Jonah: Running From God 1
Jonah 1: The 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.”
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.
4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose
that the ship threatened to break up.
5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god.
And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.
6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god!
Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
7 Then the sailors said to each other,
“Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.”
They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.
8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us?
What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from?
What is your country? From what people are you?”
9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord,
the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?”
(They knew he was running away from the Lord,
because he had already told them so.)
11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher.
So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm.
I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land.
But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.
14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life.
Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man,
for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.”
15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.
16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord,
and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.
17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah,
and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah was a prophet during the reign of Jeroboam II (793/92—753 BC). “2 Kings 14:23-25 states that Jonah was from Gath Hepher, 2 miles northeast of Nazareth” (NIV Hebrew-Greek KeyWord Study Bible, p. 1077), the small town where the Lord Jesus was raised.
He was a prophet. “The main role of the prophet was to bear God’s Word for the purpose of teaching, reproving, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)” (Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible, p. 878). Sometimes this was to announce what would happen in the future, or encourage the people not to give up in trusting/following the LORD, other times it was to humble the people to repent of sin & return to the LORD.
During Jonah’s life/mission, the nation of Israel’s borders expanded and “the elite classes prospered. But all was far from well within Israel, and the nation continued to move further and further from serving God” (Introduction to Jonah, NIV Study Bible, Carson, p. 1793).
Why Preach Thru This Book?
Because it confronts us, causes us to wrestle with many questions/themes:
-What do we do with miraculous events in the Bible?
- Believe them…and face the snickers or ridicule of others?
- Or explain them away as just a story to teach a lesson?
If the second option, how do we not then see miracles
like the cross & empty tomb
as just myths/stories to teach a lesson?
-Will we believe in a God Who judges, Who ultimately deals with wickedness
in ways that modern society disagrees with/is offended by?
-How am I like Jonah? In what ways am I running from the LORD?
Who are the “Ninevites” in my life for whom I lack compassion,
toward whom my heart is hard?
- Do I have compassion toward non-Christians?
Do I want them to be saved/forgiven?
- Do I think they NEED to be saved/forgiven?
Is Jesus’ blood enough to forgive “them”?
- Am I willing to go to them & boldy share the good news of Jesus,
as well as humbly/gently share
the consequences of rejecting Him & His good news?
-How am I like the Ninevites? What wickedness am I enjoying?
- What sin is the LORD commanding me
to turn away from & take responsibility for?
- How am I responding to the Jonahs in my life who point me to God’s Word?
-Where is the Gospel in this book? How is the Lord Jesus the truer and better Jonah: diagnosing the world’s sickness, painfully providing the cure,
& lovingly but clearly warning what happens if the cure is rejected?
Back to Jonah 1: I can’t break down every lesson in the chapter, but here are some:
Verses 1-3: Ninevah is encircled today by the city of Mosul, Iraq.
Tarshish is in southwestern Spain.
Ninevah was about 500 miles east of Jerusalem;
Tarshish about 2,000 miles west of Jerusalem.
Ninevah is one of the easternmost cities mentioned in the Bible,
Tarshish the westernmost.
Jonah was literally running away from the LORD
to the ends of the known world. Wow. At least Jonah wasn’t subtle…
Why would he run away from the LORD like this?
This is Jonah’s one job as a prophet—
deliver God’s Word, the LORD’s message, wherever He sends him.
- From Illustrated Bible Dictionary: “From about 885 BC to 625 BC, the Assyrians dominated the ancient world. Numerous passages in the [OT] report advances of Assyrian military forces against…Judah and Israel…As early as 841 BC, Jehu, king of Israel, was forced to pay tribute to the dominating Assyrian ruler, Shalmanesar III. This kind of harassment continued for over a century until Israel finally fell to Assyrian forces about 722 BC.” (p. 590). “The Assyrian army was ruthless [&] effective. Its cruelty included burning cities, burning children, impaling victims on stakes, beheading, [&] chopping off hands” (p. 114).
Jonah’s mission—specific, not general: Preach against Ninevah because of its wickedness. Consequences are coming, payment will be required for their debt of sin, but…the King is willing to pay the debt, if there is repentance, a turning from sin, acknowledging one’s guilt, & crying out for mercy to the only One Who can afford to pay it.
This isn’t just an Old Testament mission; the Lord Jesus spoke of hell, hades, future judgment, eternal punishment 50x in the Gospels & Revelation (plus more in rest of NT). It’s not all He taught, but He taught it consistently as part of the Gospel.
- Most loving thing a doctor can do is warn the patient so he/she is aware of consequences of not being cured of the disease. It’s one thing to say exercise & stop smoking, it’s another to say please do this or you’ll die in a year.]
Back to Jonah:
Verse 3b: Jonah was respectful/pleasant/law-abiding in his rebellion, not a foaming at the mouth raving lunatic. He paid the fare, probably made small talk w/the sailors, didn’t even announce that he was a prophet, etc. His was a refined rebellion. But all the time he was running away from the LORD, fleeing FROM Him instead of TO Him.
We might ask, “Goodness, what’s the big deal? God could’ve just gotten someone else.”
We often make too little of sin. Yes, the LORD could have gotten someone else to deliver His message, but he isn’t just focused on accomplishing His mission but also transforming His people in the process of the mission. We don’t just “do a work for God,” He does a mighty work IN us as He works THRU us.
- Imagine your favorite football team; the running back gets the ball then intentionally runs the other direction & gives the ball to the opposing team in the opposite endzone. Imagine the quarterback of your favorite team intentionally giving the ball to the other team to score. Hot potato—here…take it!
- How would you react as a fan? There’d be pitchforks & torches, I’m sure.
How do you think the owner of the team would react? And that is just football…
Imagine now how the LORD, the creator and ruler of the universe, would react when one of His people intentionally rebels and abandons their purpose, goes in the opposite direction and refuses to do what the LORD has clearly said.
- Is the LORD patient when we do this? Absolutely! We see such depths of patience in God as He deals w/Jonah! But He does deal with Jonah—the LORD doesn’t just sweep Jonah’s actions under the rug.
This should give us pause to soberly reflect on ourselves. It isn’t always obvious to others or even ourselves when we are running from God; we might be doing many other things pleasantly & kindly, & yet still be in rebellion. What are ways we run from Him? More on this next in future posts, God willing…
Back to Jonah:
Verses 4 & 5: God pursued Jonah! Oh He is the Shepherd Who goes after His wandering sheep!!! Lovingly, patiently, but doggedly—
- not with a gentle breeze but a great wind,
- not with a violet sunset but a violent storm.
God spoke to Job “out of the storm” of suffering/loss (Job 38:1);
Christ walked on water to the disciples & spoke to them
in their physical storm on the sea of Galilee (Matthew 14:22-33),
the LORD pursued Jonah in a violent storm.
What is He saying to you in yours? I’m not saying your storm is your fault, I’m just asking if you’re listening to the LORD in Bible reading, prayer, praise, confession, and requests.]
Back to Jonah:
Verses 9 & 10: We can be in rebellion even as we worship the LORD & get our identity from Him. Being aware of our specific sin doesn’t mean we’re actually repentant/sorry for the sin.
Verses 11 & 12: I used to think this was a kind gesture of Jonah, him taking responsibility for his rebellion.Maybe it is.
But others have pointed out that this was Jonah “doubling-down” in his sin—he’d rather literally die than carry out God’s plan. Jonah knew this was the LORD pursuing Jonah, & instead of going west to Tarshish he decided to go down to the depths. Jonah was willing to hit rock bottom in his rebellion…and he would.
But the LORD would meet him there!
Verse 13: Only God can still the storms that He sends…our efforts cannot…
Verses 14–16: God’s passionate pursuit of Jonah wasn’t all about Jonah; it was about the spread of the LORD’s fame & glory. Only God knows how these sailors’ lives were changed by their encounter w/the mighty God, only He knows if/how they told others about Him in their travels.]
Verse 17: YES! Leaving the chapter—& the post—on a cliffhanger. Tune in next post! 🙂 ]