New International Version (NIV)
Jonah Flees From the Lord
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.
The prophet Jonah had many problems. First and foremost, he was told by God to preach a message of hope and redemption to the Gentiles, specifically the Ninevites. In order to do this, Jonah would have to overcome social and cultural prejudices he had. He didn’t like the Assyrian people, and felt that they deserved judgment instead of mercy. In his self-righteousness, Jonah thought that he was morally superior to the Ninevites. Jonah totally missed his calling, both as a Jew and as a prophet. As a Jew, he was supposed to be a light to the nations. Jonah was supposed to lead a lifestyle that reflected the glory of God. He was supposed to lead a lifestyle that would point people to the Father. Also as a prophet, Jonah spoke to the people on behalf of God. God would be cruel to create the Assyrians and condemn them to never be able to receive salvation. As a prophet, Jonah should’ve understood that God was always concerned for all the nations, not just Israel. The whole purpose of judgment was based on compassion. The prophet’s job was to expose the people’s sins, so they could turn back to God. God sent prophets to nations so that they would repent, so they wouldn’t need to be punished.
Jonah prophesied during the life of Jeroboam II mentioned in 2 Kings 14. In 2 Kings 14:25, the Bible mentions that Jonah prophesied that Israel would be restored to the same size it was when David and Solomon sat on the throne, and this prophecy came true in the time of Jeroboam. Jonah preached to the city of Nineveh, which was in northern Iraq. Today the ruins of Nineveh sit right outside of the northern part of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. The Christians of Mosul still call themselves Assyrians. So the fruit of Jonah’s obedience lingers on today. Today, we must discuss the value of obedience to God’s plan. We have the Word of the Lord, and when it comes to us, let us take heed. We don’t want the Jonah Jones.
1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai —-
- To understand God’s will for our lives, we don’t need to look any further than His Word. Everything God needs to tell us has been written already. His will is for us to go the nations, just as he told Jonah to preach to a city and a people of a different culture and race.
2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” —– verse 2
- God’s will is for us to grow in Christ and lead others to Christ.
- We need to be concerned about the spiritual condition of every person we meet.
Verse 3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. —-
- It is foolish to sail away from God on God’s waves.
God created the waves Jonah was trying to escape on. He gave people the minds and hands to build the ships Jonah was waiting on. God blessed the sailors and ship builders with healthy legs and backs to build the ships, and the ability to build Tarshish and Joppa. The money Jonah used to pay for the ship was God’s blessing. How often do we do this? We take God’s time, God’s money, God’s relationships, and God’s temple and use them for our own purposes. We got the Jonah Jones, that feeling that life is all about me, me, me. When we come to worship, we have to forget about the situation we left at home, even in the car. Leave the Jonah Jones at home!!!
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?” Verse 11
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.” Verse 12
Transition: Jonah’s decision almost got the sailors killed. It’s not worth it to run from God.
- When we run from God, it affects everything and When we run from God, bystanders suffer. When we run from God, people who need God’s presence and his salvation miss out. The cross of Christ is greater than our wishlist.
13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.
- Non-Christians can have more respect for God and other human beings than Christians sometimes. The men on Jonah’s boat had more concern for him than Jonah had for them. Have you all met people like that? The people see the Jonah Jones in our attitudes. The Jonah Jones is not attractive.
Do we try to tell people about Christ who are more patient than us?
Do we speak to people about Christ who are more loving than us?
Do we speak to people about Christ who are more kind than us?
Do we speak to people about Christ who are better employees than us?
Do we speak to people about Christ who manage their money better than us?
Do we speak to people about Christ who are more forgiving than us?
We can go down the line. We must excel in all kinds of areas, like forgiveness, time management, people skills, staying in shape, etc. All these things affect how people see us, and that will affect how they see Christ. You are Jesus to the outside world.
- Most people respect Jesus Christ and his teachings, and will respect us if we show that we respect Christ through our lifestyles. Thank God the sailors didn’t have the Jonah Jones! They cared about the preacher who didn’t care about them.
- Every Christian is a preacher, through the way we live. Don’t have people thinking that we only care about ourselves. That’s the Jonah Jones at work.
- People will come to Jesus when they see his transforming power in our lives. When they see the Jonah Jones leaving our lives, the conviction of the Holy Spirit will come into their lives.
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.
The love of God that we display, the respect for God and the love for other human beings that we display is the greatest proof we have of God’s existence, the greatest proof of the power of the resurrection, and the greatest proof that Christianity is true. Let’s follow Jonah’s call to the nations, and leave Jonah’s Jones alone.
“Jonah’s anger was not marked by outbursts of rage but by a quiet withdrawal from the company of others and a growing preoccupation with the events in his own life.”
― Colin S. Smith, Jonah: Navigating a God-Centered Life