Jonah Runs Away From God
– Jonah One –
Among the books of the "Minor prophets" Jonah is likely the best known. This book allows us to observe the many human emotions of a man that wants to do right but struggles with his own selfish desires. At first Jonah is pictured as a man resisting the will of God. He did not like what God told him to do. It did not make sense to him that God was concerned about a wicked, Gentile city. He ran away from his duty to God and his rebellion brought tragedy to his life.
The work that God intended for Jonah was simple. God told him, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me." The sins on Nineveh had brought them almost to the point of destruction. Their only hope for avoiding God's wrath was true repentance.
Jonah resisted doing as he was told by God. He ran from God only to be swallowed by a "great fish." Jonah tried to run away from his responsibilities to God and to man and look at how things turned out for him. He spent three days and three nights in the belly of this fish. This was used as a "type" of what would later happen to Jesus. (Matthew 12:40) After being released by being vomited out on dry land Jonah did as he was told in the beginning. He preached, the people repented and God extended His mercy.
Arise; go preach to Nineveh -- Jonah 1:1-3:God is concerned even with the wickedness of heathen nations. So He commanded Jonah to preach in Nineveh. Jonah, the son of Amittai, was a prophet of God from Gathhepher. (2 Kings 14:25) Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. It was located a little more than two hundred miles from the present city of Baghdad. The book of Jonah is not a book of prophecy just because it contains many predictions. In fact there is only one predictive element in the book and it was very short term. "And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." (Jonah 3:4)
Inspiration is the key because the Bible says, "The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai." God sent Jonah to cry out against Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire. He rebelled against God's plan and went in the opposite direction toward Tarshish. Jonah soon learned what he should have already known and that is that one cannot run away from God! (Psalm 139:7-11) Notice that Jonah paid the fare and went down into the ship. When you run from God you pay your own fare and you always go down.
Why hast thou done this -- Jonah 1:4-10: God sent a very violent wind that was about to destroy the boat that Jonah was in. Jonah learned "the hard way" that it is a terrible mistake to run from God. The mariners were experienced men of the sea, yet they were afraid. They were idol worshippers. Each prayed to his god for help. They lightened the ship by throwing things overboard. Throughout this time Jonah was in the inner part of the ship asleep. There was such a strain on him on the inside that he was unaware of the storm raging outside. The shipmaster awakened Jonah and told him to call upon his God for help. Oh but it would do no good for Jonah to pray at this time because he is not penitent.
The mariners said to one another, "Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us. So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah." When the lot fell upon Jonah the shipmaster began to ask him some questions. "Tell us, we pray you, on whose account has this evil come upon us? What is your occupation? Where did you come from? And what is your country and nationality?" Jonah told them that he was a Hebrew and that he worshipped the God that had made the very sea that they were upon and He made the dry land. The men could not believe that Jonah fled from being in the presence of the God that he said he followed as a prophet and as a servant.
Our sin hurts others -- Jonah 1:11-14: Jonah's sins had caused trouble for several other people. They were hurting because of his wrong. Their situation was bad and the sea was becoming more violent. They asked Jonah what to do to calm the sea. He said to them, "Take me up and cast me into the sea; so shall the sea become calm for you, for I know that it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you." This action of casting Jonah into the sea would be used to establish two truths. First, it would be shown, sure and certain, that Jonah had caused this problem. Second this event would be used as a type of Jesus spending three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12: 38-40)
The instruction to cast Jonah into the sea had to come by inspiration from God. Jonah would never have said something like that without divine inspiration. The mariners were humane men so they rowed hard to bring the ship to the land, but they could not. The sea just became more and more violent against them. If they had known the nature of God they would have known that it would have done no good to try to save Jonah when God said caste him overboard into the sea. All these men knew about the true God they had just learned from Jonah. Now they are praying to God that by casting Jonah overboard they will be innocent because they are simply following His instructions.
God prepared a great fish -- Jonah 1:15-17: These mariners were more obedient than God's prophet. "They took up Jonah and cast him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging." They were sincerely sorry for having done what they believed would cause the death of Jonah. After Jonah had been cast into the sea and the sea stopped its ragging the mariners feared the Lord exceedingly. They offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. We do not have any information if these men ever learned what happened to Jonah. We only know that they threw him overboard into the sea and he disappeared or they might have seen the fish swallow him.
The Bible tells us that "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." The God that made fish in the beginning could easily prepare a fish to swallow up His unfaithful prophet. He could also easily preserve Jonah for these three days and nights in the belly of this fish. The Lord that made and sent the wind to cause the storm likewise made and sent the fish. Please observe that the New Testament says, "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:40)
Being a Christian is a serious responsibility. Christianity involves your salvation. Your Christianity may affect hundreds of others. To become a Christian, you must hear the gospel (Romans 10:17), you must believe in Jesus (Mark 16:16), repent of every sin (Acts 2:38), confess Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9-10) and be baptized to be saved (1 Peter 3:21). After baptism the challenge for every Christian is to serve God faithfully.