Summary: Are we reluctant or willing when God commissions us? Jonah is a great study in God's heart verses our own when it comes to mercy and grace.
Join me in a look at Jonah.
2 Kings 14: 23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, became king in Samaria, and reigned forty-one years. 24 And he did evil in the sight of the LORD; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin. 25 He restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher.26 For the LORD saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter; and whether bond or free, there was no helper for Israel. 27 And the LORD did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven; but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.
At this point, Jonah is speaking for the Lord and helping Israel, the northern kingdom, to be prepared for the onslaught of Assyria in an earlier time from the book by his name. Assyria is to the northeast and has been growing in power as it has taken over more and more territory and even nations around them. The kings of Assyria and the whole nation of Assyria were known for their sinful brutality in war and their detestable practices in life. They didn’t just defeat the peoples around them, they slaughtered them viciously as terrorists would. They invented ways of torture for those that they captured that were unthinkable to God’s people.
So here in 1 Kings 14 Jonah’s message to Jeroboam, king of Israel, was to strengthen the boarders to the north and doing so gave Israel a few more years of protection from this terrible nation. Jonah is a patriot and a prophet. He wants good things for Israel and bad things for Israel’s enemies. If Jonah had had access to our modern military weaponry and nuclear capacity, I have no doubt but that Assyria, Egypt, and maybe even Judah to the south would be toast.
Read Jonah 1:1-3
Now, God comes to Jonah again. This time God tells Jonah a message that Jonah could not imagine. God said, “Jonah, Go to Nineveh that great city and cry out against it, for their wickedness has come up before me.” Nineveh is the capital city of Assyria. Jonah never in his life expected this assignment.
God has a way of surprising us, does He not? This reminds me of another story in the New Testament.
Remember Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9? Saul was the churches worst nightmare. He was bound and determined to wipe the name of Jesus out by whatever means he could come up with. In Acts 26:11 he says, “and as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.”
Paul was obsessed with stamping out Christianity.
While this man Saul of Tarsus was in Damascus, the Lord spoke to Ananias, a Jewish Christian, and told him to go to Saul and restore his sight.
Ananias was about as bumfuzzled as Jonah, but Ananias submitted after the Lord answered his objection, Jonah, on the other hand, just took off to the ends of the world in Tarshish.
Notice the words of scripture here. Jonah went down to Joppa, and went down into the ship. He will also go down into the sea and down to the roots of the mountains before this is all over. When you try to run from God, you go down.
You would think that a prophet like Jonah would know better, wouldn’t you? Yet the text is plain as day, verse three and verse four say it twice: Jonah fled to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down into the ship to go to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
At least that was what he wanted to do.
What was Jonah thinking? Jonah can run, but he can’t hide. You and I can’t either. But that doesn’t keep us from trying, does it? Jim Feher shared something with me that hits home: There’s a stairway to heaven and a highway to hell, you do the math on how many go where. How many people turn away from God’s way? What percentage would you say? Isaiah 53 tells us, “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Romans 3:23 tells us: All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.