michigan, I, at first, felt that this was a backward move. I’m a southern boy and those are Yankees. The church could not assure me of a fixed salary, our children were small and we would be taking them away from their grandparents. It seemed to be a downward move instead of upward move. After months of struggle I finally surrendered to God’s call and now I can see how those three years there set so many blessings in motion for me and my family.

1. It is Costly to Reject God’s Assignment (1:3) “He paid the fare.” He didn’t get where he wanted to go (Tarshish, away from the presence of God)

Contrast with Jochebed

Exodus 2:9

9 Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, "Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages." So the woman took the child and nursed him. NKJV

2. It is a Challenge to Receive God’s Assignment

God’s assignments are usually much greater than us. (See Nahum 3:1-4, Nineveh had been an extremely wicked place)

B. It Requires an Adjustment of Attitude

1. Our Ways are not usually God’s Ways (3:10-4:1)

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