Summary: Running from God is disastrous. Following God brings peace. Even when the storms come we find peace in the will of God.
A man’s car broke down on the side of the road. He flagged down a passing car. The driver stopped neither had jumper cables. She would need to push his car with her car with hers at a speed of 40 MPH. In this way they could push start his car.
He looked in his rearview mirror to see what was taking her so long. When he looked he saw to his horror that she was bearing down on him at 40 MPH. It dawned on him he had not been clear with his instructions. God has given us instructions and been clear about them.
Jonah is famous because the great fish swallowed him. Is it just a fish story? Story focuses on a disobedient character and swallowed by a great fish. Story of Jonah is a true story. Jonah is a real person who made a prophesy to King Jeroboam. II Kings 14:25. There is a specific historical time frame of 750 BC for this event. Nineveh is a real city that has been excavated. Other cities mentioned in this Bible book are also historically known cities, Tarshish and Joppa.
When there are made up stories in the Bible there are certain styles of literature that let us know it is simply a story. An example of a story that is only for illustrating a point is the prodigal son. But the story of Jonah is different. It is in narrative literature. The book of Jonah is not written is a figurative descriptive way like when Isaiah refers to the trees clapping their hands. The only exception is that Chapter 2 is in this form of poetry.
Jesus connects Jonah to an actual event. Jesus refers to Jonah in Luke 11:29-32, Matt 16:1-4, Matthew 12:38-42. Just as Jonah was 3 days 3 nights in the belly of the fish, so shall son of man be in the belly of the earth. Jesus calls Jonah a prophet. Jesus mentioned Jonah being in the belly of the fish, referred to Jonah’s preaching and linked Jonah to his own resurrection.
The account of Jonah is miraculous and amazing. But so is the creation of the world, the parting of the Red Sea, turning of bitter water to sweet and Jesus walking on water. We worship a big God who controls and orders events and nature.
God Says Go
Jonah !:1-2 One day the LORD spoke to Jonah son of Amittai. He said, "Go to Nineveh, that great city, and speak out against it; I am aware of how wicked its people are."
Jonah was given a commission by God. Go to Nineveh and cry against the wickedness. Cry aloud in the streets God’s message. God gave Jonah a command to go.
The wickedness of Nineveh has gone before God. God sends his messenger Jonah to preach forgiveness. God gave Jonah some clear instructions.
God speaks clearly. It is clear to understand but difficult to obey. God calls the sinner to repentance. He calls the believer to complete surrender. Sometimes God speaks in the still small voice and sometimes it is dramatic.
Here in the Old Testament God wants his message of grace and mercy to be preached. God’s purpose is not exclusive it is inclusive.
When God says go there are two alternatives. One is to obey. Here I am Lord send me. The other is to disobey. To run from God.
Jonah says no
In light of the character of God Jonah’s response to run from God is an absurd one. So many live running from God. They do everything they can to drown out God’s voice. They use excuses, get involved in busy activity. Jonah was told to go to Nineveh and instead he went in exactly the opposite direction to Tarshish.
Jonah made the mistake of thinking he could flee from the presence of God. You can’t simply escape God, he is too big. Why did Jonah do this? He could foresee the response of Nineveh. He knew God was full of mercy and would give them and opportunity to repent (Jonah 4:2) Jonah did not want any part in this. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. For a Jew to preach repentance and the mercy of God to Assyria then was unthinkable. It cut deep into the emotions.
When God says go it is not always to the easy task. Before you answer no to God consider the consequences.
Your disobedience affects others
Jonah chose to disobey God. He ran from God and threw his life into chaos. His disobedience affected not only his life, but suddenly he dragged the sailors on his ship into his mess. You do not live in a vacuum. Your disobedience affects not only your own life, but others. If you are a Husband it will affect your wife. If you are a parent it will impact your children. If you teach Sunday school teacher it will hurt your class. The ship Jonah was on was about to break up because of Jonah’s disobedience. All the cargo was lost due to Jonah. The captain found Jonah asleep.