1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil[a] has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
4 But 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. 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. 6 So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”
Today, as we gather together, we do so for the start of a new sermon series through the OT book of Jonah. Now, I know that at times, some of you are curious about how I go about picking what books or sermon series we go through. Why this book? Why this series? Why this time? So this morning, if you are interested, why the book of Jonah.
Why this time? Let me try to answer that here by giving a two-fold answer. The first is a very practical reason. Practically, in this time, I wanted to find a little shorter sermon series to work through. For those of you who have been at RVC for some length of time, you know we just finished a 1.5-year or so study going through the OT book of 1 Samuel. And because that was a little longer series for us to work through, practically, I thought it would be good to follow it up with a shorter series, which this will be. As Jonah is a short 4 chapters that we will cover over the course of 5 sermons. In addition, practically, I also wanted to find a little shorter sermon series to work through before Christmas and the start of the New Year, which we know is just around the corner. And practically, Jonah fits that timeline as well. So why Jonah? First, it fits the practical desires that I had for this time.
Second is more of a pastoral reason for why Jonah. So we all know that the society we live in has become more and more divided. That continues to put us in “us versus them” camps where it is becoming easier and easier to live in our own little echo chambers, which has made us more and more antagonistic towards one another as a society. Within that, we know that our society has also become more and more blatant in how it thumbs its nose towards the things of God, particularly when it comes to things concerning the clear teaching of Scripture revolving around sexuality and gender.
Where, in a very short period of time, much of society is now calling good that which God calls evil. And for us, as we live in an “us versus them” society, a society that is becoming more and more blatant with its rejection of God, there will be a great and greater temptation on our part to not only remove ourselves from society, from those who think differently from us, where all we do is live in our own Christian bubble, where we really do not know anyone who does not share our same faith in Jesus Christ.
But within that, as society continues to thumb its nose at God, there is going to be a real temptation for us to, in turn, thumb our nose at them by standing in prideful judgment of others. Perhaps we start to develop a similar attitude to the disciple in Luke 9, where in self-righteous judgment, all we want to happen to the world around us is for the fire of judgment from heaven to come and consume them. Rather than us having a heart, a deep desire, and commitment to take the fire of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world around us, with the longing to see more and more from the world around us join us in our faith in Jesus Christ, so that they would be saved from judgment and saved into God’s eternal love.
And friends, because of the struggle of our society, because of an increase in the temptation to stand in self-righteous judgment over a society that continues to find more ways to aggressively thumb its nose at God, I thought Jonah would be a great book for us at this time.
Remind ourselves of the heart of God to send His people with His message of grace and forgiveness to the world around us so that through His people testifying to His message, God would bring more and more to faith in Him. In addition, in this short book, I hope we are challenged by where we might see ourselves in Jonah. We learn over the course of this short sermon series that Jonah did not want to fulfill the commission that the Lord gave him to go to the evil city of Nineveh, which was a pagan city that had vastly different ideals than what Scripture teaches. Jonah did all that he could to get away from it because Jonah had a burning desire for judgment to come upon Nineveh rather than salvation.
And friends, to say it again pastorally, this type of attitude is going to be more and more tempting for us. It’s tempting for us to have such an “us versus them” mentality where we actually don’t want “them” – with “them” referring to those who are not yet Christians – to join us in our faith in Jesus. Hopefully, obviously, we do not want that type of attitude to creep into our hearts. We want our hearts in line with God’s heart, which is a heart by which He so loved the world that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, so that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him.
So with that as a bit of the “why” in terms of the background on why this book, this series, this time, before we work through our passage for today, let me now give you some background information on this book, some of which I think is pretty important for us to know to best be able to understand and apply this book.
To start, it’s not fully known who wrote this book, which many call a literary masterpiece. Although through much of church history, Jonah has been the assumed author who recorded an autobiographical story from his life. If true, this had to be a pretty humbling autobiography for Jonah to write. Jonah does not give a positive example in this book. I will get to more about Jonah in just a moment.
Secondly, I do want to state here that I do think this book records a real-life historical event. Now, in this book, there are some real didactic elements in it, where the author uses points throughout the story of Jonah to try to teach a bigger point. Because of the didactic elements in Jonah, some have been led to believe or at least wonder if this book was more along the lines of an allegory or a parable, a fictional story that uses didactic teaching to communicate a real-life truth. However, I think the New Testament clearly defeats that notion because in the New Testament, our Lord Jesus clearly treated Jonah as a real-life historical event. Moreover, even the various details recorded in Jonah point us to this being a historical event and not just an allegorical tale.
Allegories and parables do not spend as much time as Jonah does to communicate various details. Historical literature is the style of literature concerned with various details that Jonah has throughout the little book.
Now, let’s go back to the character of Jonah, which is probably the most interesting for us in terms of understanding and application. The book of Jonah is not the only place in Scripture where we come across Jonah. We actually read a little bit about him in 2 Kings 14. Let’s read this account here (2 Kings 14:23-27):
23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. 24 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. So not a good start for Jeroboam.
25 However, it’s interesting to note that he restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which He spoke by His servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath Hepher. 26 For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel. 27 But the Lord had not said that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam, the son of Joash. Despite Jeroboam’s wickedness, God, in His grace and mercy, used His prophet Jonah, the same one from this book, to speak His word and bring about the restoration of Israel’s borders and to proclaim the message of Good news to Israel. God moved through the ministry of Jonah in a great way to care for His people.
Now, it is hard to know if the events I just read to you in 2 Kings happened before or after the events of the book of Jonah, although most think what I just read in 2 Kings happened first, which I tend to think as well. And if this is the case of when these events took place, with 2 Kings 14 historically before the book of Jonah, it emphasizes one of the great themes that scholars talk about in this book: a theme of “us versus them” mentality that Jonah had. Jonah was willing to go to “us,” which for him was Israel, to preach repentance and faith, where he wanted God to work among his people, those who were like him. But he was unwilling to go to “them,” which for Jonah was Nineveh because Jonah didn’t want God to work among them. As mentioned earlier, for them, Jonah just wanted judgment to come. And to keep saying it, that is going to be a real ongoing temptation for us as well, especially for those who are more and more blatant in thumbing their nose against God. It will be more and more tempting to almost long for judgment to come on them rather than longing for them to come to faith in Christ.
So with all that information now in your hands, look back with me at the text, starting in verse 1, where we read that the word of the Lord came to Jonah, the son of Amittai. No slow roll-up for the start of this book; rather, we jump right in.
With the opening lines of this little book, God had a message for His prophet Jonah, a clear message recorded in verse 2: “Jonah, I want you to arise from where you are, and I want you to go to Nineveh.” Now, we don’t know Jonah’s exact location from which he was to arise. Still, it is safe to assume that Jonah was somewhere in Israel, most likely in the northern part of Israel. This assumption seems likely because of the passage I read for you in 2 Kings, which was located in the northern kingdom of Israel. However, as mentioned, we don’t know the exact location where Jonah was to arise from and go to Nineveh. But we do know where Nineveh was located, which today is in Northern Iraq, right on the Tigris River, a good 500 or more miles from Israel.
This distance could have possibly required Jonah to travel upwards of 600 miles to get to Nineveh because of the ancient routes that Jonah might have had to take. These routes didn’t allow for a direct flight to Nineveh but would have directed Jonah to make more of a roundabout journey. So, at least 500 miles, but possibly 600 miles in total for the one-way trip. To provide some context, think of it this way: from here to Nashville, TN, is roughly 500 miles, which would take us a really long day’s drive to complete that trip.
But for Jonah, what the Lord was calling him to do, this meant at least a month, but probably much more than that, just for him to get there, and then another month or journey to get back home after his mission was complete. So this was not a small or insignificant word that Jonah got from the Lord. This was a sizable command for Jonah to arise, leave where he was, and go to Nineveh, which, to keep going in our text, was a great city. This phrase “great city” comes up multiple times in this short book, which is the author’s way of making an emphasis to us.
Now, Nineveh was a great city for a number of reasons. It was great because of its population, possibly as large as 600,000 or more people at that time, which is bigger than Madison. This would have made the great city of Nineveh possibly the largest city in the Middle East, maybe even the world at that time. It was also a great city because of its land size. When we get to chapter 3, we will read that it would take Jonah 3 days to go through it. In addition, Nineveh was a great city because of the power and influence it held within the Assyrian Empire. For many years, Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, which was a world power in this time.
However, in our text, as we read verse 2, I think the thing the author wants us to most importantly see about Nineveh in terms of its greatness was that this ancient city was great in wicked and evil deeds. It was so great in this aspect that it clearly had a reputation that traveled the 500 ancient miles back to Israel for Jonah to know how wicked it was.
And for us, this was where God was calling Jonah to go, to travel the great distance to go to an evil city that was clearly thumbing its nose at the things of God. In our text, not only did the prophet know about the great evil in the city, but obviously the Lord knew as well, as our text tells us that the wickedness of Nineveh had come before the Lord. This means that God was not aloof or unaware of what was going on in Nineveh. He clearly knew what was taking place. And as the Lord could clearly see the wickedness, perhaps surprisingly and no doubt frustrating to Jonah, God wanted to show mercy to this city. That’s why He was sending Jonah to preach to them, to call out Nineveh in its wickedness, to call them to repentance so that through repentance and faith, God would do a work in them to show them mercy.
So, in these two verses, there is a lot going on here, and obviously, this had to be a lot for Jonah to process. Not only did he have to make this big trip, but he had to make it to a people that he clearly had disdain for. So, it was not a small command. There was a lot tied to this command, this great commission that the Lord gave to Jonah. Think about what God was commanding Jonah to do: leave the comfort of his home, leave family and friends, leave his community to go on a long, dangerous journey that could have taken him away from his home for who knows how long.
And, by the way, I should mention here that during Jonah’s time period, there seemed to be some kind of school of prophets where God brought together various younger prophets who would be trained and mentored by older prophets. For those who were with us in the study of 1 Samuel, remember the scene in chapter 19 where Saul was trying to kill David, and David’s wife Michal helped David escape through the window of his house. As David escaped, he found refuge among a group of prophets. That group seemed to be some kind of school or community of prophets. Even in 2 Kings, which, as mentioned, was written in the time of Jonah, we read the stories of the prophet Elijah and his protege Elisha. That relationship seemed to be part of this school of prophets. Many throughout church history have believed that it was very possible that Jonah was in this school. If that was the case, think about the incredible community he must have had. Can you imagine the Bible studies he was part of, the encouraging conversations he was in? Think about how hard it would have been to leave that behind for the sake of this great commission.
As God was calling him out of his community to go on the long and dangerous journey to go to Nineveh, the wicked and evil city, a city that was not part of Israel but a city that was clearly so far different from him. To keep saying it, there’s a lot going on here, a lot for Jonah to process and work through. This was a big cost God was commanding him to pay. And as we keep going in our text, as Jonah was processing the command from the Lord, we read that He came to the conclusion this was not a command from God. This great commission It wasn’t for him.
And this was something that he decided he was not going to obey. Jonah thought that God could find someone else to do it. So we read in verse 3 that Jonah rose, but not to go to Nineveh. Rather, Jonah rose to flee and head to the city of Tarshish. Now, scholars are not fully certain about the whereabouts of Tarshish, but Scripture does give us a good number of clues to help us have a good guess about where it was. In 1 Kings 10, we get the clue that Tarshish had rich metals and the clue that Tarshish seemed to be a significant distance away from Israel. In 2 Chronicles 20, along with 1 Kings 10, we get the clue that Tarshish seemed to be a port city. Isaiah 60 gives us the clue that Tarshish seemed to be located on the Mediterranean Sea. What we are going to get to in just a second in our text in Jonah, we see that to get to Tarshish from Israel, you would travel by sea, which fits with the other clues that I just gave you. So, adding the clues together, a lot of scholars think Tarshish was likely located in the southwest corner of modern-day Spain.
Now, if we pulled up a world map, Tarshish is the exact opposite location of Nineveh, about as far in the other direction as one could get from Nineveh in the ancient world. And in our text, Jonah did not head to Tarshish for perhaps a last-minute vacation to prepare himself mentally, physically, and spiritually before making good on the command God gave him.
Rather, as mentioned, Jonah was fleeing to Tarshish because our text tells us that Jonah was trying to get away from the presence of the Lord. Now, Jonah was a prophet, so he would have known that God is omnipresent, and he could never truly get away from the presence of God. So, what Jonah was doing here was all he could to get away from the command God gave. This was Jonah thumbing his nose at God and His command. Jonah had no desire to fulfill this great commission; he wanted judgment for Nineveh, not mercy.
Continuing in verse 3, as Jonah was thumbing his nose at God and fleeing from the presence of God by heading to Tarshish, we see that he first had to go down to Joppa, which is a town sometimes referred to as Jaffa. As another clue, Joppa was a Mediterranean port city. In our text, Jonah went to the port city of Joppa to find a ship. Now, let me point out perhaps a real point of interest concerning Joppa that might be more than just a coincidence. This isn’t the only place where Joppa is listed in Scripture; it is actually mentioned a few times. But of those times listed, the place outside of Jonah that you may remember reading about this port city most likely is when you read Acts 9 and 10. These chapters tell the story where the apostle Peter was given a vision from the Lord with the commission in that vision that he was not only to preach the gospel to Israel, which for Peter was “us,” but through the vision, Peter was given a commission that he was also to go to the Gentiles, which was “them.”
As mentioned, that commission was given to Peter in Joppa. So perhaps it’s just a providential coincidence that both the story of Jonah, who was given a similar commission, and Peter’s commission both happened at Joppa. But maybe not. This week, I wondered if perhaps God gave Peter his vision at this location to remind him of the story in Jonah, almost as a warning not to be like Jonah but to joyfully go to the Gentiles. I don’t know if that was the case, but I think it’s something at least worth pondering.
Back to our text, as Jonah got to Joppa, he found what he was looking for: a ship going to Tarshish. And as Jonah found the ship, we see that he paid the fare and went down into the boat. With Jonah in the boat, verse 3 ends with him on his way to Tarshish to once again get away from the presence of the Lord. And this same phrase is there again for emphasis; this was why Jonah was leaving, and the author didn’t want us to miss this detail. Jonah was moving in disobedience to the command God had given to him.
By the way, this phrase will come up again in this short book to continue to emphasize the prophet’s disobedience. Now, let’s keep going to verse 4. We see that sometime into the journey to Tarshish, the Lord was not going to passively sit back and allow His prophet to thwart God’s desire for His message to be proclaimed in Nineveh. So we read that the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea.
Which probably implies that the ship was well on its way out of the harbor, somewhere out in the middle of the sea. And by the way, this week, I wondered if the length of time it took for the ship to get out into the sea perhaps gave Jonah a bit of belief that he was getting away with his disobedience. However, as the Lord hurled the great wind, it was clear that Jonah wasn’t getting away with it as he might have thought.
In the text, as the Lord hurled the sea with the great wind, there was a mighty tempest that began, a real violent storm on the sea. And as this incredible storm hit the sea, it put the ship in a very vulnerable position. The text tells us that the ship was being threatened to break up, which no doubt would have been a death sentence for all on board. So, in verse 5, as the storm raged, the mariners were put into a panic filled with fear. In their fear, each of them started to cry out to his god, begging their god for safety. And as each man cried out to his god, we see that they also were trying to find practical ways to protect themselves from devastation. So they started to hurl their cargo into the sea with the hopes of lightening up the ship.
You can just picture the panic taking place on this ship. You can just see the mariners frantically moving about the ship. You can just hear the noise of the men crying out, the wind howling, and the waves crashing.
Yet, as all of this was happening, amazingly, we read that Jonah was unaware of what was taking place. Our text tells us that he had gone down into the inner part of the ship, where he laid down and fell fast asleep. Now, let me mention here that some scholars wonder if Jonah going down into the inner part of the ship was a bit of a word picture of death. Verse 3 also picks up on this theme; dead bodies are placed down into the inner part of the ground, and souls who reject God in the Old Testament eternally go down into Sheol, the place of the dead. And in the inner part of the ship, Jonah slept, which can also be a picture of death. So, it does seem very possible that this is the picture here that the author is communicating: as Jonah left the presence of God, he put himself into a picture of death.
Finally, for us this morning, in verse 6, even though Jonah was fast asleep, it was not going to be a long snooze for him. We read that the captain of the ship came to wake him up by crying out to Jonah, “Jonah, what are you doing? What do you mean, sleeper? Get up! Arise, call out to your God!” And here, notice the similar language that the captain is using to verse 2, as God called Jonah to arise and call out against Nineveh. Here, very similarly, the captain is giving a command to Jonah to arise and call out to his God.
Doing so with the reasoning that perhaps Jonah’s God will listen and give thought to this ship at sea. Perhaps as Jonah’s God gives thought to them, Jonah’s God would rescue them from the great storm so that they would not perish at sea. And as mentioned, that is where we are going to end this morning in chapter 1: Jonah on the run, disobeying God’s command, being chased and caught by the Lord, who was not going to allow his disobedient prophet to thwart his mission.
Now, before we end this sermon, I have a number of things I wanted to point out from the passage just to help connect some dots for some application to us today. First, God is a God on a mission, and that really is the main point of the book of Jonah. It’s not just the disobedience of Jonah, even though that clearly is there. The primary emphasis is that God is a God who is on a mission, a mission for His glory to be spread to all corners of the earth. This is something we see from the opening pages of Scripture as God gave our first parents the mission to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the world with His image that He created mankind in. From that first commission that God gave to our first parents, the theme of God being on a mission has filled the storyline of the Scripture, from beginning to end, including our text today, where the God who is on a mission sent Jonah to proclaim the Lord’s message even to the evil Ninevites.
In the weeks to come as we work through this short book, we’ll see that this mission that God gave to Jonah was a mission that God would see through despite Jonah’s disobedience. But friends, to keep saying it, this is really the biggest overall truth of the book of Jonah: God is on a mission. A mission that God was so committed to and invested in. Not only did He send Jonah to leave comfort and peace to go to sinful men, but a few hundred years after Jonah, God sent His only begotten Son, the second member of the blessed Trinity, to leave comfort and peace in the heavenly places and come to wicked, sinful mankind with the message of His gospel.
By the way, Scripture teaches that apart from the message of His gospel, we are all wicked and sinful. Yet, Christ came for us, to seek and save those who are lost, which He did by becoming fully man yet without sin. Unlike Jonah, unlike us, Jesus perfectly fulfilled all of God’s commands. Yet even though the Lord Jesus Christ lived a perfect, sinless life to fulfill the mission of God, our Lord paid the greatest of all costs as He willingly and joyfully laid down His life for His people, so that in His mercy, Christ would take on the judgment of our sin upon Himself.
Including our disobedience to the mission of God, which Jesus accomplished on the cross, where God’s judgment came, and Jesus was separated from the loving presence of God, where Jesus would indeed die, and His body was buried. But we know our Lord did not stay in the grave in the land of the dead, because on the third day, according to the eternal missional God, our Lord Jesus was raised from the dead.
Now, all who, by faith, repent, turn from sin, and turn to Him, confessing Jesus as Lord, would find forgiveness of sin and be brought into an eternal relationship with God. So, those who were once enemies of God would now be united to Christ as children of God, children who now wait with eager anticipation for the Lord to fully complete His mission by coming back for us, to take us to His eternal heavenly home.
A home where throughout all ages, we might sing of His praises as the one who is full of mercy and grace toward sinful people. People like you, like me, people like the evil Ninevites, people like those all around our society who, at this point, are thumbing their nose at the Lord. Friends, to say it again, this is the main point of Jonah: God is a God on a mission, a mission that He will complete, a mission that hell itself will not prevail against.
This morning, let me humbly remind you that if you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, it is simply because God, in grace and mercy, came to you.
Which is why none of us can boast and why none of us should stand in sinful judgment of others who have yet to taste and see that God is good. Rather, this morning, if you are a Christian, the grace and mercy that you received ought to drive us to go to others with the hopes that they will also receive grace and mercy.
And by the way, on that note this morning, if you have yet to trust in Jesus and receive His forgiveness, no matter how evil you have been, how blatantly you have thumbed your nose at God, the mercy of God found in Jesus is more, and if you, by faith, turn to Christ, you will find forgiveness.
Second, the mission of God is clear in His great commission for His people. Now, there are certainly parts of Scripture that require a little more thought and effort when it comes to understanding what it is teaching, where we might need to do some research on historical timelines, maybe taking real time to reflect on unfolding Biblical themes. Sometimes original Biblical languages might have to be explored, a little more digging just to get clarity on what Scripture is teaching. But when it comes to God’s great commission for His people, He is clear: we are to be His witnesses.
In verse 1 of our text today, God is very clear to Jonah. This command didn’t require Jonah to have to dig around to try to piece together what God was asking him to do. In verse 1, the Word of the Lord came to him, and very clearly, Jonah, you are to arise and go to Nineveh and preach.
And God gave to him this very clear command, fully understanding the cost required for Jonah to go and fully understand that Nineveh was a great city filled with evil. Friends, for us, we know God has given us a clear and straightforward command that we too are to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching. We know we are to be ambassadors for Christ. We know we are to proclaim the marvelous light of Jesus Christ. We know we are always to be ready to give an answer for the hope within us. We know we are to pray for God to open doors for us to testify. We know this because God has been clear in His Word.
Now, with this clear command, there might be some discernment needed in where we are to practically fulfill the commission. For Jonah, his commission was requiring him to travel a great distance to go to Nineveh. And perhaps for some of us here, God might lead you to do something similar, where you are to leave family and friends, travel a great distance to minister God’s Word in a foreign land as a missionary, to go to people who have little to no access to the message of Jesus Christ.
For most of us, while God might not be leading us to travel across a great distance to be His witness, that does not mean we passively sit back and do nothing. Rather, for most of us, we need to be willing to go and travel across the street or the apartment hallway to engage with our neighbors.
We are to go across the office to our co-workers. We are to go across the checkout counter to people we might interact with in our normal daily routine. We are to go across the lecture pit to our classmates. We are to go across the dinner table at the family Thanksgiving to loved ones who have yet to believe. We are to go to the people God has already placed in your life, to bloom where we are planted, in ways that we can tell those around us about Jesus.
And by the way, if you are struggling to know how to do that, by way of a reminder, on Saturday, Uncle Wes and I will be hosting training on evangelism where we talk through practical ways by which we can arise and go to those around us. And we really would like for everyone to come to this. If you are already finding ways to arise and go, please come and share with the rest of us how you are doing so, so we can learn from you. And for those here who really struggle to go, perhaps it has been months or longer since you had a meaningful conversation with someone about the Lord, we really do want you to come to this so we can encourage each other to be faithful and obedient to this clear command.
And, friends, if I can be blunt, if we are doing nothing to try to obey this clear command, perhaps like Jonah finding different ways to run from this command, we are in sin. We are failing to do what God commands. Which leads to the 3rd thing I wanted to mention here.
3rd, this clear command from God is so tempting for us to sinfully break, which clearly was a temptation that Jonah had given in to. God told him to go one way, only for Jonah to go the opposite. Now, there could be a lot of motivating factors for why we are disobedient to this clear command. In the story of Jonah, the main motivator behind his disobedience was his disdain for Nineveh. Jonah did not want Nineveh to repent and receive the blessing of God; he wanted judgment to come to them.
Which brings us back to the beginning of this sermon; I think this could be a real temptation for us as we see the society around us crumbling, becoming more and more blatant in how they thumb their nose at God. The temptation could be there to compare ourselves to the world around us in ways where we become so self-righteous that we only want judgment to come. As mentioned, that was clearly the temptation that Jonah gave into in the text.
On this note, one of the things I thought about this week was how committed Jonah was to giving in and continuing to give in to this temptation. It wasn’t like it was an initial fleeting thought from Jonah where he didn’t want to go to Nineveh. But after the fleeting temptation, he repented and sought to humbly fulfill God’s command. Rather, there was a real commitment in Jonah to leave the presence of God.
He was committed to go down to Joppa, which we don’t know how much of a travel requirement that was for him because we don’t know where he was when the word of the Lord came to him, but I think the text leads us to believe there certainly was some travel involved. Throughout his travel to Joppa, Jonah had to feel conviction on what he was doing. Yet he kept going. Then, as he got to Joppa, in further commitment, Jonah had to put some effort into finding the ship that would take him to Tarshish. And then, when he found the ship, our text tells us he was committed to pay a fare to get on it. As Jonah got on the boat, who knows how long he was sitting, waiting for the boat to push off from the dock. I would guess it was pretty slow moving as it made its way into open water. At any one of these points, Jonah could have said, “What am I doing? This is crazy. God just gave me a clear command. I need to stop where I am headed and turn and do what God would have me to do.” But in our text, it didn’t happen. Jonah stayed committed to giving in to his temptation, his disobedience. For us, I think we need to be challenged by this as well. If we are not mindful, if we are not humble, if we are not quick to repent of our own disobedience to this area and make changes in line with our repentance, we could be very Jonah-like.
And friend, if that is you this morning, if you have been pretty committed to disobedience to this clear command, I want to invite you to confess that sin and turn from it. Give it to the Lord, nail your disobedience to the cross, and then make real changes that are in line with repentance. Friend, humble yourself before God humbles you. Which is the last thing:
4th: God will discipline us in our disobedience. Now every time God disciplines his children, it is coming from his good and loving heart. But that being said, discipline of God can still be painful. And it is always so much better to humble ourselves before God humbles us. Now I won’t spend a ton of time here simply because we are going to see more of the discipline of the Lord next week when Jonah was famously swallowed by the fish. But in our text today, it was the discipline of the Lord in verse 4 that hurled the great wind upon the sea that caused the mighty tempest. Now for us, who knows how God might discipline us; perhaps some kind of real storm of life might come our way that God is using to grab our attention. At times, this also takes some real discernment. But for this morning, just see in the text, the God of mission was not going to simply sit back and let his prophet break his clear command. Rather, in his love for Jonah, love for Nineveh, love for his glory to the end of the earth, God disciplined Jonah. And that is something in his love he might do in our lives as well if we do not humble ourselves and fulfill the mission he has given us.
A mission to go to the world around us, dark and dead in sin, to shine the light of Christ, with the hope and prayer that for His glory, God might be merciful and bring more and more to join us in our faith in Jesus Christ. Friends, may we have that heart, which in the end is God’s heart.