70. Jonah 1: “Avoiding Your Mission”
Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening
Service on 1/19/2017
(edited March 2021)
Verse 1: “Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,”
Jonah was a Prophet in the Northern Kingdom of Ancient Israel after the nation had split into a Northern Kingdom (called Israel) and a Southern Kingdom (called Judah). This division was the result of a civil war that followed the reign of King Solomon. Following the time of Jonah, the Northern Kingdom of Israel would eventually fall to their enemies and be destroyed. Meanwhile in the Kingdom of Judah in the South, God’s People were ruled over by a few good kings and a lot of bad kings. But in the Kingdom of Israel, in the north where Jonah lived, the Bible says that ALL the kings there were bad! During this time, God would call and equip Prophets, like Jonah, to reveal His will and message to His People.
Here’s what the Lord told Jonah:
Verse 2: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.”
This would have gotten Jonah’s attention all right. Nineveh was the capitol of Assyria. They were a TOTALLY HEATHEN nation and well known at that time for not believing in Jehovah and for being a big threat to Israel and their right to live in the land God had promised them. Actually, when the corrupt Northern Kingdom of Ancient Israel final did fall, you guessed it, it would be the Assyrians that conquered them!
Well, Jonah was a good man, I think. And he would have been willing to do a lot for the Lord. Maybe almost anything. But to go and warn their sworn, heathen, enemies to repent before God and escape His judgement. That just rubbed Jonah the wrong way.
Verse 3: “ But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”
Was he afraid to go there and preach? I would have been! Or maybe he just looked down on them as heathens. Or maybe it was both. Had God asked him to go to Nineveh to curse them or call down destruction from Heaven, I think he might well have gone happily. But to warn them and maybe even see them avoid the righteous judgment they deserved? He wasn’t interested. So instead of heading east, he sets off to the west for Tarshish which was at that time a whole world away from Nineveh, over near Gibraltar in modern day Spain. You may know the story. He never gets to Spain:
Verses 4-5: “ But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.”
With knowledge of God AND faith in God come many blessings, but also responsibilities. Jonah was trying to duck his responsibility toward God. He was actually sound asleep in that boat! He must have assumed, as I have done to ne honest, that simply ignoring God’s will for your life will somehow make it all go away. And I can tell you, it doesn’t.
Please notice something as we go through this next section of Jonah’s story. The mariners, even though they believe in other gods, still seem to know that Jonah is in big trouble! And when we, as believers today, ignore God’s will not only do we not fool the Him, but even unbelievers somehow seem to know that we are failing the Lord!
Verses 6-7: “So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not. And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.”
Obedience is part of believing. It’s not all of it, of course, there’s also comfort, and blessings, and help from the Lord. But out of His Love for us, I think, God will not allow any of us who believe to turn our backs on the mission and ministries He calls us, and created us, to pursue on the earth. And, uh, convincing other people that you are more holy or knowledgeable than they are does not exempt you from being willfully disobedient to what is clearly God’s will for you. I haven’t always obeyed Him in this area, but I KNOW I should! And so should you, if you love Him:
Verses 8-9: “ Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou? And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.”
What I need to do is less complaining about the storms in my life and begin asking, “Why must God allow a storm to enter my life to get me to trust and obey Him?” You see, that’s on me, not the Lord. Jonah was not the victim of that storm. But everybody on the boat, including Jonah himself, were starting to realize that he was the cause of it:
Verses 10-12: “ Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him. Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.”
It amazes me how kind these unbelievers were being to Jonah. They were trying to save him. It’s a shame that he, as a believer, did not have that kind of attitude toward the heathens of Nineveh. Look at what these sailors did for Jonah’s sake:
Verse 13: “ Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.”
It’s a shame today when we in the Church allow unbelievers to be ahead of us in love, compassion, mercy. But it can happen if we aren’t careful. Well, finally these sailors just can’t take it anymore. So even if Jonah won’t or can’t pray, they themselves start praying to God:
Verses 14-15: “ Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee. So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.”
And thus, they were all delivered from the danger of a bad storm. And look at what happened next:
Verse 16: “ Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows.”
Now the heathen sailors BELIEVE in the True God, and worship Him! I think, in our day, the unsaved are watching you and me, beloved. And, miraculously, they may come to believe in the Lord by watching us obey God or maybe even by watching us stumble! But I know it’s far better to witness to them by our obedience. It’s far better for them and for us.
As we close this chapter, Jonah is about to enter into a very personal storm. One that will afflict only him. And God will be using a terrible thing, and some other things, to cure not only Jonah’s disobedience, but also the distrust that was the root cause of his disobedience.
Verse 17: “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”