Summary: As believers, we are often reluctant prophets who hear and understand but do not obey the word of the Lord.

The Prophet with a Listening Problem

Jonah 1: 1 – 3; Jonah (Part One)

Sunday Morning, June 5, 2005

Introduction: Wouldn’t It Be Great to Hear From the Lord?

Wouldn’t It Be Great to Hear From the Lord? I mean, really, didn’t you ever think that the disciples had it easy? After all, they had Jesus right there with them to tell them exactly what he wanted them to do. There was no “putting out fleeces” or trying to discern the will of the Lord in those days, just the son of God himself to let you in on the secret.

Or maybe we’ve been a little envious of Moses, the leader to whom God spoke face to face, as a man speaks to his friend…

Or we think of the prophets with their personal, direct line to God…

Even Jonah, because Jonah, whatever else you might say about him, did hear from the Lord. And in verse one,

(1) The Message is Received.

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: (Jonah 1:1 NIV)

In other words, God spoke, and Jonah heard the word of the LORD.

And what an amazing thing, to speak with God; to hear his voice; to know his will. But the truth is, God loves to speak to his people.

In Genesis, chapter one, when God first made humanity in his own image to reflect his likeness, and breathed into their nostrils the breath of life, the very first thing he did was to speak to them, communicating his will and purpose for their lives. Genesis 1, verse 29;

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." (Genesis 1:29 NIV)

And scripture, from that day on is the record of God’s revelation of himself. Scripture, from that day on is the record of God speaking to his people; first, to Adam and Eve, then to Cain, to Noah, to Abraham. Isaac and Jacob. Later on, to and through Moses and the prophets. In fact, the writer to the Hebrews tells us,

Going through a long line of prophets, God has been addressing our ancestors in different ways for centuries. Recently he spoke to us directly through his Son. By his Son, God created the world in the beginning, and it will all belong to the Son at the end. This Son perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God’s nature. He holds everything together by what he says—powerful words! (Hebrews 1: 1 – 2, The Message)

As Francis Schaeffer once wrote, “he is there and he is not silent,” nor has he ever been so.

No, God loves to speak to his people.

If only we had the same privilege…

But, of course, we do. (a) God still speaks. He speaks through his son, and we have that message, written down by those who heard and confirmed by the Holy Spirit “both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts [distributed] according to His own will.” To put it simply, we have the Bible.

But we also have the Holy Spirit. He is the “Spirit of truth” who “lives with you and…in you” and “will guide you into all truth” (John 14: 17; 16: 13). And he is the Counselor, who “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14: 26). So,

…we have the word of the prophets made more certain… (2 Peter 1:19 NIV)

And furthermore, (b) God still speaks with clarity.

Listen again to his word to Jonah.

"Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." (Jonah 1:2 NIV)

Now, I ask you, could anything be more straightforward?

"Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." (Jonah 1:2 NIV)

Sounds simple, right? So, the problem isn’t that Jonah didn’t hear and it’s not that Jonah didn’t understand. The problem is, Jonah did hear and he did understand. Jonah just didn’t like what he heard and undedrstood. So, while (1) the message is received by Jonah, loud and clear, still,

(2) The Message is Rejected.

In verse 3,

…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. (Jonah 1:3 NIV)

Now a little geography lesson here: Nineveh was a city in what is now northern Iraq. Tarshish, as far as we can tell, was a city in southern Spain, more or less at the farthest extremity of the known world in its day. So Jonah was not in any sense headed for Nineveh. It’s not like God told him to fly and he took the train. It’s more like God said, “I want you to go to New York,” and Jonah replied, “Sorry, God, Honolulu is much nicer this time of year.”

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