Christopher Rath


Although I didn't realize it initially, Jonah is a very rich book. Its 47 verses have much to say ... much more than we can cover in a single evening. Tonight I want to draw one thread in particular out of Jonah, and along our way we'll stop and gander at two or three other interesting points. My prayer is that following tonight, we'll all be encouraged to spend time reading and seeking the Holy Spirit's insight into the book of Jonah.

--> read entire book of Jonah... (there are 47 verses).

Having just read Jonah, you may or may not see how powerfully it points us to Jesus. As such, it's not surprising that Jesus, himself, makes reference to Jonah (Matt. 12). Jonah also reveals more about God to us; and although I don't believe there are any new points revealed, Jonah's story serves to reinforce what the Father has already revealed to us about Himself, elsewhere in Scripture.

As Christians we are called to place ourselves under the Lordship of Jesus. Said another way, we are to submit our lives to the Will of God; voluntarily! We are to discipline ourselves in the ways of our Father in Heaven, rather than allowing ourselves to be ruled by the passions of our flesh. (cf. Gal. 5)

"Discipline is doing what you don't want to do ... when you don't want to do it" -- Michael Cook.

We see exactly this process being worked in Jonah.

What do we know about Jonah? Jesus calls Jonah a prophet (Matt 12:39), but no- where is there any indication that he was a priest. He may well have been an ordinary bloke called by God to perform a task. Jonah himself says that he "worships the Lord" (Jonah 1:9), which is interesting because Jesus says that the Father seeks worshippers who worship Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23). I believe Jonah was someone who had submitted himself to God.

Jonah 1:3 - "But Jonah ran away from the Lord..."

Jonah responds to God's call by practicing the disobedience method of discernment. That's when we know it's God but we don't want to obey. We try to run away from the situation; or from God! e.g., If God really wants me to stop over-eating and lose weight then He'll take away my appetite!

It's clear Jonah believes God has spoken, because He runs away to avoid performing God's command. If Jonah didn't believe God had spoken then there would have been no reason to run! But, Jonah is more that just disobedient; in a sense, he is also stealing from God.

Out of His everlasting love, God wants to grant mercy upon the people of Ninevah; if only they would repent. He has ordained fruit to come forth from Ninevah -- a sacrifice to be offered by the people of Ninevah, to God. By running away and not proclaiming God's judgement upon the people of Ninevah, Jonah is robbing God of this sacrifice.

Jonah 1:4-5 - "Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea...a violent storm arose...And they threw the cargo into the sea..."

Because the sailors are associating with Jonah, they also suffer at the hand of God; as God moves to turn Jonah from his sin. In fact, they lose their entire cargo because of Jonah's sin.

Rabbit: Could chase a rabbit here regarding relationships, and suffering through with those we're related to as God works something into our brother, sister, co-worker, etc. simply because we're in relationship. Another example is Pharaoh's people suffering the 10 plagues because of Pharaoh's stubbornness in not letting the Israelites go.

When Jonah finally admits his sin and humbles himself then things begin to go according to plan once again. We need to be humble, before unbelievers and believers alike. Just as Jonah admitted his mistake to the sailors so we need to be up-front with those concerned when we fail; whether they're Christians or not.

Humbling ourselves is part of submitting ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus. God will not make us humble; we must take the initiative (cf. James 4:7-10). However, God will bring us to places where the "way out" is to humble ourselves.

Jonah 1:15b-16 - "...and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord..."

Notice that even when Jonah is running from God, the sailor's encounter with him leads them to God. Maybe this sheds some light upon why the sinning evangelist still brings people to God. Jonah didn't have to deliver the "Four Spiritual Laws" in order for the sailors to come into a knowledge of God.

What this brings to light is that, as Spirit filled, truth entrusted, "once you were no people" now you are a somebody Christians, every time we encounter someone we have SOMETHING to offer; SOMETHING to give. God has direction for us in every situation of life; and as we submit ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit, God will give specific opportunity to bless others. But, again there is a caution: Will we limit the way God blesses, or will we co-operate with Him.

As hard a pill as it is to swallow, we must realize that God doesn't always call us to preach to the un-saved. Sometimes we need to trust that God works solely through the blessing we have to offer: Have you loved an un-saved person today?

Jonah 1:17 - "But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah..."

It's important to note that the fish swallowed up Jonah not to devour him, but to PROTECT him! God "provided" the fish. He would have drowned in the sea if God hadn't sent the fish. Often when we fall into calamity an even worse situation appears to overtake us. But, maybe it's God's way of helping us to get back on track!

Once we have truly come under His Lordship, we must trust that God didn't lie to us when He wrote Romans 8:28,

"All things work for good for those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose."

If you're a Christian then you have been called (cf. John 6:37)), and if you truly love Him you will obey His commands (cf. John 14:15-21). When trials come, and we are being obedient to follow His leading, we can rest in the knowledge that He is in control.

So, Jonah agrees to go to Ninevah, and the entire city is saved from destruction when the people repent. Jonah, a single man, called an entire city - a great city of Israel's enemy - to repentance; and they repented. This is God in action; Jonah is only the tool God uses to fulfill His purpose in Ninevah. But, Jonah resents it.

Jonah 4:2 - "...I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity."

Jonah speaks of God's goodness, etc., as though it were some imperfection. Doesn't it make you angry that God is so wonderful?! No? Well, it seems to have upset Jonah!

Jonah 4:3 - "Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."

Elijah laboured in vain and then wished to die -- but here, Jonah "labours to good purpose, saves a great city from ruin, and yet wishes he may die.", (Matthew Henry).

Jonah 4:10-11 - "...You have been concerned about this vine... Should I not be concerned about that great city?"

Jonah's concern is not evident from the text ... but God sees into the heart of man. God's reply to Jonah's concern shows us His love for us. He wants the people of the world to turn to Him. As well, the fact that God went to all the trouble of getting Jonah to Ninevah also shows us the desire He has for all to turn to Him.

It's probable that God's calling of Jonah to Ninevah has a two-fold purpose: To postpone judgment upon Ninevah (ie. to extend mercy), and to work something out of (or in to) Jonah. Jonah had submitted himself to the Lord, and God responded by teaching and disciplining him -- and at the same time used Jonah to bring a blessing to Israel's great enemy.

We have something to offer. The good news says, "He's done it and and we've got it all!" And we don't have to be burdened down by that legalistic "Evangelistic burden" some would place upon us: Don't be burdened, 'cause God does it all. Do as the occasion demands (Spirit led), for God is with you.

One last point: Jonah is a type of Christ, in that he gives his life for the salvation of many others. However, he brought calamity upon himself ... whereas Jesus dies as a result of the sins of those He saves.

What we see in Jonah-as-Christ is what would have happened if God had called someone other than His Son to be our Christ: Failure. Jonah not only runs from his call, but he also merely postpones judgment upon Ninevah. Our Lord Jesus actually eliminates the sentence of death against us; he doesn't just put it off for a while.

In order to perform the work of salvation that Jesus did, He had to be fully submitted and committed to God's will and purpose. Only Jesus could have done it. We will never be as submitted as Jesus was/is...but that is our calling! We are called to submit ourselves to authority just as Jesus did...and it got Him killed.

You might want to read the book of Jonah again this week and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal more about the Father through it.

Another Rabbit: As Christians in the world, we are to initiate reconciliation; just as God initiated reconciliation with Jonah. Just as Christ reached out to us, first, in our need.


"Peddlers of Religion", Ben Moore, FCMC Conference'90.
Matthew Henry's commentary on Jonah.
Mike Cook's teaching on "what we want to do".

All quotations taken from NIV unless otherwise noted.

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Last updated: 2007/02/16 @ 09:53:03 ( )