Text: Jonah 1:1-16
Critics may ridicule the story of Jonah, but the Lord Jesus Christ accepted it as fact. He used it to illustrate His three days and three nights in the tomb (Matthew 12:39-41.) Is it not strange that liberals disbelieve both?
The book reveals something of how God trains and disciplines those He calls into His service. We as His servants have promised to obey His every command; therefore we should not think ourselves free from chastisement if we rebel against the Lord’s will. Jonah did not stay true to his commitment, so God had to deal with him.
Loving the Unlovely (1:1-2)
God did not ask Jonah what he thought was best for the Ninevites, He simply commanded him to go and preach to them. God’s mercy was just as much available to them as it was to Israel, but someone had to tell them … “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:14-15.) Jonah heart, as well as his feet, were anything but beautiful.
He was commissioned, just as we are, to take God’s word to all people, even our enemies (John 3:16, Matthew 28:19, Luke 6:27-31.) God loves the unlovely, so must we.
A Wake-up Call (1:3-6)
Jonah thought he has successfully shut God out by fleeing from His presence, but his Mediterranean cruise to Spain would become a submarine journey to Nineveh! He thought he might as well sleep all the way, but he did not count on God’s wake-up call! Jonah slept while the ship was about to break up in the storm (Psalm 107:23-27; Ephesians 5:14; Revelation 3:3.) He did not care for the perishing in Nineveh or onboard the ship, but these ungodly seamen had to shake him into consciousness, and even commanded him to pray. Those who do not “Watch and pray” always end up in storms (Matthew 26:4.)
The Lot Fell on Jonah
The seamen used divination to determine what caused this unnatural and terrifying storm. The preacher onboard had the answer for all life’s problems, but his witness was nullified because of disobedience. As the ship violently tossed about the crew must have become very sick, and the lot fell on Jonah.
An Untimely Bath (1:7-16)
Eventually Jonah, realising he was to blame, revealed what he had done. These ungodly men show him more compassion than he had for the Ninevites. They rowed harder to save him. When all hope was gone, and at Jonah’s insistence, they cast him overboard. Immediately the storm ceased. This was probably a suicidal attempt by Jonah to further flee from God’s presence, for we know he had a death wish (4:3,9.)
It is easy to blame others when things go wrong, but usually it is our own fault and wilful disobedience towards God. Why do we think that we always know best? “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25.)
Our Personal Nineveh
Each of us has a Nineveh we must face. For Jonah it was preaching God’s mercy to his enemies. Our ‘Nineveh’ will test our obedience too. It will certainly place us where we will have to die to ourselves and personal desire so that we can truly follow Christ (John 12:24-26.) We cannot be fruitful unless we do so, and until then, we cannot live (Philippians 1:21.)
God is calling for commitment. He is calling us to “Arise and go.” He is calling for us to die to self-will, desire, and opinions. We can run, but we will never hide from His presence. If we try then disappointment and heartache is all we can look forward to. If we trust God and obey Him then we will have peace. We should run to Him, rather than from, Him … “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31.)