Summary: sermon from Jonah chapter 1 that looks at the disobedient intentions of Jonah and compares them to today's Christion
TO OBEY OR NOT TO OBEY
Text: Jonah 1:1 - 17
Jonah’s instructions were crystal clear. There were no excuses that he didn’t get the message or that he didn’t understand what was meant by the instructions or that he was confused by what he was being told to do. God told Jonah to “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. Nineteen simple words, crystal clear.
While Jonah is one of the “minor prophets,” and while we tend to downplay his contributions, let me remind you that the revival that came to Nineveh as a result of the message God gave Jonah to preach is the greatest recorded in scripture. Jesus used the example of the prophet when He said in Luke 11:29 – 30, “This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. 30For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation. Two of the synoptic gospel writers mention occasions where Jesus used the example of Jonah. (Matt. 12:39 -41, 16:4 and Luke 11:20 -32)
Jonah prophesied during the reign of wicked King Jeroboam II (2Kings 14:25). Jeroboam was a wicked king. Scripture says “he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” (2 Kings 14:24)
So that we might have an idea about the geography of our story, the ruins of Nineveh have been located directly across the Tigris River from the modern day city of Mosul in northern Iraq. Many a recent news story can help us locate that city in northern Iraq.
God said Jonah, go down to Nineveh and preach the Word to them because they are a wicked city, and we all know what Jonah did…he did exactly the opposite of what God had told him to do. Now we ought to consider all the facts before we get down too hard on Jonah. God was telling Jonah to go to a place where the people were hated enemies of the Israelites.
Now most of the folks I know, especially preachers would say “what a great assignment.” Whew LORD send me but, Jonah did not want to go. Assyria was the bitter enemy of Israel. They were a cruel people who had often abused Israel. Jonah knew that God’s sending him was an expression of God’s love and that God would save them if they repented, Jonah obviously did not want that. Jonah knows that if they repent, his gracious, merciful and slow to anger God will save them. (Jonah 4:2)
Instead of booking passage to Nineveh, Jonah flees in the opposite direction for a place called Tarshish. We do not know exactly where Tarshish is, but we do know that it is a port on the Mediterranean perhaps in southern Spain or Carthage in north Africa. Scripture says here in VS. 3 that Jonah sought to flee from the presence of the LORD.
Most of us are asking ourselves here does Jonah really think he can flee from the presence of the LORD? I mean this man is a prophet of God, doesn’t he know that God sees and knows all things? It might help us to understand the answer though if we would instead ask ourselves the question ‘what am I thinking when I am disobedient to God.” Do I somehow think that God doesn’t see when I pass on an opportunity to witness to my neighbor or when I fail to love my neighbor like I do myself? That really is what Jonah is doing here isn’t it? Jonah is acting in direct disobedience to what he knows God’s will is for his life. Do we always act like in the way that we know is God’s will for our lives? Are we actively seeking God’s will for our lives? If we are not, then we can say we are acting much like Jonah acted and we should not be surprised when we find ourselves in the belly of the whale.
Verse three makes it sound like Jonah had very little trouble finding a ship going to Tarshish. Remember that place that we didn’t know exactly where it was? Verse three also makes it sound like Jonah had very little trouble paying the fare to this far-away place. From the language used many have concluded that Jonah would have hired the whole ship for his use. The fare Jonah paid Whether or not this is the case, would have been substantial. (The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.) This was obviously a great journey because in Solomon’s day round trip to Tarshish took 3 years. (2 Chron. 9:21)
Now when God reveals His will for your life, it is advisable to get in line as soon as possible, but Jonah, much like you and I, went down into the ship and went fast asleep. God though sent out a mighty tempest. How bad was the storm? The sailors on the ship had already resorted to throwing their cargo over the side. By doing that the ship would float higher up in the water, the waves were less likely to fill the boat with water…that didn’t satisfy them though. How bad was the storm? It says the sailors were crying out to their god. Which gods were they crying out to? The sailors were probably calling out to their gods in the hope that one of their patron deities might be able to exert some influence on whichever god has become disturbed enough to send the storm. They are calling out for assistance, not in repentance. (The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.) The more the better and so the captain awakens Jonah so he too can cry out to his god. The captain had no idea that Jonah knew the real God, the one that had created the ocean and the tempest too for that matter.