Summary: Verse by verse study of Jonah 1:1-16


Jonah 1:1-16

The Chance


1. I never did very well in school, I hated being called to the blackboard and having to work out some problem. Usually several people were up there on the blackboard working out a problem. One of the things that saved my hide was the eraser! I would get a quick glance at the person next to me, and then erase what I had written and put his answer up there. I used it profusely, I erased mistake after mistake with that eraser. It gave me a second change to get it right.

2. As a Christian, I have also made mistake after mistake, it sounds better than sin after sin. But I would not be standing behind this pulpit today if it were not for the God of the Second Chance who not only wipes out our sin with His blood, but gives us another chance to get it right.

3. The Second Chance is Required – because of our many failures.


A. First, the Chance. 1:1-2

1. It is Continual.

“And it was…” – this is how it begins in the original.

J. M. Flanigan notes:

“The little word “Now” or :And: as many translations prefer, with which the book begins…In Hebrew, as in any language, it is a conjunction, a joining word which implies and preserves continuity with what has gone before. Appearing in the opening verses of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, it thereby joins the first four books of Moses, as it does also the books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and the books of the kings. Ezra and Esther commence in the same way, as does the prophecy of Ezekiel. Here Jonah…unites his prophecy with that of others and maintains the uniformity of the inspired writings.” [What the Bible teaches, Richie Old Testament Commentaries, Jonah p. 503].

The Bible is not just a bunch of scattered writings, but, there is a definite unity of mind from Genesis to Revelation! James M. Boice notes:

A sixth reason for regarding the Bible as the revealed Word of God is the extraordinary unity of the book…The Bible is composed of sixty-six parts, or books, written over a period of approximately fifteen hundred years (from about 1450 B.C. to about A.D. 90) by over forty different people. These people were not alike. They came from various levels of society and from diverse backgrounds. Some were kings. Others were statesmen, priests, prophets, a tax collector, a physician, a tentmaker, fishermen. If asked about any subject at all, they would have had views as diverse as the opinions of people living today. Yet together they produced a volume that is a marvelous unity in its doctrine, historical viewpoints, ethics and expectations. It is, in short, a single story of divine redemption begun in Israel, centered in Jesus Christ and culminating at the end of history. The nature of this unity is important… What can account for this unity? There is only one way of accounting for it: behind the efforts of the more than forty human authors is the one perfect, sovereign and guiding mind of God.

R. A. Torrey notes:

It is not a superficial unity, but a profound unity. On the surface, we often find apparent discrepancy and disagreement, but, as we study, the apparent discrepancy and disagreement disappear, and the deep underlying unity appears. The more deeply we study, the more complete do we find the unity to be. The unity is also an organic one—that is, it is not the unity of a dead thing, like a stone, but of a living thing, like a plant. In the early books of the Bible we have the germinant thought; as we go on we have the plant, and further on the bud, and then the blossom, and then the ripened fruit. In Revelation we find the ripened fruit of Genesis.

Geoff Wood writes that a stained glass illustrates the importance of the Old Testament:

High over the portals within the south transept of the 800-year-old cathedral of Chartres in France spreads a great Rose window, forty feet in diameter. At its center sits Christ, while immediately around him orbit eight angels and symbols for the four evangelists, each enclosed within a circle of stained glass-and beyond them orbit the 24 elders of the book of Revelation, each also within its own bejeweled circle—for a total of 36 orbiting circles of blue, red, gold, purple, and white! Enough to make your head spin. Nor is that gigantic wheel of color the only thing to enchant you in that soaring wing of the cathedral, because below it rise five more long and narrow windows, the central one featuring Mary, while the other four show images of the evangelists, Luke and Matthew, John, and Mark-in that sequence.

Now if you look closely at the windows for the four gospel writers, you'll notice something amusing. All four, appearing almost boyish in size, sits on the shoulders of a tall prophet of the Old Testament: Luke on the shoulders of Jeremiah, Matthew on Isaiah's, John on Ezekiel's, and Mark on Daniel's. The four major voices of the New Testament ride piggyback on the four major voices of the Old—just the way a dad might lift a small child on his shoulders. Why would those artists do something as playful as that? Well, it wasn't playful. They wanted to make a serious point, namely that the gospels build on the wisdom and vision of the Old Testament.

2. It was Audible.

a. We have the Logos.

1 The word of the LORD…saying – in the LXX the Greek translation of the Old Testament, “word” is the Greek Logos. This word occurs 917 times in the O.T., and 330 times in the N.T. I assume this was audible. This was common in the Old Testament. The “word of the Lord” is said to have come to Abraham, Nathan, David, Solomon, Jehu, Elijah, Isaiah, Haggai, Zechariah, etc. Today we have something even greater; we have the full and final written Word of God. He is still speaking, not audibly, but speaking by His Spirit through His Written Word. O. S. Hawkins notes, “This was not the word of man; it was “the word of the Lord.” Men do not call us; it is God who calls us. Jonah had a God who spoke to him…He did not have the word of God, the final complete written revelation, as we do today…the same God who spoke to the prophets in the past now speaks to us directly by the Holy Spirit through His Word…Has the word of the Lord come to you this week? If not, you have not spent time with Him.”

1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. Hebrews 1:1-2


As one put it:

I've imagined this scene in my head: I'm playing baseball with Jesus. The stands are full of fans, but out there on the field it's just him and me. I'm the pitcher. Jesus is the catcher, behind home plate. He settles into his crouch, ready to play, and I look for his signals—simple commands. What pitch will he want me to throw? I wait in anticipation, but also with one eye on the crowd. What will they think of me?

He signals a fastball. I think for a moment and shake my head—no, not a fastball.

Next he signals a slider. This time I look toward my teammates in the dugout for guidance. Then I glance up at the fans. No, I'm not comfortable with that one either.

He gives me yet a third signal. No, not today, thank you! Then I imagine Jesus silently and slowly withdrawing his signaling hand back into his mitt. There's a deep disappointment in his eyes. He's decided to let me throw whatever I want. So I do—and then I wonder why there's just no team spirit anymore! Has Jesus stopped giving you signals?

I doubt it. He never stops speaking to his children. Is there a signal God's been trying to give you, even as you read this sentence, that you've ignored because you just don't want to obey?

Actually, the worst thing that could happen is for God to remove his Word from this Nation.

11 "Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord GOD, "When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the LORD. 12 "People will stagger from sea to sea And from the north even to the east; They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, But they will not find it. Amos 8:11-12 (NASB)

This nation has the Word of God, but I am not sure most people are listening to it. J. Vernon McGee observes:

Here is a most unusual famine. God had given them His Word, and they had rejected it. They had despised it and turned aside from it. Now God tells that the day is coming when they will no longer have the privilege of hearing His Word. God tells any church or any nation that if they will not hear His Word after He has given it to them, He will withdraw it from them. I think we can see this happening in America. There has been a rejection of the Word of God. The churches have turned to liberalism, and the Word of God is no longer preached. There has come a famine of the Word of God. So many of the formerly great churches of this country, the great downtown churches, have turned from the Word of God… Actually, very little of the Word of God is getting out in this land today. There is a Gideon Bible in every room in every hotel and motel in this country. Nearly everyone owns a Bible. But who is studying it? Who is reading it? Who is believing it? I think we are beginning to see the famine of the Word of God in this country.

b. We have the LORD.

The word "LORD", the Hebrew word Jehovah or Yahweh, speaks of the eternal, self-existent One. It appears 26 times in this little book. Throughout Scripture, the Lord is known by several titles which reveals His work with mankind.

• Jehovah-jireh= The Lord our Provider

• Jehovah-rapha= The Lord our Healer

• Jehovah-nissi= The Lord our Banner

• Jehovah-shalom= The Lord our Peace

• Jehovah-ra-ah= The Lord our Shepherd

• Jehovah-tsidkenu= The Lord our Righteousness

Briefly let’s look at Yahweh in this little book:

• He Communicates with us. 1:1; 3:1, 3; 4:4.

God is always communicating with us! He speaks to us primarily today through His Written Word, by the Holy Spirit. We live in a dark, sinful world, and it is by the Word of God that God speaks to us.

19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 2 Peter 1:19

John Philips notes:

So Peter comes to the point: "We have also a more sure word of prophecy." Even such authentic and awesome voices and visions as characterized the Mount of Transfiguration have their place, no doubt, but they cannot be compared with the Word of God, with that "more sure word of prophecy." Many people lightly set aside the Word of God in favor of visions of dubious sorts and voices of unknown origin. It is a dangerous practice. Voices and visions can originate from satanic and demonic sources. Drugs can induce them. False religions and various cults of Christendom have frequently been based on such deceptive phenomena. Occult religions are motivated by satanic voices and spurious visions. Legions of lying spirits in the unseen world are clamoring to be heard and heeded, and millions of deluded people, who will not have the Bible at any price, eagerly embrace phenomena emanating from the Deceiver himself. No! We have "a more sure word of prophecy," God's written Word, the Bible. We need nothing else.

Isn’t it exciting to think that The LORD God has something to say specifically to us!

Seth Godin tell about his friend Jacqueline, who tells the story, of how UNICEF spent a fortune creating posters to promote the idea of child vaccination to the mothers of Rwanda. She said: "The posters were gorgeous—photographs with women and children with simple messages written in Kinyarwandan (the local language), about the importance of vaccinating every child. They were perfect, except for the fact with a female illiteracy rate exceeding 70 percent, words written in perfect Kinyarwandan made little difference."

Jacqueline noticed that the way messages spread in Rwanda was by song. One group of women would sing a song for other women, both as a way of spreading ideas and as a gift. No song, no message. Your tribe communicates. They probably don't do it the way you would; they don't do it as efficiently as you might like, but they communicate. The challenge for the leader is to help your tribe sing, whatever form that song takes.

The point is, God uses the Bible, but He has a way of communicating that Bible in a way that is easy for us to understand. I think that is why He allows so many translations of the Bible. Most of them say the same thing, but some translations communicate to us in ways other translations do not. I suppose that is why Satan comes along and tries to discredit any translation but the KJV. That’s silly! Of course, that is not to discredit the KJV either. I have known many godly men whom God’ speaks to through that version. Do not be afraid to experiment. Find a translation that uses words that communicate best to you, I prefer the NAS, others the NIV. Just make sure you get a good solid translation that reflects the original languages. A popular one today seems to be the ESV.

• He can be Consciously known. 1:3, 10

Notice he is seeking to flee “from the presence of the Lord.” Obviously one cannot flee from the omnipresence of the Lord (Psa. 139:7-12). But there is a conscious, manifested presence of God (Jn. 14:21/2 Cor. 4:7-11/Ja. 4:8/etc.).

Spurgeon understood this precious truth, he wrote, “I know what some would say. They would cry, “Nonsense, we believe religion is a good thing, but as to these manifestations we do not believe in them!” Very well, the Scripture says, “He does not manifest Himself unto the world…[If you are a believer] you must know something of it, if not much, otherwise you have not gone far on your spiritual course.”

The sad thing is that if Jonah had obeyed the LORD, His presence would have gone with Jonah to Nineveh.

• He is the One who is in Control. 1:4, 14b, 17; 4:6.

God is calling the shots, we are little shots that most of the time ought to be shot! Rus Reavens notes:

God’s will is supreme, and is not subject to the dictates of another. No one compels God to do something that He does not will to do. He doesn’t answer to anyone… He chooses to do so according to His own will. Jonah was not knocking on the door of heaven begging to hear some word from God… It happened because God chose for it to happen and took the initiative… Once you’ve read the whole story, you will know that Jonah does not appear to be a likely candidate for the ministry. But then again, who is? If God didn’t use imperfect people, there would be no people at all for God to use… God is sovereign, always taking the initiative, and we are always in the position of reacting or responding to what He says and does… When we come up against it, we are forced to recognize that we are not in control of our own little universes, and we do not like that idea… We are born believing the lie of our own sovereignty, but God will not let us believe it forever… We are limited, finite creatures. He is infinite and unlimited. We see in these verses that God is not limited by time. He is eternal. He has always existed, and always will.

Pastor Daniel Schreiner from Portland, Oregon received the following marketing piece from a local fitness gym. It was called "The Year of You." [The New Year] is right around the corner and you're either going to own the year OR the year is going to own you. It's 100% your choice. It's in your hands. That's the first thing. Simply by taking all of the responsibility and putting it on your shoulders you become empowered. Next, you take that feeling of empowerment. Of invincibility. The feeling you can run through a wall ... and you take action. You take action like you've never taken action before. You become prolific. You become consistent. And you let no obstacle stand in your way ... no matter what. No more pity parties. No more whining about anything.

YOU are in control. YOU.

That lie is both arrogant and ignorant! The reality is that God is the one in control!

13 …God, who is the blessed controller of all things, the king over all kings and the master of all masters. 1 Timothy 6:15 (Phillips NT)

He is in control not only of the Rulers (1 Chron. 29:12/Dan. 4) but of even something as significant as the death of sparrow.

29 Two sparrows cost only a penny, but not even one of them can die without your Father’s knowing it. Matthew 10:29 (NCV)

It is God, not us, who will decide the events of this coming year!

• There should be Conformity to His will. 1:9a, 16

Feared the LORD - The verb ????? (yare’) has a broad range of meanings, including “to fear, to worship, to revere, to respect” (BDB 431 s.v.). When God is the object, it normally means “to fear” (leading to obedience; BDB 431 s.v. 1) or “to worship” (= to stand in awe of; BDB 431 s.v. 2). Because the fear of God leads to wisdom and obedience, that is probably not the sense here. Instead Jonah professes to be a loyal Yahwist – in contrast to the pagan Phoenician sailors who worshiped false gods, he worshiped the one true God. Unfortunately his worship of the LORD lacked the necessary moral prerequisite.

Our part in relating to the LORD should be radical, unquestioning obedience. See 2 Cor. 10:5/ 1 Pet. 1:14-15

Adrian Rogers shared this, “I had a privilege…years ago…to spend a day in prayer with Dr. Billy Graham and some other men. We met in a hotel room in Dallas for the purpose of spending a day in prayer, just sharing and seeking the face of the Lord. And as we were sitting around a table sharing Billy Graham said something that I shall never forget. He looked around at the rest of us and said gentlemen, I long to be holy. I want to be a holy man. Pray for me, that I will be holy.”

That is how we need to relate to Yahweh, with a deep abiding desire to be engaged in holy obedience.

• He is the Creator. 1:9b

We need to realize that God is God! He is eternal we are created at a point in time; He is self-existent, we exist only because He chose to create us. Isa. 42:5/Rev. 4:11.

We can commit both our life and eternity to One who has created and sustains the universe. William Shakespeare, wrote in his will: “I commend my soul into the hands of God, my Creator, hoping and assuredly believing, through the merits of Jesus Christ my Savior to be made partaker of Life everlasting.”

What we long for is to know the One who is responsible for our being and well-being.

Years ago, there was an episode of the original TV series Star Trek. The story involved a Voyager spacecraft sent out from Earth through the solar system, and it had disappeared for hundreds of years.

Somehow it collected unto itself all kinds of other equipment and technology and intelligence. Then it headed back to Earth, and the whole planet was in terror of this enormously powerful thing coming right at them. What was it going to do? Was it going to destroy the world?

Well, of course, Captain Kirk was dispatched to save the day. When he finally encountered this gigantic apparatus and was able to communicate with it, he found that what it wanted was not to destroy the world but to know the world’s creator. It also wanted to be joined to its creator.

The truth is, that’s what we desire above all else—to know God, the Creator, and be united with Him.

• He can be Called upon in prayer. 1:14; 2:1; 4:2-3.

What a wonderful thing prayer is! It says we can actually get in contact with the almighty God! It is better than having a hot line to the president of the United States or anyone else.

And it is no gimmick but a real connection to God Himself. In March of 2009, Dutch artist Johan van der Dong decided God needed a telephone number. So, he got him one. A cell phone number to be exact—to show that God was "available anywhere and anytime." Dong said:

"In earlier times you would go to a church to say a prayer, and now [this is an] opportunity to just make a phone call and say your prayer in a modern way."

It seems a lot of people appreciate the opportunity Dong has afforded them with his "divine hotline." Within one week, over 1,000 people left God a message.

Yet when you made the call you heard:

"This is the voice of God. I am not able to speak to you at the moment, but please leave a message." That doesn't exactly convey the idea of a God who is "available anywhere and anytime," does it? To make matters worse, Dong plans on keeping the line open for just six months. Dong has really only managed to connect people to an altogether disconnected God. Truth is, if we come to our Father through His Son, we will find Him available anywhere and anytime and you don’t even need a cell phone!

• He Cares about us. 2:2, 6-7; 4:10.

God is concerned about the storms that we are going through. See, Lu. 15:20/Heb. 5:2. He cares about Jonah, those sailors, those vile Ninevites, even people that the rest of us have no compassion for at all. A Hasidic story tells of a great celebration in heaven after the Israelites are delivered from the Egyptians at the Red Sea and the Egyptian armies are drowned. The angels are cheering and dancing. Everyone in heaven is full of joy.

Then one of the angels asks the archangel Michael, "Where is God? Why isn't God here celebrating?"

Michael answers, "God is not here because He is off by Himself weeping. You see, many thousands were drowned today."

• He Converts. 2:9

The word convert means to change – the LORD is in the business of changing things whether physically or spiritually. We cannot change the human heart or circumstances or little else.

He can save, deliver, and take life in a new direction.

Trans: The LORD is all we really need in time and eternity, He Communicates; can be known Consciously; is in Control; we can be in Conformity to His will; should be worshipped as the Creator; Called upon; He Cares and Converts! Yet often we neglect God for the worthless things of this world. Paul Tripp shares this about his son:

My wife and I would go out when he was a little guy to buy what we thought was the [perfect] gift. He would tear open the gift, and he'd end up playing with the box. It drove us crazy. We decided on Christmas that we were going to find…the gift of gifts that he would not be able to resist. We shopped and shopped. We found the gift. We were so excited.

We were much more excited at that moment when the gift came out from under the tree and he was about to unwrap it—much more excited than he would have ever been.

He ripped open the gift like a little boy would…and, actually got out this toy and began to play with it. I had a feeling of such victory. I went into the kitchen to get something to drink, was in there for a few minutes, and came out and he was sitting in the box. I couldn't believe it. Then he concluded with this:

If you're one of God's children, you have been given the most awesome gift that could ever be given. It's gorgeous from every perspective. It's a gift of such grandeur that it's hard to wrap human vocabulary around it and explain it. It's beautiful from every vista…It's the gift that every human being needs. It's a gift that in all of your work and all of your effort and all of your achievement you couldn't have ever earned; you could have never deserved; you could have never achieved. It is absolutely without question the gift of gifts. It's the gift of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, [but] I am deeply persuaded in the face of this gift, there are many Christians who are content to play with the box.

3. It was Personal.

came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, - we looked at this in the Introduction. Remember the word Jonah means “dove” and we looked at the fact that it is used in Gen. 8, where Noah sent out the dove, who at first failed, but then, given a Second Chance, was sent out again. We could also add:

• It is a known to be a Sad bird, it often laments an apt description of Jonah in chp. 4

14 "Like a swallow, like a crane, so I twitter; I moan like a dove; My eyes look wistfully to the heights; O Lord, I am oppressed, be my security. Isaiah 38:14 (NASB)

11 All of us growl like bears, And moan sadly like doves; We hope for justice, but there is none, For salvation, but it is far from us.

Isaiah 59:11 (NASB)

• It was also a bird of Sacrifice, which Jonah was willing to do to save the sailors.

7 'But if he cannot afford a lamb, then he shall bring to the LORD his guilt offering for that in which he has sinned, two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. Leviticus 5:7 (NASB)

• The Psalmist wanted to be a dove, to fly away so as to be Spared the terrors of death as Jonah wanted to be spared the terrors of Nineveh.

4 My heart is in anguish within me, And the terrors of death have fallen upon me. 5 Fear and trembling come upon me, And horror has overwhelmed me. 6 I said, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Psalm 55:4-6 (NASB)

Trans: Well, I am grateful for those erasers, which wiped away my mistakes those many years ago; but even more grateful, as Jonah was that the LORD He knew not only gave His word once, but a Second time after he blew it the first time (3:1).

Christian author Michael Scrogin writes:

We have Halls of Fame all over this country. There's one in Canton, Ohio, for football; one in Springfield, Massachusetts, for basketball; there's one in Cooperstown, New York, for baseball. We have a Halls of Fame for all sorts of sports, and we're forever electing aging athletes to these institutions. Speeches are made in their honor as we give them awards.

If it were up to me to make the decisions, I would have a different sort of Hall of Fame. I would have a Hall of Fame of those who have given and those who have received Second and third and 13th CHANCES. This hall would be huge and it would be filled mostly with the names of those who had made it against all odds. I would have a section dedicated especially to those who had been arrested or imprisoned and who later, when they were released, straightened out their lives and didn't go back. I would set aside an entire wall for recovering alcoholics, who'd been up against a devastating disease, who’d hit bottom, but who'd climbed back out. I’d set aside one whole building for teenagers because every teenager needs at least 100 second chances.

I don’t know if at the Bema the Lord will be giving out Second Chance awards. If they have such a Hall of Fame for those given a trillion second chances – I’ll be in it! At the top of the list, just above, people like Jonah.

In November 2004, 45-year-old Victoria Ruvolo was heading home in Lake Ronkonkoma, New York, after hearing her 14-year-old niece sing at a school recital. At the same time, 19-year-old Ryan Cushing was out joyriding with a group of friends, who had just finished a spending spree at a nearby supermarket— with a stolen credit card. One of the items they bought was a large frozen turkey. As Victoria’s car passed Cushing’s— he was in the back seat— the teen threw the turkey into oncoming traffic. The 20-pound bird crashed through Victoria’s windshield and struck her in the face. The teens didn’t stop, and they didn’t call 911. Victoria had a passenger who called emergency services, and she was rushed to Stony Brook University Hospital. She was put into a medically induced coma and went through a 10-hour operation to save her from dying. She was kept in the coma for two weeks, and stayed in the hospital for months after that, as doctors reconstructed her shattered face and she went through painful rehabilitation. The doctors said it was miraculous that she survived the ordeal at all.

I think Ryan must have had some Assyrian blood in him, that was the type of brutality that they loved to engage in. Who could have anything but contempt for such a vile person – we should, and God does!

We continue on with our study in Jonah, we are looking at his Chance, his opportunity for ministry. We saw related to the book that it is Continual, the Message to Jonah was Audible, Personal, and now we continue on.

4. The Message was Simple.

2 "Arise, go –

"Arise" is not uncommon in Scripture:

• Jacob—Arise and return to thy kindred.

• Joshua—Arise, and go over this Jordan.

• Gideon—Arise, and get down to the host of Midianites. I have delivered them into your hand.

• Samuel—Arise and anoint Saul.

• Elijah—Arise and go to Zarephath. A widow will care for thee.

God's message to us is just as simple.... "Arise!" Go do what I asked you to do.

5. It was humanly Impossible.

a. The Recognizing of our Nineveh.

Frankly most people turn this into an unfair guilt trip!

• It is not about going but doing God’s will. It is often just as hard to stay, as it is to go. Many times God has told me to stay when I really wanted to go – anywhere!

• It is not saying that everybody is supposed to be a prophet or an evangelist out publically preaching the gospel. God has given different people different gifts. While we all should share the gospel with the lost, we are not all evangelists.

• It is not a demand for all to go to the mission field. Again not everybody is called to go cross-culturally. We can all pray for missionaries, support them, but that does not mean we are all called to be one on foreign soil.

• Again, I am not saying we should not share the gospel, or rejoice with those called to the mission field. I am saying we can make the Bible say anything we want it to. It is better to let it speak for itself. No add-ons, no personal comments, no misapplications. Your Nineveh is the ministry that God has given you. How do you know where God has called you to minister? As we have already pointed out we find God’s will in the Word of God.

b. The Resisting of God’s will.

Tarshish represents our rebellion, our refusing to do what God has called us to do. More about this later.

It's the Texas Rangers’ locker room on an August, 1997 afternoon. Star relief pitcher and passionate Christian John Wetteland is flipping through his Bible, talking about why he isn't worried about his religious fervor fitting in with the Rangers' club house.

" ' That would be like Noah asking God—not Noah. What's his name? Went to Nineveh!'

" ' Simsy!' Wetteland yells, startling reserve outfielder Mike Simms, who is watching TV. 'Who refused to go to Nineveh?' Simms stares back blankly." ' Jonah!' Wetteland, the former Yankee, hollers, suddenly remembering and very pleased. 'It would be like Jonah saying to God, "Well, how many people are in Nineveh that are gonna listen to my message that I have from you?" Of course, Jonah decided to go 180 degrees the opposite direction—and you know the rest of the story; he gets barfed up on the beach at Nineveh. When God directs you somewhere, you just go.'"

c. His possible Reasoning for not going.

• He knew his life might be in Jeopardy. He was afraid they would kill him. That fear was understandable! Archaeologists have actually discovered monuments that were built by various individuals to their atrocities. Here are some of them:

One of those monuments says, “I cut the limbs off the officers who rebelled.”

Another monument states, “Within the border of my own land, I flayed and spread their skins upon the walls.”

Another cruel Ninevite wrote, “I cut off their hands and their fingers, and from others I cut off their noses and ears and fingers. For many of them, I put out their eyes.”

The historical records of the ancient world describe how Assyria’s military would tear off the lips and hands of their victims, skin them alive, and amass piles of their victims’ skulls as monuments to their own greatness… One Assyrian king boasted that he had flayed the skin from many nobles, and built towers with decapitated skulls, and hung others from the trees. Boys and girls were burned alive. The king himself claims to have cut off arms and hands, noses, ears, and other extremities, and gouged out eyes.

Fear often keeps us from obeying God. In 1996 two military strategists, Harlan Uliman and James Wade, started advocating a more focused approach to war. Uliman and Wade argued for engaging the enemy with an overwhelming show of force that will destroy "the adversary's will to resist before, during, and after battle." They titled their book Shock and Awe. Shortly before the first Iraq War, Uliman described what would happen with this Shock and Awe approach: "You're sitting in Baghdad and all of a sudden you're the general and 30 of your division headquarters have been wiped out. You also take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power, water. In 2,3,4,5 days they are physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted."

I think Jonah felt Shock and Awe about entering Nineveh. It is not uncommon for God’s servant to face overwhelming odds and feel fearful. Moses was afraid because he had trouble speaking (Ex. 3:11-); Jeremiah was afraid because he was just a youth (Jer. 1:); Gideon was afraid of the Midianites (Jud. 6:11-16); David was uneasy as he looked Goliath straight in the knee cap (1 Sam. 17:41-).

• It would be Just Jonah!

Billy Graham always had Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea by his side! Daniel went into captivity in Babylon, but he had his three Hebrew friends with him. Even Moses was given Aaron as he confronted Egypt. Jonah had no song leader, crusade team, nothing but himself. It was one thing to deliver a message, like Nahum did from a distance, but to actually go there alone was another thing. [PS: As I write this news of Billy Graham’s departure to glory was just announced. We praise the Lord for sending us such a man of God]

We need to learn that one with God is a majority. Hudson Taylor was called by God to bring the gospel to China. He went with no wife, no denominational backing, no fixed income, and made no appeal for funds. Years later he was asked how he could accomplish such an impossible task. He said:

“It seemed to me that God looked over the whole world to find a man who was weak enough to do His work, and when He found me, He said, “He’ll do!” Then he added, “All God’s Giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on Him being with them.”

• He was asked to do the seeming impossible Job. I cannot imagine going to say North Korea and just start preaching to them the gospel. Nineveh was a huge city and the task given Jonah was enormous. Spurgeon notes:

Is there a servant of God here who feels unequal to his work and therefore wishes he could escape from it? My dear Brother, you are unequal to your work, for you have no sufficiency of your own! I know, also, that I am, in and of myself, unequal to my own calling— shall we, therefore, run away?

• He was a Jew and had no love for Gentiles. Chuck Smith observes:

“It is interesting that as Jonah was running away from God’s call for him to go preach to the Gentiles, he fled to Joppa. He didn’t want to preach to the Gentiles and went to Joppa to escape God’s call. But eight hundred years later Peter was in Joppa, at the house of Simon the tanner, when God gave him a vision and called him to go preach to the Gentiles (Acts 9 and 10). Jonah ran to Joppa, and Peter was called from Joppa. God always wanted to reach the Gentiles.”

• He knew they were one day going to Judge Israel. They were sworn enemies, and it was predicted that they would take Israel into captivity. Eventually, a generation after Jonah, Assyria did take the ten northern tribes into captivity in 722 B.C. As Boice noted:

“We can understand Jonah…if we can imagine the word of the Lord coming to a Jew who lived in New York during World War II, telling him to go to Berlin to preach to Nazi Germany, and instead of this, he goes to San Francisco and takes a boat for Hong Kong..”

• They were pagan Jerks! Imagine God calling us to go to North Korea, or Iran, or Russia or to ISIS, etc., with the gospel. Nah. 3:1-5

“It’s wickedness. A general reference to the city’s violence, immorality and idolatry. Assyria was a militaristic society with a reputation for violence and cruelty in warfare. Their religion was polytheistic. Ashur, Adad, Sin, Shamash and Ishtar were the chief deities of the Assyrian pantheon, Ashur being regarded as the most powerful. The Assyrian gods were patron gods, worshipped for their blessing and protection of specific cities. The patron deity of Nineveh was Isthar, goddess of love and war.”

• It was a long tiring Journey to Nineveh. We are talking about a walk of some 500 miles. John Butler notes:

“No airplanes, trains, cars, busses, or super highways were available for Jonah. He had to go to Nineveh by feet-express, for he had to walk. This would take time, and it would be laborious and even boring…Once Jonah gets to Nineveh the excitement will begin. But he must first make the long walk before he gets there…Some people try to skip the walk…Preachers must spend long hours in prayer and Bible study if they are going to preach well in the Nineveh pulpit…Every duty in life has its walking part.”

• He didn’t want to quit his Day Job.

This was definitely an interruption of his comfort zone! He had a nice thing going. A successful prophet with probably a view of retirement in the near future. As one noted:

Jonah had no idea of how self-absorbed he had become until God disturbed his comfortable life… Jonah enjoyed a comfortable life until God interrupted his dream… People in his hometown of Gath Hepher enjoyed Jonah’s preaching and, with his obvious gift as an effective communicator, he soon established a fine reputation as a much loved and deeply respected teacher of God’s Word. Early in his ministry, God gave Jonah a prophetic scoop that established his ministry. Jonah announced that the borders of Israel would be extended during the reign of King Jeroboam and when this happened, his reputation was made. He was hailed as God’s “servant Jonah … the prophet from Gath Hepher,” as if there wasn’t another prophet worthy of the name (from 2 Kings 14: 25)… If he was in ministry today, Jonah would have a full schedule of speaking engagements, his books would be best sellers, and his page on Facebook would be bombarded by fans. Jonah enjoyed a good life doing good work in a good place. He was living his dream until, one day, God interrupted his life.

God has a way of interrupting our lives – an unexpected pregnancy; a death of a loved one; a pink slip from our boss; a hurricane hits; you name it! We don’t like change, new things, and the like. What do we cherish most, our comfort or being obedient to God? Jonah’s solution was to quit and head for the hills – or should I say waters.

• He knew God was Joined at the hip with grace, mercy, and compassion. The phrase “joined at the hip” is slang. It means to be closely connected, always together. Jonah didn’t want to go because He knew that God loved to give people a second chance (Jon. 4:2). Is there someone you do not want to see saved? The homosexual, the child molester, the liberals, rocket man in North Korea?

But didn’t God give us a second chance, have we not been saved in spite of our past sins, not to mention the one’s we committed this very day! J. Vernon McGee once said to his congregation, “If you knew me as well I as I know me, you wouldn’t be sitting there listening to me right now!” Then, after a pause, he continued, “But if I knew you as well as you know you, I wouldn’t want to preach to you!”

Colin Smith shared these wise words:

Christians are a mass of contradictions. We are righteous in Christ, and yet we sin every day. We have the power of the Spirit, and yet we feel our own weakness… When Christ invaded your life, He opened your mind, changed your heart… The Bible calls this ‘regeneration’ or the new birth… With this new life, you have a new capacity. God’s Spirit lives in you, giving you power and desire to pursue a God-centered life, that otherwise would be beyond both your ability and your interest. All of this is true of you in Christ. If it was the whole truth the Christian life would be easy. But it’s not. Your new life of faith is lived out in the body (Gal. 2:20)… The Holy Spirit draws you toward adventurous faith and costly obedience, but the flesh says, “No!” always. Sin inhabits the deep places of the Christian heart (Jam. 1:14)… The source of sin lies closer to home than you or I may want to admit. It’s easy to blame God or the devil for our struggles, but the primary source of our sin lies within our own hearts… Sin remains in the hearts of even the most mature believers, and it is never passive.

• He will look like a Jive turkey or a Joker. Remember he was a hero in Israel. He had predicted Israel’s boarders would be expanded and they were. If he now predicts that God would destroy Nineveh and it did not happen, word would be out that he was a false prophet. They stoned false prophets (Deut. 18:22a).

Charles Spurgeon, ““Now,” said he to himself, “if I have to go through Nineveh and say, ‘Yet 40 days and Nineveh shall be overthrown,’ and if these people repent, it will not be overthrown! And then they will say, ‘Pretty Prophet that Jonah! He is a man that cries, ‘Wolf,’ when there is no wolf,’ and I shall lose my reputation.” Do I address any servant of God here who is afraid of losing his reputation?... The highest reputation in the world is to be faithful— faithful to God and your own conscience… Many a man is more a slave to his admirers than he dreams of— the love of approbation is more a bondage than an inner dungeon would be. If you have done the right thing before God and are not afraid of His great judgment seat, fear nothing, but go forward!

We are afraid what people might think, so we allow fear to conform us to their expectations.

One of my favorite shows of the past was Candid Camera. It debuted before I was born, on August 10, 1948, Allen Funt used a hidden-camera. It caught people in the act of being themselves. It produced lots of laughs, but it also offered a fascinating look into the human psyche. In one episode titled "Face the Rear," an unsuspecting person boarded an elevator and naturally turned around to face the front of the elevator. An actor would get in the elevator and face the rear of the elevator. Finally, a fourth actor entered the elevator and faced the rear. Without exception, the person facing the front would turn around and face the rear. The social influence exerted by those facing the rear was too overwhelming for that person to remain the only one facing the front.

Trans: Maybe you have backed down from obeying God because you felt your life would be in Jeopardy; or because it was Just you alone against them; you feel God has given you an impossible Job; not a Jew but just as prejudiced as Jonah against some people; refuse to go to those pagan Jerks; not too happy about God being Joined at the hip with mercy and grace; don’t want to obey God because it makes you look like a Jive turkey?

I have been guilty of it all, at one time or another, and can only pray God will give me a second chance to change my attitude.

(1). The City.

to Nineveh the great city – let’s look at a little background material.

According to Ge 10: 11, Nineveh was first built by Nimrod and was traditionally known as the “great city” (see Ge 10: 12 and note). About 700 BC Sennacherib made it the capital of Assyria, which it remained until its fall in 612.

Nineveh was on the east bank of the Tigris River (near Al Mawsil or Mosul), about 550 miles northeast of Jerusalem (220 miles north of Baghdad). It was not a great city until the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III (745– 727 B.C.). In 701 B.C. Sennacherib (705– 681 B.C.) made it the capital of Assyria and the most powerful city in the ancient Near East, with an urban perimeter of seven and one-half miles. In the same year he attacked Jerusalem. Nineveh fell to the Babylonians and Medes dramatically in 612 B.C.

Located on the eastern side of the Tigris River, Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, was one of the greatest cities of antiquity. With 1,200 two-hundred-feet high towers and surrounded by a hundred-feet-high wall whose foundation was made of polished stone and of such breadth that three chariots could drive abreast atop it, Nineveh was magnificent to behold. Sixty miles in circumference, enough corn could grow inside the walls to feed the population of 600,000… Hanging gardens filled the city with rich plants and rare animals. Temples, palaces, libraries, and arsenals abounded to adorn and enrich the city beyond belief.

(2). The Crying out against it.

and cry against it, - I like the way the Living Bible puts it:

2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh, and give them this announcement from the Lord: ’I am going to destroy you, for your wickedness rises before me; it smells to highest heaven.’“

Jonah 1:2 (TLB)

(3). The Cruelty.

for their wickedness has come up before Me." – This is only the third time in the Bible in which the evil of a people moves God to speak of destroying them. The others are the generation of Noah and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.


1. God’s command was simple and seemingly impossible – but when we rebel against God our lives become complicated and really impossible extremely fast!

2. Remember Victoria and Ryan? It could have been like Jonah and the Assyrians, but it ended up more like God and the Assyrians.

3. Nine months after Victoria’s ordeal, on August 15, 2005, she was back at her old job. As she walked into the Suffolk County Court building, she watched silently as Ryan Cushing admitted that he had thrown the frozen bird from the car. When the proceeding ended, Victoria waited as the teen walked toward the door. He stopped when he got to her. He began to apologize but broke into sobs before he could get the words out. She took Ryan in her arms and for the next few minutes held him as she stroked his hair. He sobbed and said over and over, “I’m so sorry.” She repeated, “It’s okay, it’s okay, I just want you to make your life the best it can be.”

Most of the people in the room were in tears as the scene unfolded before them. The five other teens who had been with Cushing that night all pleaded guilty to lesser charges and were each sentenced to five years’ probation. But Ryan had been indicted on much more serious charges, including first-degree assault. He was facing 25 years in prison. But Victoria intervened, secretly meeting with the prosecutor to ask for leniency. At the sentencing hearing Victoria spoke before the court. She said to Ryan Cushing:

“There is no room for vengeance in my life, and I do not believe a long, hard prison term would do you, me, or society any good.”

Ryan was sentenced to six months in prison and five years probation. William Keahon, Cushing’s lawyer, said:

“I’ve never seen this in 32 years of practicing law.”

Victoria explained her extraordinary act simply: “God gave me a second chance, so I passed it on.”

God still wants to pass it on, He could not do it through Jonah, but he could through Victoria…How about you and me?

Johnny A Palmer Jr.