Summary: Valuable lessons to learn about God and ourselves as we look into Jonah’s story.

What we need to learn from Jonah

by Andrew Chan PBC, Vancouver, BC

Text: Jonah 1


An angler at the fishermen’s club was describing his toughest catch. “After 3 hours I landed this terrific monster of the sea” he said. “I saw the pictures and he was only 6 inches long,” said one member. “Sure” admitted the angler “but in 3 hours of fighting a fish can lose a lot of weight.”

Today begin series in Jonah, perhaps best know among the Minor Prophets. But can we believe in stories like these, especially when there is a description of a big fish. Maybe it was just 6 inches long too. Even when I was kid, fascinated by story, even fairy tales are inspired and no doubt tales such as Pinnochio borrowed from this story of a big fish swallowing up Geppetto and the wooden puppet. Modern scholars today doubt whether this is true account or just some parable-like story? Reason:

a) Impossible for whale to swallow a man. (throat of whale is too small)

b) Impossible for a plant to grow the height of a man in one day.

c) No evidence Nineveh repented.

Today we can learn from Jonah…

A. Confidence in God

Reasons to accept book as historical.

a) It was never doubted before 1800’s.

1. Difficulty with miracles is main problem.

THINK…If God is God… is anything too hard for God?

b) Jesus Christ accepted it as historical. Matthew 12:39-41

1. Repentance of Nineveh was accepted as historical by Jesus Himself.

c) Some whales or big fish can swallow people.

British seaman named James Bartley, age 21. Thrown into sea while hunting a sperm whale near Falkland Islands in 1891. He disappeared. Just before nightfall the dying whale came up. Its blubber was cut off, stomach removed. Men noticed the stomach was moving. They cut into stomach to find unconscious Bartley.

In a comma for two weeks. After a month he was able to tell of being thrown in

the air, seeing great mouth open up and swallowing. He had been inside the stomach for 15 hours. His hair fell out and his skin was bleached white. He lived 18 more years.

This is certainly not proof that the same happened to Jonah, but it is certainly saying that it is not impossible.

Jonah is a dramatic story that goes far beyond swallowing by fish. The drama reveals …

B. Character of God.

It tells of …

1. God’s heart

Read 1:1-2

It’s wickedness has come up before me.

These fellas are about to run out of time.

It’s in my face.

Why is it in His face?

Nahum- tells of great sins –

3:1 “Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims.” Practice all sorts of wickedness, witchcraft, describe many dead, people stumbling over dead bodies. “Bodies without number.” Practice genocide. Even Rambo would be ashamed. Merchants there who are opportunists who stripped the land like locusts, they are the worst nightmare of protesters at the Summit of the Americas. 1) Brutal, militaristic nation.

2) Would later annihilate Jonah’s northern kingdom.

Final line in Nahum “… for who has not felt your endless cruelty.”

It is in your face kind of sin! Ooi!

He could have said: By the way Jonah, since you’re nice guy I just want to let u know that as of right now, by my great power, they are toast. Zap! Hail fire and brimstone, done deal!

Instead, he goes and calls Jonah to preach against the wickedness. You might not find the Good News there but wait a minute. If He didn’t care, why bother Jonah, right?

Do you see what God is up to? Do you see he wants to give every chance for these pagans to come around and repent? God sees Nineveh – “great city”. Sees (4:11) It has 120,000 people, many cattle? He cares for these folks! Also, for their food supply.

People matter to God. God loves people! Lost ungodly, nasty, people who cause all sorts of trouble, bring grieve, to His heart… yet He loves them enough to give them a chance at repentance.

Do you hear God’s heart here? Do you sense His willingness to forgive, what lengths he would go to?

Could it be true that the Father welcomes home the prodigal son, who lived a wild life, that the angels in heaven throws a party over every sinner that repents, that the thief on cross who said remember me, this day you’ll be with me, …

Jonah’s disobedience

I think Jonah believe that this is true and I believe that is why he refused to go to Nineveh.

It’s like me when I saw the anarchist violence in Quebec City this past few days, deserve being bonked on the head, suffer the tear gas. No one has sympathy for bullies, gangsters?

But some how in the heart of God, they still have a special place? For every in your face sinner, there is in your face grace to cover it. All I can say is Wow! What a God! In your face kind of defiance and sin, and he wants to give them a chance to repent.

God could have conveniently forgot about these guys, they deserve instant gas chamber treatment. They’re like roaches, needed to stomped out.

It’s wickedness is great … but God’ s grace is greater.

“… But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” Romans 5:20 NIV

Grace that is greater than all our sin, says the hymn.

Jonah knew that… so he ran away… The thought of Nineveh, being warned of God’s judgment and perhaps escaping wrath of God, made him sick. Couldn’t bear thought they could get off by God’s grace. So he bought a ticket to Tarshish is like opposite end of Nineveh, intention is get away, as far away as possible, this is like the furthest point in the known world at that time.

Perhaps in Spain as opposed to Middle East. Instead of up to Nineveh, went down to Joppa. Instead of calling on God, he went to sleep.

I think Jonah knows that if he to be physically far away, then perhaps God won’t send him.

But as we read v.4. God does not give up so easily.

As Psalm 139:7-8 says:

“Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens you are there, if I make my bed in the depths you are there.”

God’s character in displayed clearly in Jonah’s disobedience. When it comes to people that matter to Him, he won’t change his mind. He will do what it takes, even if it means sending a storm. It also shows how He will break stubborn hearts to get it done.

So God send in the perfect storm… can u imagine the scene… rock and rolling… I suspect they were not only throwing away cargo, throwing up …so bad was the storm that the crew of the ship thought they were going to die. Suddenly religion got them. (Read v.5). But their gods were no match for the storm, the storm was a lot bigger than their gods. Through it all, Jonah slept like a baby, better rephrased that, I had 4 babies, slept like a log.

Jonah just continued to sleep like any other day he didn’t even know his life was in danger until the shipmaster came and told him to wake up and pray that God would let them live.

I wonder if we are like Jonah asleep, bought our ticket and now lying down below deck, while there are storms of political change, health care crisis, recession looms layoffs as giants like Nortel, transit strike, strikes everywhere, people are being tossed around in streets, women shot dead by abusive husbands, child abuse, social workers are taxed, idiots who believe freedom of expression means child pornography is OK but do we care or like Jonah asleep, but in a deep sleep, away from presence of God?

One modern day prophet puts it this way:

Do u see, do u see, all the people sinking down

Don’t u care, don’t u care are u gonna let them drown

How can u be so numb Not to care if they come

You close your eyes and pretend the job’s done

O bless me lord, bless me lord, You know it’s all I ever hear

No one aches, no one hurts, No one even sheds one tear

But he cries, he weeps, he bleeds

And he cares for your needs and you just lay back and keep soaking it in

Open up open up and give yourself away

You see the need, you hear the cries So how can u delay

God’s calling and you’re the one, But like Jonah you run

He’s told you to speak But you keep holding it in

Oh can’t you see it’s such sin

The world is sleeping in the dark, that the church just can’t fight

Cause it’s asleep in the light,

how can you be so dead, When you’ve been so well fed

Jesus rose from the grave and you, you can’t get out of bed.

Don’t close your eyes, don’t pretend the job’s done

Come away, come away, come away with me my Love

Come away from this mess, come away with me my love.

Come away from the mess like the sailors

See the sailors faith. Sailors prayed up a storm (v.14, 16), and Jonah just laid down and snored.

See their faith can you God’s heart is touched, hears their prayer and spared their lives.

Again, God could have easily wiped them out but he hears their prayer and received their worship.

2. God’s providence (v.17)

He provided the storm

to wake Jonah up

fish to swallow him up, save him from drowning

Look at our lives…

He has provided the necessary experience to get us going

do not see experience useless, every bit of it God’s providence, to teach, equip you and when

I believe if we wake up to those lessons, God will provide what’s needed to kick start a revival…

God’s gonna do this, if we will see His character accurately

Commission of God

Perhaps we need reminder today what God is up to in this world.

As we learn from Jonah 1

God loved Nineveh, wanted it challenged to repent.

Proves to us God’s real intent is always salvation.

God loves even those who are ignorant and exceedinglywicked. 4:11

"Should I not be concerned for that great city?"

III. Application: Concern for those at home is not enough. Are we like Jonah?

Maybe they’re storms in life, would mind asking the Lord if it His way of saying to u to wake up?

There are still many unreached peoples have no witness of the Gospel. Many today here do not know Jesus, and we are asleep in the light with traditions, keeping folks out of church without even knowing it.

In 1998 a pastor and his wife moved to Southern California to take on a church in decline. In fact, the church was pretty much dead, and they were there to do a "re-plant" of sorts to try and totally revamp things and get life back once again.

Upon arriving, the energetic pastor, Bob, noticed something quite different ... a "No Tresspassing" sign on one of the gates to an entrance of the church!!

It turns out that the church had experienced some minor vandalism and trouble due to some area gangs. So, they put up the sign to try and show they wanted it stopped; however, in their innocence, they did not think about the message the sign sent to the community at large. Somewhat "anti" Great Commission, don’t you think???

The new pastor took the sign down, cleaned up the property, and even built a hand ball court for the gangs to play hand ball on. Now, the church is showing signs of life in many ways; and, they are seeing positive community exposure and some growth.

Still, it is hard to imagine that any church would put up a "No Trespassing" sign ... not something "Jesus Would Do!!"

If church does not fulfill Great Commission, it is not

being obedient to Jesus.

1) He explicitly commands us to go to ends of earth. Matt 28:19

We cannot run away from God, or our responsibility to Him.

Jonah’s disobedience is something we can relate to.

Like someone once said:

"Chief problem of Christian is not knowing God’s will.

Doing God’s will is chief problem."

So today, I trust you have learnt something from Jonah. We can have confidence in God - God’s heart is revealed clearly. BUT God heart is torn up by sin, he feels deeply and it will be judged, but His mercy and love for the lost is also clearly displayed. He will not simply allow the wicked to perish, his heart is for repentance, to come back to Him! How shall we respond then as His people entrusted with this Gospel, run away like Jonah or to trust and obey, for there’s not other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey?


Don’t close your eyes, don’t pretend the job’s done

Come away, come away, come away with me my Love

Come away from this mess, come away with me my love.