Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I remember hearing the story of Jonah when I was young. Jonah, you know,  the guy who disobeyed God. Tried running away from God only to be swallowed by a great big fish and spit up on dry land. Sad to say, I don't think I've really studied Jonah all that much. Just remembered the story and that was that. 

Well, a couple weeks ago in Youth Group, Kent mentioned some stuff about Jonah that were really interesting. The next week Sarah talked about Jonah and she too had a lot of good stuff pulled from the story of Jonah. So I thought I'd share with you all some of what we talked about. 

Jonah 1:1-2, "The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 'Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before Me.'"

God chose Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach to the people of Niveveh against their wickedness. And what did Jonah do? I think we all know. He ran away. He tried to hide from God. Why didn't he want to go to Nineveh? The Ninevites were evil! And Jonah knew it. He also knew that God is merciful and forgiving. He didn't want to go to Nineveh, preach against their sins and have God forgive them. He didn't think they deserved that. So, his "brilliant" plan? Hide from God. 

Psalm 33:13-14,"From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth-"

You can't hide from God! God sees everything!! There is nowhere where we could ever possibly hide from Him. 

Back to Jonah. He gets on a ship bound for Tarshish and the Lord sends a storm. The sailors of the ship start to get rid of anything on the ship that they don't need and finally they go wake up Jonah. Jonah tells them that he serves the God of the land and the sea. And they knew that he was running away from God. They ask Jonah what they can do to make the storm calm down. His reply:
"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."

Instead of throwing Jonah into the water, the sailors try to row back to land. I think I probably would have done the same thing as the sailors. Imagine deliberately throwing a man overboard. It would be murder and they knew it. But when the storm didn't calm down... (vs. 14-16)
"Then they cried to the Lord, 'O Lord, please do not let us die for taking this man's life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O Lord, have done as you pleased.' Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to Him."

It's neat to see that God has a plan for everything. Jonah disobeyed and ran away from God, but God used it to bring Himself glory. How? Verse 16,
"At this the men greatly feared the Lord..."
God used Jonah's disobedience to bring the sailors to Himself. Wow!  

What happened next? Was it the end? Did God let Jonah die? No! God sent a great fish to swallow Jonah! That must have been extremely terrifying to be sinking down, down, down into the depths of the sea when out of nowhere a giant fish comes and swallows you right up! I'd feel very weird! But this fish doesn't just swallow Jonah and then spit him out immediately, no, no, God keeps Jonah inside the fish's stomach for 3 days and 3 night. Then (2:10)
"...God spoke to the fish, and it vomited up Jonah on the seashore."
First of all, Jonah made it out of the fish alive. Secondly, what I thought was really interesting, was God spoke to the fish. He told the fish to vomit up Jonah. It wasn't that all of a sudden the fish just felt like vomiting. No, God commanded it to! 

Colossians 1:15-
"He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."

Christ is in charge of all things! Even the vomiting of a fish! Wow!

Ok, Jonah 3:1-3a, 

"Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 'Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.' Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh."

Jonah obeys this time. And who wouldn't after what had just happened!

Jonah 3:4-10
"On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: 'Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.' The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: 'By the decree of the king and his nobles:
Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.'

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened."

Sure enough, just like Jonah thought they would, the Ninevites repented of their wicked ways. They fasted, wore sackcloth (even the animals!) and urgently called on God. And God had compassion and did not destroy them. 

How did Jonah respond to this? You would think that he must be rejoicing! God had compassion on these people!! But no! We see in chapter 4 that Jonah was angry! Angry! Why?
"He prayed to the Lord, 'O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.'"

"I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love..." He's angry with God for being gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love! Woah! So angry in fact that he wanted God to kill him right then and there. He couldn't stand the fact that God could forgive evil sinners like the Ninevites. 

The ending of the book of Jonah is neat,
"Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint."

We once again see God's awesome power over all creation! In the first chapter we see Him controlling man, the sea, a fish. Here we see Him controlling plants, worms, wind and the sun. You would think that after living inside of a fish for 3 days and 3 nights that you would see how awesome God is! And fear Him. But what does Jonah do? Does he start praising God saying, "O Lord! You are the ruler of creation. The Lord of all! Who am I to be angry at Your love? It's only by Your love that I am here."  Unfortunately, no. His response... 
"'It would be better for me to die than to live.'

"But God said to Jonah, 'Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?'

'I do,' he said. 'I am angry enough to die.'

But the Lord said, 'You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?'"

God brings it all to prospective. Did Jonah make the plant? No. So what did he care wether or not it died? The same for the Ninevites. God did make them. God loved them. And that is why He was concerned for their city. 

There is so much we can learn from the story of Jonah. First of all, throughout the entire book of Jonah we can see how powerful God is! It's amazing! Secondly, we see God's compassion. He had compassion on the people of Nineveh. He sent them someone to warn them of their wickedness. And then had compassion to save the city. Also we can appreciate it and know that He knows best. Jonah was complaining that God had compassion instead of being thankful for it. It was God's compassion that sent the big fish to save him yet Jonah turned around and got angry at God for saving the city of Nineveh. I think it's a good lesson for all of us. We need to trust God. He knows the plan for our lives and even though we may think it is all wrong. God knows, and His plans are never wrong. 

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