Jonah 1, 4
Jonah is a disturbing book because, in its pages, we are brought face-to-face with some of our own personal struggles. In this sermon, we’ll go behind the obvious, outward actions, and look at the deep inner struggles all of us deal with in our relationship with God.
The book of Jonah is different from other
prophetic books because, instead of centering
on a prophecy, it tells the story of the prophet.
This book is different because it has a glaring
oxymoron—a Hebrew prophet going to a Gentile
city, Israel’s first called and commissioned “foreign
missionary.” This book is different because
of its view of God; like the thrust of the New Testament,
Jonah shows the theme of God’s grace
This book is written in a form called “historical
narrative.” The book tells of the change
God can make in both an unbelieving nation and
a reluctant servant.
When we are inclined to run from God, let’s
remember the following truths:
I. FLIGHT IS STIMULATED BY SHIFTS IN
OUR PERSPECTIVE (JONAH 1:1-3)
It doesn’t matter the degree to which we
run—hiding our head or hiding our presence—
our perspective gets shifted by two gigantic
forces: The first is emotional, and the second is
theological in nature.
When we allow our emotions to drive us and
decide for us, we lose theological perspective.
Jonah apparently understood and appreciated
God’s wrath against Assyria; however, he was
not nearly so compassionate.
Why did Jonah disobey God? The answer
is in Jonah 4:2. Although God was sending him
to pronounce words of doom, Jonah knew what
kind of God he served. This compassionate God
would spare these people if they repented. If that
happened, Jonah believed he would look like a
fool, so he rebelled.
II. GOD’S LOVE FOR YOU MEANS HE WILL
COME AND GET YOU (JONAH 1:4-5)
Jonah deliberately ignored the repeated responses
of God (verse 1/initial call; verse 4/great
storm; verse 6/captain’s response; verse 7/pagan
ritual; verse 8/pagan rebuke). It was gracious
of God to seek out His disobedient servant and
prevent him from remaining long in sin (verse 4).
God didn’t blast Jonah with divine judgment.
He allowed Jonah to face the consequences of his own choices while relentlessly pursuing him.
God was like a shepherd after his sheep or a father
waiting for his prodigal child (Luke 15).
When we ignore God, our ability to hear
grows dull, and when that happens, it is difficult
for us to respond correctly. We become insensitive
to God’s work (verse 5).
III. THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES FOR OUR
BROKEN RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD (JONAH
Because Jonah avoided responsibility, others
had to deal with the consequences of his
broken relationship with God (verse 5). For the
Phoenician sailors, their so-called gods had created
order by defeating the powers of chaos,
but this power of chaos had been tamed, not
abolished, and so remained a constant threat.
The embodiment of these lawless and chaotic
forces was the sea, which men could not control
or tame. These sailors recognized a primitive
“cause-and-effect” relationship between what
was happening and their own actions. Each sailor
cried to his own god. In ancient cultures, the
pantheon of gods was large, and each man had
his favorite. The captain’s response was consistent
with the philosophy that the amount of
prayer was important. In a polytheistic system,
one could seldom be sure which god had been
displeased, so all had to be appeased.
The truth is that our actions—any actions—
affect those around us.
IV. YOU ARE CONFRONTED BY THE INCONSISTENCIES
IN YOUR LIFE (JONAH 1:8-
The flood of questions came from the sailors’
view of their gods. Their gods were basically
non-moral, so their gods’ anger might be
directed against one who had accidentally or unknowingly
sinned against them. The anger could
also rage against someone to whom the gods
had taken a general dislike on a whim.
These sailors chastised Jonah because
they knew he was fleeing from God. The sailors
asked, “What have you done?” Even these
pagans knew that Jonah had run from God, not
God from Jonah. Did God provoke you to run?
Did He deal harshly and unkindly with you? Have
you discovered Him no longer worthy of your
trust? Was He unfaithful to His promise?
Jonah’s proper response would have been
confession. The problem belongs to Jonah, not to God. This happens when we run away from
God. Even those who have little knowledge of
or interest in spiritual things know when our talk
doesn’t match our actions.
V. INEFFECTIVE WAYS TO AVOID DEALING
WITH THE MAIN ISSUE (JONAH 1:11-16)
Jonah’s complacency led to an atrophy of
his spiritual discernment (verses 5a, 8, 11). Jonah
didn’t know what to do or which way to turn.
Jonah confused the real issue (God’s relationship
with him) with a non-issue (the storm and
its effect). Jonah tried to deal with this by means
of a “religious method” (verse 12); casting into
the sea was Jonah’s idea, not the sailors, and
was a “human method” (verse 13).
The only solution is to step back onto the
“paths of righteousness” (Ps. 23:3). This is the
only path where God will lead you. He will not
lead you if you insist on following the paths of
sin. At this point, you cannot barter with God.
You can’t say that you’ll clean up some little area
so that He will not confront the main issue. He
insists that you confront the issues for His glory
and for your benefit.
VI. IT IS ALWAYS FRUSTRATING WHEN
WE RUN AWAY FROM GOD
Jonah had to pay for his ticket to get on the
boat. It always costs us when we’re separated
from God. When you run from God, the devil is
always going to take you farther than you want
to go, make you stay longer than you want to
stay, and make you pay more than you want
Jonah went down to the docks alone. He
bought his ticket alone. He boarded the ship
alone, and then he faced this storm all alone.
So let me ask you, how has running away
from God worked for you? Has it produced the
peace, joy, and hope that God has promised His
people or has it continued to make life anxious
I’ve got good news for you today, news you
can use. If you’ve finally realized that the anxiety
of your life has come about because you chose
to take the ship to Tarsus, you don’t have to wait
for a storm to come up. You certainly don’t have
to wait around for a big fish.