Summary: God judges Jonah’s disobedience, but in his grace he also saves Jonah.
You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide
’Hello, this is Andrew Leung - I am unable to take your call right now, but please leave your name, number and a short message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. (beep)’ A standard message that most of you have on your answering service at work or at home - the whole point of having a message bank or an answering machine is to make sure you don’t miss your calls.
BUT - there are some people who use it to screen their calls, to avoid certain callers, to sift out who they want to talk to, to work out which calls to return and which calls to ignore. Have you ever done that? Maybe you know someone who does that?
Well, Jonah is just like that when it comes to God - the message on his answering machine goes something like this - ’Hello, this is Jonah - I am unable to take your call right not, please do not leave your name, number or message, because I won’t be getting back to you, (beep)’
And that is how our passage begins this evening. You see that in the opening verses of chapter 1. 1The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
3But Jonah ran away from the LORD
Background 2 Kg.14:25; Nah.3:1-4
Now before we go any further, it’s crucial that we understand something of the background to the book of Jonah. Who was Jonah - where was he from? Where was Nineveh?
Well, we’re actually told in 2 Kings 14:25 that Jonah is a prophet and a servant of the Lord. He lived in Israel and he served God as his prophet - as his mouthpiece (as one who spoke God’s Word - that’s what a prophet does). In fact his very name indicates that. Jonah means ’dove’ - which signifies a ’messenger’.
And we’re told that he is Son of Ammitai - Son of ’truth’. He is a messenger of truth - God’s truth. So it’s no surprise to us when we read in v.1 that the word of the Lord came to Jonah, Son of Ammitai - it was his job to answer the call.
But unlike his other assignments which so far has been local (within Israel), this one requires that he go overseas (Nineveh). Now most of us jump at the opportunity to work overseas don’t we - the boss says to you he needs someone to work on a project in London - and you take the opportunity. But Nineveh is not like London. Let me explain.
Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria. And Assyria was a very powerful and significant nation. Assyria was Israel’s enemy, and Nineveh was the enemies capital city. Have a look with me at Nahum ch.3 (The book of Nahum is a prophecy against Nineveh), but we have in ch.3 pictured for us the wickedness of the Assyrians - the ferocity and the brutality of the Assyrians.
(1)Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! (2)The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses and jolting chariots! (3)Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses — (4)all because of the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft.
The Assyrians were a cruel and heartless people - Assyrian engravings depict people being tortured, skulls worn around their necks to show their cruelty. When they took over a town in battle they would take any survivors and they would impale them on stakes in front of the town. After a battle they’d pile up the skulls of their enemies making pillars out of them. Their leaders would often remove the heads of their enemies and wear them around their necks. This is not a friendly nation or a friendly city (not exactly on the top 10 holiday destinations of the day) - in fact this is the nation that eventually invades and destroys Israel in 722BC (you can find that in 2 Kings 17).
And it’s to this group of people, to this great enemy nation, to this enemy city that God calls Jonah to go. That’s right - it’s an overseas assignment to Kabul in Afghanistan, or to Mogadishu in Somalia.
And here is our first lesson: Jonah, the man of God hears the word of God and willfully disobeys it.
1. Jonah, the man of God hears the Word of God and willfully disobeys it vv.1-3