Summary: A look at the story of Jonah from three different viewpoints: Personal, Christological, and God’s
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today’s OT lesson is a portion of the writings of the prophet Jonah in the book attributed to him.
If you go through all the pericopes listed in our hymnal, you’ll find that this is the only Sunday throughout the entire church year that has any reference to Jonah, save perhaps another brief reading on the day of the Resurrection of Jesus. We’ll talk a little more about the “why” of that later. However, even though there is only this once every three year reading, I would venture to say that the story of Jonah is one of the best known to just about everyone in this congregation and perhaps even in the world outside of this congregation.
So the question I would pose to you this morning is “WHY?”
Not why is this story so well-known and so popular. That’s pretty obvious. It’s got lots of excitement. It’s a great fish story. And it’s one that we love to teach in Sunday School.
The Why question I have is “why is this book included in the holy Scriptures?” Why did God give the insight to Jonah, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to write down this account, and what is it supposed to teach us?
To begin with, let’s review the story. The whole book of Jonah is only 4 chapters long, so it doesn’t take much to recount everything that happened.
In a nutshell, Jonah is a prophet. Now, first of all, what is a prophet? Some people think that prophets are people who tell the future or at least give inklings into what is going to happen at some later date. Not so.
Prophets are those who are called by God to profess His Word.
And that’s exactly what we see here in the book of Jonah. He is already a prophet when he receives a revelation from God. Verse one and two of chapter one reads: The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me."
So, Jonah receives his marching orders from God. He is to go to the city of Nineveh and “preach against it.”
What happens next? Jonah decides that he really doesn’t think that’s such a good idea. We’ll get to why he didn’t like the idea in a little bit too. But, the bottom line is, Jonah decides to run from God. Not just hide away for a while, but flee.
He travels down to Joppa and jumps on a boat that is headed for Tarshish. In Jonah’s day, that was about as far away as he could go. It was clear on the other end of the Mediterranean Sea, on the western side of Spain.
Once they got under way, God sent a storm. Violent waves and wind tore at the boat. All of the sailors were afraid. Now, these weren’t just a group of fishermen that got together for a days outing. These were guys who knew the ocean. They were professional sailors who had undoubtedly been through rough seas before.
But these weren’t any rough seas. These were bad. So bad that they figured someone on board had upset one of the gods. So they cast lots to see who the guilty party was and sure enough, they decided the guilty party was none other than Jonah.
When they confronted him, he confessed and when they asked what they should do, Jonah suggested that if they threw him overboard the storm would go away. At first, they tried to row back to land, but in the end, the storm, growing ever fiercer, made them change their minds and over went Jonah.
We’re all very familiar with what happened next. Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and spent three days in the belly of that fish.
While he was inside, he prayed to God. This is a great prayer, and I want to take the time to share it with you.
"In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, `I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God.