Summary: Part 1 of a 5 part series about Jonah.
The Prodigal Prophet: “Running to . . .?”
July 19, 2009
1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and cry out 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.
Have you ever been asked to do something you really didn’t want to do? The simple things like cleaning, exercising, dieting, homework, even being nice. And it moves to the bigger things in life . . . things like reconciling with someone we’re at odds with, forgiving or asking for forgiveness, sacrificial love, giving our time, respecting someone else’s point of view. We also do it with God. We would agree we should read the Bible, pray, give our time, money and resources to help others, yet, that’s easier said than done.
Nobody’s exempt. You agree to do something, but you regret saying yes, so you end up working through the process with a lot less enthusiasm, passion and desire.
Often times when we’re asked or even told to do something we don’t want to do, we rebel and do everything but what we’re supposed to do.
Well, today and for the next 4 weeks we’re going to look at someone who was told to do something he didn’t want to do. We can identify with Jonah. He was given an assignment by God, and he refused. If you’ve ever been told to do something you didn’t want to do, ran in the other direction, then you know what Jonah was going through.
Jonah is the story of God’s plan to reach the world, and one man’s resistance to be part of that plan. God doesn’t want one person to die without proclaiming Jesus is Lord. If it were up to God, we would all be heaven bound, however, that’s a choice we make.
Let me say one thing up front, I believe Jonah is a true story. It isn’t a fable or an allegory. Jonah was a real person from the town of Gath Hepher which was about 4 miles north of Nazareth. In Matthew 12, Jesus stressed the fact that Jonah was an actual person, as He spoke about Jonah as a fact, not in a parable. In 2 Kings 14:25 we learn that Jonah was a prophet during the days of Jeroboam II.
So, what was God’s request to Jonah? God told him, 2Go to the great city of Nineveh and cry out against it, because their wickedness has come up before me.
Jonah’s assignment was to travel approximately 500 miles to the NE to Nineveh. You can see on the map on the screen, Joppa is Jonah’s home town and he had to travel to the Tigris River where Nineveh was located.
Jonah’s purpose was to cry out against the people because of their wickedness. You see, God didn’t want to destroy Nineveh, God wanted the people to turn from their wickedness, to repent, to have the opportunity to find true life in God. Remember, God’s goal is never to condemn people, this is why He sent Jesus into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
So, why was Jonah reluctant in following God’s assignment? Maybe he didn’t want to travel to Nineveh. He was not excited about a 500 mile excursion through the desert. But I don’t think it was about being inconvenienced, it was about offering people an opportunity to find redemption through the love and grace of God.
You see, the people of Nineveh were wicked people. They were brutal in the ways they treated other people. And for some reason, a reason we don’t know, and one that Jonah couldn’t fathom, God wanted to save these people.
Did you catch the phrase that Nineveh was a great city. It was a huge city, with strong fortified walls to protect the city. There was a great deal of wealth and along with the wealth came a lot of wickedness. Besides all of the wickedness and immorality and false gods, we also need to understand that the Assyrians were moving towards Israel, ready to invade the nation.
In fact, in 40 more years, the Assyrians would invade Israel, and take thousands of people prisoner to Assyria. The Assyrians were crafty people, as they took Israelites as prisoners, they had their people populate Israel. That way the former religious customs and practices would be changed. The Assyrians would also lead prisoners by putting rings in their noses. They would physically beat them in ways which were cruel and inhumane; and humiliate them.
So, with that in mind, Joanh’s thinking, “no way God, I’m not going to travel 500 miles to save these rotten people. They’re mean, they’re cruel, and they have no Jewish roots, so who am I to even care about their salvation.” Do you get a feel for where Jonah’s at with his feelings. Have you ever felt that way?