The folly of trying to run from God.
Jonah prophesied in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, about 150 years after King Solomon and the split of Israel into two kingdoms. Jonah was active during the reign of King Jereboam II [684-753 BC]. Even though Jereboam II was a wicked king in God’s eyes, God was nevertheless merciful to Israel and she enjoyed much prosperity at the time.
READ 2 Kings 14v25-27.
Assyria was the great super-power to the north – experiencing some internal struggles at thr time which may account for the relative peace in Israel.
The fact that Jonah is meyioned in 2 Kings with regard to other prophesies suggests that he was a well established prophet before God called him to go to Nineveh.
Be a fly on the wall for a moment:
GOD “Jonah predict to the king that Israel will be victorious over Syria”
JONAH “Yes Lord”
GOD “Tell the king I said ….”
JONAH “Yes Lord”
GOD “Now do this and that”
JONAH “Yes Lord”
GOD “Now get up and go to Nineveh …
JONAH “Yes [doubtfully] Lord…
GOD “And tell them to repent..”
1. Why Nineveh?
Why on earth does God want Jonah to go to Nineveh?
Israel had not been to faithful in following God – God showing mercy to the Ninevites might shame Israel into repentence for abusing her blessings and priveleges – unfortunately this didn’t happen with Israel.
Jonah did not want to go!!! Maybe he feared the difficulties of the task – he feared for his life. Many a missionsry has faced peril and some have lost their lives.
ILLUS.: Henry Martyn was killed as a result of presenting a Persian NT to the Shah of Iran.
Richard Cameron’s head was displayed on a pole in Edinburgh for daring to preach the Lordship of Christ in Scotland 300 years ago.
We can understand Jonah’s temptation to flee in the light of entering hostile Assyrian territory
The Hebrews considered the heathen as being beneath them – Gentile dogs.
God had passed them by!! God didn’t want the Jews to have anything to do with the heathen, did he?? For Jonah to go and preach God’s grace to the heathen was unthinkable. They should be wiped out – not saved!!
The initial declaration was one of destruction and punishment but Jonah knew God was merciful and compassionate. [READ 4v2] This did not sit well with Jonah – he could not see past his unbiblical prejudice against the gentile. That is why he ran away.
Whether Jonah knew it or not he was being used to take a step forward in the fulfillment of a blessing promised to Abraham [Gen 12v3]. The message of God’s saving grace was to go out to the whole world.
2. Jonah on the run!
God says “GO”. Jonah says “NO!”
God says “Go east'” .. Jonah goes west” [Tarshish is in Spain]
Jonah was abeliever and a prophet, and inspite of his disobedience, he knew God was omnipresent – he would have known the words of Ps.139v7-8:
Where can I go from your spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go to the heavens you are there!
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there!
Joanh was being deliderately disobedient – he was running away!
We have seen he had an anti-Gentile prejudice. His real problem was that God might bring these Ninevites to repentence! Jonah’s theology did not have room for the salvation of the gentiles – not too many anyhow!! Jonah was angry when God spared Nineveh and Show himself to be a compassionate and merciful God.
The same God that ent Jonah to Nineveh is the same God that sends the Church to the world – with the same message! That he is angry with sin BUT is merciful to those who repent.
God required obedience of Jonah but Jonah would not listen – he was determined to do his own thing his own way! And if God did not agree with him then he would make alternative arrangements – He had better things to do than go on a wild goose chase to Nineveh!
Jonah chose his own way because he did not like what he saw in God’s word – it did not make sense to him – but you see the Word of God does not make sense to human wisdom – it never will! “His ways are higher than our ways ” – “the wisdom of the cross is foolishness to men….”
So Jonah ran away!!
Trudged 60 miles from Gath Hepher to Joppa – God let him go!!
Found a ship heading west – What providence!!
Paid his fare, boarded and sailed away! As the ship sailed away he found a quiet corner and went to sleep!
He had done it!! Escaped!
Just because things go well it is no guarantee that we are obeying God – conversely if the go badly it does not mean that we are disobeying!
ILLUS.: Christian businessman – I must be doing it right look how God is blessing me! Prosperity is no gaurantee of spiritually or obedience.
Jonah attitude was like of the thief who thinks that because he has eluded capture so far he has got away with the crime altogether!
It is illogical to think that just because God’s discipline is delayed does not mean it won’t come! Because things fall into place for us it does not necessarily follow that we are obeying God’s will.
3. Jonah is found out!
The wind and the storm obeyed God. The sailors cried out to their gods but Jonah remained sleeping – silence! But God was not going to allow Jonah to get away with this willful disobedience.
He was even going to use this to glorify his name among these heathen sailors and bring them to salvation.
The strom is so fierce that they pray to their gods and jettison their cargo.
BUT Jonah is sleeping! The captian of the ship is amazed and rebukes him for not calling on his God! Most people can’t sleep in a crisis BUT Jonah has blotted it out – oblivious to the danger that he is in – it is the sleep of one who has persuaded himself that he is safe when in fact he was in mortal danger.
Paul in a similar crisis 800 years later – was the one who prayed and brought assurance to the sailors – but Jonah was the cause of the crisis and he was sleeping.
There is an irony that the Lord had Jonah rebuked by a Heathen Captain. Jonah would never have been in the ship in the first place had he not turned his back on the God-given commission to take God’s word to the heathen! Now it is a Heathen ship’s-Captain that brings him back to God’s reality.
What an indictment against God’s people when it takes the heathen world to rebuke their disobedience.
The experience of Jonah is an example of the sin of a believer finding him out!
“Be sure your sins will find you out” It is not possible to escape from our sins, they will catch up with us in time, and – if not forgiven and covered by the blood of Christ – then paid for in a lost eternity.
As Christian we can be tempted to play down sin. O we acknowledge our sin in general – after all we are not perfect – but then no one is!! We can’t be good all the time>
BUT you see it is easy to extract general admissions of relative imperfection – after all God is only really angry with mass-murderers and rapists – There a little weakness in my life but nothing that will warrant the full wrath of and angry God.
And we accept that things go wrong in the course of life and that maybe God’s way of keeping us in line “These things are sent to try us”
God won;t allow us to get away with that!! God does not condone in the saint what he comdemns in the sinner!!
Like Jonah – God eventually catches up with us and puts his finger on us and says “IT’s you” “The Lot fell on Jonah”.
4. Jonah confesses!
Jonah explains who his God is and why he is anger with him. The focus is upon who God is – His holiness
– His love
– His glory
– His right to be angry with the waywardness of men who he made in
The sailors had been afraid of the storm but now they were terrified when they heard of Jonah’s God.
Their response to hearing of God was the corredt one – it is amazing that even though Jonah was disobedient God still use him to bring salvation to these sailors.
READ v16. It became clear to them that the Lord was pursuing them as well – the were not just bystanders in someone else’s problem. They were not innocent victims of Jonah’s transgression BUT they too were answerable to God for their own spiritual condition.
It is no excuse on Jonah’s part but it shows God”s sovereign dealings with men. They were evangelised by Jonah’s confession.
CONFESSION IS NOT FORGIVENESS.
READ v11-12 Jonah’s confession did not mean that he was instantly forgiven and reconciled to God. The storm did not stop.
There is some how the view that God must forgive as it is is a right! NO!!
Forgiveness is not imperative – punishment is!! Forgiveness is optional – at the discretion of God’s mercy.
And God’s mercy is not given at the expense of his justice – hence the cross!!
Confession may be good for the soul BUT it is neither atonement for sin NOR a basis for forgiveness. Repentence and sorrow do not earn forgiveness.
Jonah had to learn in his own personal experience that the wages of sin really si death.
Jonah recognised that he was to blame. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you..
He accepted without reservation the consequences of his sin “Pick me up and throw me into the sea”
He does not bargin with God
ILLUS> many do . Lord if you get me out of this mess I’ll…..
Jonah anticipates God’s mercy to the sailors v12a “.. the sea will become calm…”
God had called Jonah to preach to the Heathen in Nineveh!!
His prejudice would not allow him to go to his enemies -these gentile dogs.
BUT God uses some of thhese very gentiles to bring him to the place where he casts himself fully on God and His mercy
And in the process brings the message of salvation to the gentile sailors.