Archive for the ‘Jonah’ Category

Jonah 4

Jonah 4 shows us the true colors of our prophet.  He grudgingly did what God asked, after a detour through the belly of a fish, and now he is unhappy with the results.  Usually a prophet or preacher is ecstatic when people repent.  But not Jonah.  “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry”. He didn’t want the people of Nineveh to repent as they were his enemy.  This is an intense response.  So he goes to God with his complaints and anger.  He isn’t content to just be frustrated himself – he wants God to hear all about it.

O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country?  That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster”.  Jonah knew that God would forgive them.  That what why he fled in the first place.  And now it has happened, much to his dismay.  In fact, he is so dismayed he wants to end his own life rather than live with the outcome of their repentance.  “Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live”.  A bit dramatic, but it certainly makes the point that he doesn’t want to be saddled with this positive outcome for his enemies.

God challenges his attitude.  “Do you do well to be angry”?  God asks a question that reveals his heart.  Jonah is honest in expressing his feelings, but that doesn’t mean our feelings are right.  And in this case, they definitely were not.  Jonah is off base.  Jonah doesn’t understand what God is up to, but that doesn’t mean he gets to question God.  In fact, we need to realize that God’s ways are always right even when we don’t understand them.  When we are angry with God we also must realize we much repent before God for that anger.

Jonah goes off and pouts about what has happened.  He went out on a hill overlooking the city and sat there.  God brings a plant along to give him shade, but soon causes a worm to come destroy the plant so it withered.  Then God brings a strong sun and scorching east wind to make it unbearable for Jonah sitting there having his own little pity party.  He again tells God he wants to die.  Then God gives him an object lesson.  “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh”?  Touche.

Guzik points out three errors Jonah made which many angry people tend to make:

  • He quit
  • He separated himself from others
  • He became a spectator

These things put him in a worse place than he was before.

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Jonah 3

Jonah 3 has our prophet out of the fish’s belly and getting a word from God a second time.  God hadn’t given up on him.  “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time”.  God doesn’t always pursue us with the same intensity He did Jonah, but God will deal with our rebellion and disobedience one way or another.  In this case, God’s heart was to have Jonah go into a city that Jonah personally hated and give them a message.  “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you”.

God didn’t give him any details with the instruction to go to Nineveh – just to head there and wait to hear what the message would be.  The first time, Jonah ran the other way and tried to flee God’s direction.  Not this time.  “So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord”. As much as he didn’t want to go, Jonah got the instruction and went, even without knowing the details.  He learned a lesson about running from God the first time and wasn’t about trying that approach again.

Nineveh was a large city – scripture tells us “Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth”.  This is a big assignment.  The message God gave Jonah was pretty simple: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”  There was likely more words, but the underlying theme was a need to repent and come to God.  In spite of Jonah’s lack of desire to see it happen, “the people of Nineveh believed God”.  This heathen city believed, all the way to the king who issued a decree to “call out mightily to God”.  Talk about effective impact by a prophet – Jonah was a case study in how to do it.

The king calls on his people to fast and wear sackcloth and “turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands”.  The Ninevites were known as a mean and violent people.  But the king calls them to repentance, which always means doing something.  In this case it was a change in how they lived – fasting, sackcloth, turning from evil and calling to God.  The king wasn’t sure God would turn from destruction of the city, but he leads the people to repent and cry for God’s mercy.  And it worked.  “God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it”.

That was Jonah’s fear.  He wanted God to destroy these evil people.  But his preaching had caused them to confess and repent, and God’s love for them extended to hearing their pleas, seeing their repentance and changing His plan of destruction.  God is always in the restoration business of bringing people back to Himself.  God’s change of heart did not make Jonah’s message false.  Destruction would have come, so Jonah’s word to them was a warning.  History shows us that God did judge Nineveh 150 years later, but for now, because of their action of confession and repentance, they were spared.

Jonah 2

Jonah 2 has the prophet in a bit of a situation.  He tried running from God, was thrown overboard, and now finds himself in the belly of a fish.  So what’s he come up with to do?  What all of us do when we are over our heads and beyond our own ability to control the situation – he cries out to God for help.  Finally, after running from God, now he calls for help.  “Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish”.  Wouldn’t that have been more appropriate before taking off and trying to leave God behind?  We really get things messed up by taking them into our own hands.  Jonah should have started with prayer before ever contemplating a run for it.

But he didn’t, and finally turns to the only One who can save his sorry life.  “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and He answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice”.  And what does God do?  What He always does.  He hears and listens and is there to restore us to right relationship.  But He doesn’t immediately pluck Jonah out of his bad situation.  Jonah has some confessing and repenting to do first.  That’s part of restoration – we have to confess our sin and be willing to repent of it before God’s going to step in.

Jonah makes his case, acknowledging that God had “cast me into the deep” and that “the waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head”.  Jonah is confessing his situation and the reality that he was where he was because of his very bad choice to try and run from God and not do what he had been commanded to do.  Then he admits that God had intervened and saved him.  He knows he doesn’t deserve God’s grace, but “you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God”.  God’s grace is always sufficient if we will just turn to Him.  He’s ALWAYS waiting to welcome us back.

So Jonah has the confession made, and now he moves to repentance.  God had given him a very specific task to do – to preach to the hated people of Ninevah.  Jonah didn’t want to do it, and chose to run instead.  Obviously God wasn’t having any of his rebellion, so Jonah now commits and repents.  “I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay”.  Jonah was a prophet whose job it was to serve God as He wished.  He recommits to that mission.  Then what?  God restores.  He sets Jonah free and puts him back on mission.  “The Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land”. It’s what God wants to do for you and me too.  To restore us through grace and set us free to walk in obedience to Him for eternity!

Jonah 1

Jonah 1 has the prophet getting a word from God.  “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah….saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me”.  God wants him to go to Ninevah, a city that is wicked and definitely not people that Jonah cares about or wants to help.  God had two commands – to go to Ninevah, and to call out against them and show them their evil and sin.  God called Jonah to go to a pagan, Gentile city, the capital of the Assyrian empire, and call them to repentance.  It’s the last thing Jonah wanted to do.

So what does he do?  What every person trying to avoid God does – he ran.  “But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord”.  Tarshish was a city as far from Ninevah as Jonah could get.  He has no intention of doing what God wanted.  So what does God do to the boat Jonah tries to run on?  “The Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up”.  God isn’t letting his prophet run from this assignment.  He pursues him.

The boat captain is overwhelmed by the storm and is beside himself in what to do.  They threw as much overboard as they could, and finally cast lots to see where this disaster is coming from.  “They cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah”. He’s the guilty party and God made sure the entire ship knew it was him.  So after doing everything they could to save the ship every way possible, they finally listen to Jonah’s direction and throw him into the sea that is out of control and swallows him up.  Jonah told them the sea would call after he was thrown overboard and that’s what happened.

God has a plan for the man overboard.  Those on board “feared the Lord exceedingly” as they realized this wasn’t a battle with nature, but with God.  So God impacted the crew with his pursuit of Jonah.  And while Jonah deserved to die for trying to run from God and disobey His direct command, God has another plan, a plan of restoration and completing the task he originally asked Jonah to do.  “The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah.  And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights”.  I’m sure Jonah believed his time had come and God was going to end his life, but that wasn’t God’s plan.  He intends to work on his attitude and then use him to accomplish the task.

Jonah 4

Jonah 4 contains the rest of the story.  Jonah has just finished spreading the message God commanded him to deliver to the people of Nineveh, and started a huge repentance and change.  People turned from their wicked ways back to God.  It is the dream outcome for an evangelist or prophet.  But Jonah was not happy. In fact, “it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry”.  He is not just mildly annoyed.  He is upset and angry that his efforts had succeeded.  It was exactly what he was afraid of and why he ran in the first place.

So Jonah talks with God about it.  We need to learn a lesson here – that we don’t just go to God when we have a list of things we want Him to do for us – but we also go to Him to talk about how we feel and what is happening in our world.  We just need to talk with Him.  Jonah does, and “he prayed to the Lord and said, O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country”.  Jonah knew what was going to happen which is why he ran in the first place.  He feared this exact outcome, and now he has to deal with the reality that he just saved a city of bad people he really does not like.

Jonah is distraught.  “It is better for me to die than to live” he tells God.  He really is unhappy. And he goes into pout mode.  Do you ever do that?  I didn’t get things my way, so I’m just going to go pout about it.  “Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city”.  He really can’t believe that God will spare these people, and that it will be because he delivered the message.  It’s miserable up on the hill overlooking things.

God responds and “appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah”.  That gave some shade and a bit of relief to the miserable conditions.  But the next day God takes that comfort away as He “appointed a worm that attacked the plant……and appointed a scorching east wind”.  Jonah is angry at God again and asks to die a second time.  God challenges Jonah’s attitude about the plant that Jonah had done nothing to grow or care for.  But then God goes on to challenge his attitude about Nineveh, a great city which God had created with “more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left”.  God loves His creation.  He doesn’t love what we choose to do at times, but at the core of His nature is love and He wants us all to turn from our wicked ways and come to Him.  Jonah had ran because he knew what would happen, and he didn’t want to be responsible for saving this wicked city.  So he pouts and wants to die.  He missed the mission.  He missed God’s plan.  But he didn’t thwart God’s outcome, even with a lousy attitude and unwilling spirit!

Jonah 3

Jonah 3 begins exactly the same way as the first chapter.  “The word of the Lord came to Jonah”.  God didn’t change His plan just because Jonah tried to run away.  God came right back to Jonah once He has his attention and gave him the same direction.  “Go to Ninevah”.  Last time, you’ll recall Jonah ran the other way.  He jumped on a boat and headed as far from where God wanted him to go as he could.  He was not going to go tell these people how to save their skin.  He hated them.

God’s direction was clear to Jonah.  “Call out against it the message that I tell you”.  Jonah doesn’t have to figure out how to do the task at hand.  God is going to give him the message.  All Jonah has to do is be willing and available.  All Jonah has to do is go.  That is so often how God works through us.  It isn’t that we have to figure out all the details.  He has all that in hand.  We just need to be willing to go.  What God originates, God will orchestrate.  He has it under control.  He just wanted Jonah to go in obedience.

Jonah went to Ninevah which was a big place.  “Three days journey in breadth”.  That is a large city.  The message God gave Jonah was to tell them “forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown”.  This was an evil city.  The people were not tuned into God at all.  But “the people of Nineveh believed God….called for a fast….put on sackcloth….word reached the king….he arose from his throne….removed his robe….covered himself with sackcloth”.  Jonah’s fears have happened.  This evil city is repenting and God’s message has been heeded.

The king issues a proclamation to have everyone fast and turn from their evil ways and from the violence.  This is now a city in repentance.  They heard Jonah’s simple message, one that he didn’t even want to deliver, and they are touched.  They understand God’s anger and their future if they don’t change.  So they repent.  “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it”.  The message delivered by a reluctant messenger works.  A city is saved.  God turns from destruction.

Jonah 2

Jonah 2 begins with a prayer.  Remember that Jonah has run from God, at least he thought so, and got tossed into the stormy waters to keep the boat he was on from sinking.  But God didn’t let him die.  God sent a fish to swallow him and now Jonah is in a bit of a pickle.  I’m not sure what the belly of a fish is like, but I can’t imagine it was a step up from where he had been sleeping down in the ship not long before this.  Scripture says it this way: “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress”.  We’re good at prayer like this, aren’t we?  Big trouble – time to call on God.  Not exactly how God intends our prayer life to operate, but for many of us, it is how we live it.

So what happens to that prayer?  “He answered me…..you heard my voice”.  God was there.  He was listening, and He answered.  But then it moves from a God out there somewhere to a personal thing.  “He” becomes “you”.  No more just God up there in the sky someplace sitting on His throne, but a personal connection.  And Jonah makes it clear that he knows that God is in control.  That God has caused what has happened to occur.  That God is God and only He can save him.

Jonah is in a tough spot.  But he understands that he can’t do anything about it.  “The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God”.  Jonah knows that life is over for him, except if God gets involved and changes his circumstances.  We often have to get to the end of ourselves, unfortunately, before we get to a point in life we recognize what Jonah does here.  That God is not just a way, He is the only way.  He is our only hope.  He is the only solution.  That’s when we finally get past ourselves and get in line with God.

Jonah gives us the sequence of how it often happens:

–       “When my life was fainting away

–       I remembered the Lord

–       my prayer came to you

–       Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love

–       I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you

–       what I have vowed I will pay

–       Salvation belongs to the Lord

Do you recognize that sequence of events?  We get in way over our heads.  We think life is coming to an end and viola, memory returns and we recall that there really is a God who is in control.  So we cry out, totally overwhelmed by our circumstances.  We are willing to give up the idols and human junk that we have been worshipping and consumed with, and we get right with God.  We make promises and offers to change how we live knowing that God alone can save us.  We realize that Salvation only comes from the Lord.  And He moves.  He does what He does and loves us.  In Jonah’s case, “the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land”.  God not only saves his life, He sets Jonah free.  But what a lesson Jonah has learned about running from God.  It doesn’t work.  It won’t work.  The right response is to run toward God and obedience.  That is how we achieve blessing and success!

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