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A little bit of the book of Jonah in all of us

I don’t know about you all, but I’ve been finding a little bit of Jonah in myself.  I think sometimes we Christians can behave a lot like Jonah given our circumstances.

Jonah’s Disobedience

1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

Interestingly enough, I found this passage title to be “Disobedience”.  That is the beginning of all of our problems.  When God initially tells us not to do something, and we don’t listen.  Unforgiveness is an area where we can be disobedient to the Lord.  Also doing all the little things He tells us not to do can be considered being disobedient to the Lord.  Some Christians know they are not supposed to do things like drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, go to nightclubs, watch soap operas, but they do it anyway because something inside our carnal nature just wants to rebel.  It’s in all of us.  The amazing thing about Jonah is that he had the Presence of the Lord with him, and then he decided to leave and turn away.  Some of us may be experiencing great things in the Presence of the Lord in our church and when times get tough we may be tempted to pull away.

The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to [a]break up. Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the [b]cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it [c]for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep. So the captain approached him and said, “How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.”

Doesn’t this story sound familiar?  This is exactly what happened with Jesus on the boat.  The storm was raging and He was still asleep.  There must be something about security in the Lord that allows you to fall asleep during the worst of circumstances.  I remember when Hurricane Ike hit Houston.  It was pummeling the roofs, and it was one of the worst ones we’ve had that caused a lot of damage, but it wasn’t as bad as Katrina.  Well I was rattled by the storm, and my dad, who was and is an unbeliever slept through it.  If an unbeliever can do that, how much more can we who have faith sleep through the literal storms, and the symbolic storms in our life.  It’s easy when things are going well.  But when things are hard it’s hard to have that faith that everything is going to turn out for good.  Jonah was even out of the Presence of the Lord, which is why he was getting them into trouble.  Sometimes when we are disobedient, we can cause the ship of local church to be in turmoil.  It is also a reminder that if you’re considering switching churches, then, what can happen, when you do.

Each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may [d]learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “ Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, “[e]How could you do this?” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. 11 So they said to him, “What should we do to you that the sea may become calm [f]for us?”—for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm [g]for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.” 13 However, the men [h]rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them. 14 Then they called on the Lord and said, “We earnestly pray, O Lord, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life and do not put innocent blood on us; for You, O Lord, have done as You have pleased.”

15 So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.

So here Jonah makes his declaration that he is the reason that they are in the boat because he fled from the Presence of the Lord.  This is what Adam and Eve did as well.  When we have that Presence of the Lord upon our lives (which comes through living a repentant life and worship and the Truth of God’s Word) we shouldn’t leave it at any cost.  We shouldn’t let our unforgiveness be an issue and we should choose to let our anger, bitterness, resentment, and all the things in our heart that are keeping us away from God, not be an issue in our lives anymore.

17 [i]And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.

This is the stomach of the fish that Jonah was in.  Jonah was in the fish three days and three nights.  Jesus was in the tomb three days and three nights and then He was and is risen.  Sometimes we feel like we are dead and stuck, and we are in the same place.  We don’t think that we are going to get out of it, and then a miracle happens. But during those times we cry out in distress and in pain so that we can see a deliverance from our problems.

[a]Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said,

“I called out of my distress to the Lord,

And He answered me.

I cried for help from the [b]depth of Sheol;

You heard my voice.

“For You had cast me into the deep,

Into the heart of the seas,

And the current [c]engulfed me.

All Your breakers and billows passed over me.

“So I said, ‘I have been expelled from [d]Your sight.

Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.’

“ Water encompassed me to the [e]point of death.

The great deep [f]engulfed me,

Weeds were wrapped around my head.

“I descended to the roots of the mountains.

The earth with its bars was around me forever,

But You have brought up my life from [g]the pit, O Lord my God.

“While [h]I was fainting away,

I remembered the Lord,

And my prayer came to You,

Into Your holy temple.

“Those who regard [i]vain idols

Forsake their faithfulness,

But I will sacrifice to You

With the voice of thanksgiving.

That which I have vowed I will pay.

Salvation is from the Lord.”

10 Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.

Look at the prayer that Jonah made.  He said what misery that he was in and he knew the Lord’s power.  That’s a key to answered prayer.  To recognize and be truthful about your situation.  He also offered up thanksgiving, which some people say should be at the beginning but it actually takes place at the end. I am not sure if Nineveh or Tarshish is the place that Jonah is talking about in his prayers but I am assuming it is Nineveh.  This place that Jonah hated so much was full of idols according to him.  Sometimes we get caught up in a place that is full of idols.  We just want to see them leave and we get so bitter and angry even in our prayers, that we don’t see that God still loves them. Sometimes we ourselves get caught up in our own idols

Nineveh Repents

3 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was [a]an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk. Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the [b]ashes. He issued a proclamation and it said, “In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let [c]men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in [d]his hands. Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.”

10 When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would [e]bring upon them. And He did not do it.

Sometimes we are so on top of the world and that we have achieved to new levels and new heights and we think we are great and may have taken God for granted not realizing how much we need Him and how much we have drifted away and that is when we become overthrown.  Then we begin to believe in God, and we may go through periods where even food is not as important as God and we cry out.  If you’ve never lived a day where you are so hungry, then you really don’t know what it is like to be fasting.  The king said, “Do not let beast, herd, or flock taste a thing.  Do not let them eat or drink water.”    Can you imagine that – not being able to eat or drink water.  It’s almost like having the stomach flu, but this didn’t happen by chance, it was voluntary.  Can you imagine the suffering. They repented by fasting and turning from their wicked way, which God changed His mind about them.

Jonah’s Displeasure Rebuked

4 But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this [a]what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore [b]in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my [c]life from me, for death is better to me than life.” The Lord said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”

So then Jonah, was like – “I had to go through all that for nothing – for no good reason.  I had known as much to begin with, and I had to go through all that.  It wasn’t worth it.  It’s better off if I died”  God was not pleased with Jonah’s attitude.  God was looking for a good reason to be angry.  In his mind he was thinking what he went through would have been better off if they hadn’t repented.  If they had just stayed the way they were.

Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of [d]it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. So the Lord God appointed a [e]plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was [f]extremely happy about the [g]plant. But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “ Death is better to me than life.”

Sometimes we get so stressed out by different things and different things come our way and we just don’t know how to handle it.  Sometimes we find little satisfaction in temporal things for comfort but when they are not working we get discouraged.  Sometimes we like our car so much and it gives us joy and freedom and then it gets totalled then we get so discouraged.   Sometimes God provides shade, but then He removes it too.  Don’t you think Jonah would have gotten out of his predicament if He said a prayer like “Thank You Lord for the awesome sun who shines upon the heat during the day.  Great is the Lord who created the sun, and deliver me from this heat.”  We might tend to think that it is like the Amalekites, or the devil that attacks us at our weakest, but sometimes it could be God trying to teach us a lesson.  We don’t rely upon God and his goodness and what he has done for us.  Jonah had been rescued out of the fish.  That was a big deal!!!  Imagine just all no air and you can’t breathe, but then you get delivered and don’t you believe that the God who did before can do it again.  We too often become like Jonah.  God used this reminder to show Jonah to sympathize with what the Ninevites were going thorugh.

Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” 10 Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which [h]came up overnight and perished [i]overnight. 11 Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”

The lesson that God was trying to teach Jonah and all of us is compassion.  There are so many lessons in this book of Jonah.  When a city comes to repentance, God spares the city.  When we come into repentance God spares our lives.  This shows the mercy of God and His immense compassion.  We often see God in the Old Testament as wrathful and strict and showing Judgment, but in this example it shows us that He is still merciful and kind and loving.  That He loves us immensely, and He wants to show us compassion.  Sometimes when we are angry with someone and we can’t seem to see the big picture and the whole situation God uses circumstances and speaks to us regarding certain issues so that we can live out the characters He wants to see us develop.

 

 

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