Jonah 1

Title: Jonah 1

Text: Jonah 1:1-17

Time:  June 12th, 2011

 

I’m starting a short message series today on the Book of Jonah, that’s in the Old Testament, right after Obadiah and right before Micah. The Book of Jonah is only four chapters long, so it’s a pretty short book. Most people know about Jonah because of his connection with the whale, made famous by the story of Jonah and the whale. Most kids in Sunday School learn about Jonah and the whale because it’s one of those lessons that is easy to understand and easy to remember. Jonah gets swallowed by a whale, lives inside the whale, but then gets spit out by the whale – and lives to tell about it. Most people know that much. But fewer people know why Jonah was in a boat or why he was thrown into the sea or why the whale swallowed him. Most people don’t know what Jonah was doing or where he was going when he was swallowed by the whale. And most people don’t know what Jonah did after the whale spit him out on dry land. So there is more to the story than simply Jonah being swallowed by a whale and surviving. There are actually some very good truths for us to learn in the Book of Jonah, truths we can apply today in our lives, in our relationship with God. As we look more closely at the story we can see we are a lot like Jonah in many ways. Even though the events of Jonah happened a long, long time ago, in a land far, far away, we can still relate to these events because they teach us some very important truths. For example, the story of Jonah shows us that God has a will and that God reveals his will to people. God certainly revealed his will to Jonah. But not only that, the story of Jonah shows us a man rebelling or running away from God and God’s will. Does that sound familiar? It should because that’s the story of you and me in this life – and it’s the story of mankind in general and each individual in particular. And then it shows the consequences of running away from God, the problems that causes for individuals and for groups of people as well. Rebellion against God, rejecting God’s will, brings trouble to everyone, the individual who is doing the rebelling and others around him. That also is a familiar theme in our lives if we are brave enough to think about it. When we sin and rebel against God it hurts not only our own lives but the lives of those around us. So there is much to learn from studying the Book of Jonah, which I hope to cover in the next couple of weeks. Of course, there is even more to the story of Jonah than I just described, but I’ve only talked about the first chapter because that’s what I’m going to cover today. Next week I’ll talk about how Jonah reacted to his trials and troubles. And then after that, talk about how he got himself back into the will of God and what happened when he obeyed God. But all of that is to come. Today we look at the first chapter, so let me read Jonah 1 (read). I’ll talk about only three points today.

 

First, God has a will and communicates it. Jonah 1:1-2, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah so of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’” Notice that God’s will comes through God’s Word. There are some people who act as if God’s will is mostly found in ways other than his word, but this is incorrect. Most of God’s will comes through God’s Word, the Bible. Here is God speaking to a man, Jonah, and calling him to be a prophet. God gives Jonah his Word. Now the Word of God is a little bit different to the prophet than it is to us today, because we receive the Word of God through the voice of the prophet, instead of receiving the Word of God directly as the prophet. Now the Holy Spirit can speak to our hearts today, for sure, but it isn’t the same as a prophet’s word, and especially it isn’t the same as a word from God to a biblical prophet. There is no way that some alleged revelation, some personal word, carries the same weight as the Word of God spoken through the biblical prophet. There are some people in the charismatic movement or Pentecostal movement who talk and act like they are receiving revelation and messages from God that are equal in authority as the prophetic word of God in the Bible. That’s not right! We are supposed to test all things with the Bible and believe only what is consistent with the Bible. On the other end of the extreme, there are those who believe that God doesn’t speak anything to anybody except through the Bible. They don’t believe God speaks through prayer or circumstances or dreams or any other means than the Bible. But that also is wrong. Read 1 Corinthians and see many different ways God can speak to his people. But the only authoritative and sure word is found in the Bible, from the mouth of a biblical prophet. Jonah was a biblical prophet, even though he wasn’t sure he wanted to be one at first. But just like Jonah, God speaks to us today, from his word, from the Bible. That’s why we need to be reading and studying the Bible every day, in order to hear what God is saying to us from his word. How can we hear from God if we don’t listen to him? How can we know what to do in life? How can we know what to think about things? How can we tell the difference between God’s Word and human opinion that we hear on tv or radio or in the newspapers or on the Internet and elsewhere unless we deliberately and purposefully read and study God’s Word the Bible. Yes, God speaks through prayer, through the Holy Spirit, but the authority in our life should be God’s Word the Bible. God is speaking, are we listening? So Jonah was given a command, direction from God. We too are given a plan to live by from God from God’s Word. The question is, what will we do with it?

 

Second, man reacts to God’s Word. Jonah 1:3, “But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” So Jonah heard God’s Word, God’s will for his life, but his reaction was to rebel or run from God and God’s will. Sound familiar? It’s what we do as humans when we hear God’s Word. Now maybe you don’t rebel and run and reject God’s will as much as you used to. Maybe you’ve surrendered your life to God, given your heart to Christ, but you still have the tendency just like I do, to rebel against God’s will when it doesn’t fit our own human plans. Now we can easily see why Jonah rebelled against the will of God for him because it says that God sent him to preach against a great and wicked city, Nineveh. These people weren’t Jews, they lived in another land, they had a different culture, they worshiped a different god or gods, they didn’t follow the laws of God – in other words, they were foreigners. Why would Jonah have any interest in them? He didn’t. But God cared about those people. He didn’t want to destroy their city and their lives. There sins were so great that judgment was coming to them, but God wanted to warn them, and if possible, give them an opportunity to repent. It doesn’t say that they were given a chance to repent, but we know that was the purpose of Jonah preaching to them. But from Jonah’s perspective there was nothing attractive in his assignment from God. He didn’t know the people, had no contact with them, was a complete stranger, and because it says they were wicked sinners, they probably wouldn’t receive the message he would give them. So the whole assignment was not something Jonah wanted to do, so he rebelled against it. We can sympathize with Jonah here, not only because of his tough assignment from God, but also because we rebel against God too. We have our own will and usually try to push it through even against God’s will. That’s our problem too, we are strong-willed and want what we want. We have the same kind of rebel’s heart as Jonah. Now the only cure for such rebellion is surrender to Jesus Christ. Have you surrendered your will to the will of God through Jesus Christ?

 

Third, God brings trouble on man because of rebellion and sin. Jonah 1:4-17, “Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. . . .” God had a will for Jonah’s life, he communicated that will, but Jonah sinned by rejecting that will and doing something else instead. Sound familiar? It’s the story of humanity, individually and generally speaking. Look back at your life and see how many times you’ve disobeyed God and rebelled against his will. Look at the consequences of that rebellion. It caused you trouble didn’t it? Trouble is often the way God gets our attention when we sin. Sin produces trouble in our life and that is often the only way God can get our attention. The Bible says elsewhere, “Behold, your sins will find you out,” Numbers 32:23. We just learned last week in Galatians 6:7 that, “Whatever we sow, we’ll reap.” If you sow seeds of sin and rebellion against God, you’ll reap trouble. Now some clever people think they can escape trouble because they can outsmart God some way. They say, “I know what I’m doing is not God’s will, but it will still be ok because I’ll make it up to God someway.” Wrong. You can’t live outside of God’s will and not reap the negative consequences. Jonah tried to run away from God – which is such a stupid thing to even try to do. But again, we do the same things in life at times. Have you ever tried to run away from God or God’s will? That’s pretty silly or sad or pathetic. But it’s what we all try to do from time to time. It won’t work. God will find you. But sin isn’t something we do that’s rational. Sure, when we sin we think we are making a rational decision; we think we are acting in our own best interest, because that’s how deceptive sin is. But ultimately, all sin is irrational; it’s foolish. Jonah acted foolishly in trying to escape from God and God’s will, but don’t we all act foolishly whenever we sin? It is actually an act of love that God continues to care and look after us even as we sin. God brought trouble upon the life of Jonah, but it was ultimately to bring Jonah back around to the right path. God will do that in our lives as well. Sure we may have to go through bad things, many kinds of troubles, but the whole process is for the purpose of bringing us back to the place we should be. If you are caught in some trouble that you brought upon yourself because of sin or rebellion against God, don’t despair. Use the problems you are facing to motivate you to the right path. Repent and return to the Lord your God before something even worse happens. Remember what Jesus told the man he healed in the New Testament? Jesus told him, “Stop sinning or something worse will happen to you,” John 5:14. Are you willing to admit and acknowledge that you’ve sinned, that you’ve gotten off the path of righteousness before God? In order to return to God you must admit your own guilt. But do so before it’s too late, because past a certain point, a point of no return, there is no turning back, only ultimate destruction. A loving God is calling you back to himself, are you willing to make the first step back to God today? Isn’t it much better to obey God first? Isn’t it much better to surrender to God’s will instead of resist it? Haven’t you concluded that yet in life? Let’s pray.

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