Summary: 3 reasons why trying to run from God is a bad idea
JONAH - RUNNING FROM GOD
A drunk husband came home late and snuck up the stairs quietly. He looked in the bathroom mirror and bandaged the bumps and bruises he’d received in a fight earlier that night. He then proceeded to climb into bed, smiling at the thought that he’d pulled one over on his wife. When morning came, he opened his eyes and there stood his wife. "You were drunk again last night weren’t you!" "No, dear, of course not." "Well, if you weren’t, then who put all the band-aids on the bathroom mirror?"
Like this story, sometimes the evidence of the bad choices that we make in life are very apparent. Other times they are not. Today we are starting a series looking at a guy who made some bad choices in his life. We are starting a 4 week series looking at the life of Jonah. To understand the book of Jonah you must first understand it’s background and context:
Jonah, we read, was the son of Amittai and was from Gath Hepher (close to Nazareth in Northern Israel). He lived during a time of relative peace in Israel. For many years the people of Aram to the North East (present day Syria - Damascus) had been fighting with Israel. During the time of Elisha there was constant war with the Arameans under 2 rulers: Hazael and Ben-Hadad. Israel was greatly reduced in size and it seemed sure that it would be destroyed.
At the end of Elisha’s life Jehoash becomes king in Israel for 16 years (798-782) and the tables begin to turn. (story of Elisha and striking the arrows on the ground). Under his son Jeroboam II who reigned 30 years (783-753), Israel is able to push back the Arameans and Israel enjoys, for the first time in many years, a time of peace. The northern kingdom had not enjoyed such great material prosperity since the time of David and Solomon.
During this time Israel believed that God had delivered them and that God would destroy all the nations around it. This was not the real reason. God sent the prophets Amos and Hosea to warn the people that God would not spare them but that Israel would be destroyed.
The true reason for the peace and prosperity in Israel was that the Assyrian empire in the north was growing and Damascus was being destroyed by Shalmaneser IV in 773 BC. The Assyrians armies were brutal. Massive armies were well armed and equipped with the world’s first great siege machines manipulated by engineers. Psychological terror was their most effective weapon. Corpses were impaled on stakes, severed heads were stacked in piles and captives were skinned alive. After destroying the Arameans, Israel would be next to face this great army.
The capital city of Assyria was Ninevah which was known as the “great city”. It was very old - originally built by Nimrod (grandson of Noah). It is in this context that God speaks to Jonah and tells him to go and warn Ninevah that the hand of God was against them.
Jonah 1:1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." 3 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. 4 Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, "How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish." 7 Then the sailors said to each other, "Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity." They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 So they asked him, "Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?" 9 He answered, "I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land." 10 This terrified them and they asked, "What have you done?" (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.) 11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, "What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?" 12 "Pick me up and throw me into the sea," he replied, "and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you."