Summary: What happens when you don’t want to do what God wants you to do? The book of Jonah reveals God’s tenacious love and severe mercy to His confused and rebellious servants.
If you went to the mall and asked 100 people, “What’s the story of Jonah all about?”
Most (all?) would answer: “Jonah and the _______” – and they’d be wrong!
First, “whale” is never mentioned in the book at all – “great fish”
Second, neither this fish nor Jonah is principal character in the story – God is! He’s the hero!
The story begins with God. He is the first character in the story and throughout this book God is at work in powerful and wonderful ways. He has a plan – and Jonah, a prophet who lived in the northern part of Israel in the 8th century BC, is given the privilege of playing a central role in that plan. The story begins:
The LORD gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh! Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”
1. WHEN GOD COMMANDS, OBEY! 1:1-3
God couldn’t be any clearer. I know there are times when we just aren’t sure what God’s will is. This is not one of those times. How Jonah heard this message, we aren’t told. What we do know is he is very sure what he is called to do.
Nineveh – the capital city of the Assyrian empire – at that time still growing in might and power.
Assyrians and Jews were long-time enemies – attacked Israel again and again
Anthropologists tell us that the A’s were one of the cruelest people ever to live on the face of the earth
Top 3 – Aztecs, A’s, Vikings
When they went to war, they were brutally vicious
Every man they captured they tortured to death
Every child prisoner was killed
Every woman prisoner was taken as a slave
There are records of whole towns who committed mass suicide rather than fall into the hands of the A’s
The A’s practiced child sacrifice, burning babies as an act of worship to their demon gods
Sexual immorality was the way of life
Bottom line – Nineveh was just ripe for judgment. Jonah and everyone else knew it. This message was great news to the prophet and the entire world – and Jonah is the one chosen to pull the trigger. So he takes off immediately, right? Well, yes, but not where you’d expect:
But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the LORD by sailing to Tarshish.
Jonah hightails it in the opposite direction! He pulls a “geographical.”
Joppa = Tel Aviv
Tarshish = probably a fishing village on Atlantic coast of Spain; the farthest western harbor known
He not only ran, he tried to get as far away from Nineveh – and God – as he could! Jonah is no wimp. His revolt is open, direct and without apology.
Instead of going 500 miles NE, he veers off 1,800 miles due West.
Isaiah says to God: “Here I am, send me.”
Jonah says: “There I go! Get some other chump!”
You know, I kinda like Jonah – and that God includes his story in the most precious book we have. He’s real – and he struggles with issues I struggle with:
*What d o you do when you don’t want to do what God wants you to do?
* What do you do when you know what’s right, but that’s just not the path you want to travel?
* What do you do when God’s plans and your plans just don’t match?
* What do you do when you can’t trust God – when you just know that somehow he’s going to rip you off?
* Perhaps the worst struggle of all – has God ever commanded you to do something you resented doing with your entire being?
These are Jonah’s dilemmas. Are they ever yours? There’s a Jonah lurking in the heart of every one of us – times our will is locked in a power struggle with God!
When God commands, obey!
Instead Jonah says “No way!”
And he probably figures that when he stepped on that ship he was finished with God. Not by a longshot! You can run from God, but you can’t hide! God isn’t finished with him yet.
But the LORD hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart.
And there follows an amazing account of how the sailors – who come off as much more noble than Jonah – finally have to chuck the wayward prophet off their ship to save themselves.