Background:

  • Jonah – from Gath-hepher (Israel), a border town near Nazareth (2 Kings 14:25). Means “dove”.
  • Preached during the reign Jeroboam 2
  • Date of writing: 760 B.C.
  • Nineveh: part of Calah, the city-state complex that was the capital of the Assyrian empire in Jonah’s day. It was about 800 km from Israel.
  • Tarshish: In southern Spain, near Gibraltar (opposite direction of Nineveh. 4,000 km west
  • Theme: The God of the Hebrews has concern for the whole world.
  • The sin? Wickedness, which included idolatrous worship and extreme cruelty to prisoners of war.
  • The sign of Jonah: Mentioned by Jesus – coming judgement; and three days and nights in whale’s belly (in the ground – resurrection)
  • Miracles: calming of the sea after Jonah is thrown in; provision of the great fish, and preservation of Jonah in said fish; the plant, the worm, and the wind; the salvation of many Ninevites

Outline:

Jonah Fleeing: 1:1-17

Jonah Praying: 2:1-10

Jonah Preaching: 3:1-10

Jonah Learning: 4:1-1

Lessons from Jonah:

Your words are meant to connect people with God: “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.” (Jonah 1:1-2).

“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.”” (Jonah 1:6)

“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 depth of Sheol; You heard my voice.” (Jonah 2:1-2)

The same Hebrew word is used in each of these verses. The common thread is that each time the word is used in relation to communication with God. In the first usage Jonah is given the message from God to proclaim to the Ninevites His warning of coming judgement. The second instance is the pagan Captain asking the prophet of God to pray for deliverance. And the third usage is Jonah’s selfish prayer, that he wanted to deny the Ninevites. I think there is a principle here, about the ministry we have as followers of Jesus, about being ambassadors for God. May our words direct people to Jesus, not away from Him.

You have a second chance: It is the second chance of choice. We all have a terminal illness. It is appointed unto man – humanity – once to die; after that, the judgement. When we understand this truth and face it, we have a choice to make. It is like our eyes are opened to a new priority, a new chance to make something of our life, and God is the God of second chances. Jonah had a call – he ran from it and was as good as dead as he sank below the waves. With Jonah’s change of mind God intervened, and gave Jonah another chance to fulfill the ministry He called him to. Jonah chose to listen this time. The Ninevites had a second chance. They were dead in sin and far from God. They revelled in their violence and wickedness, and God was bringing judgement upon them for their sins, but he sent a prophet to call them to Himself, to repentance. And the Ninevites chose to heed the warning and repent and God spared them; even going so far as to use them as the instrument of His judgement on Israel. The New Testament proclaims that now is the day of salvation – the call is on your life, how will you choose to respond to that call?

What does “all in” look like?

All in: So, the Ninevites hear the pronouncement of doom from Jonah, and they repent. What does repent look like? In those days it was sackcloth and ashes. But they did not stop there. The king repented, and when the king repents, everybody repents. Even the animals. The beasts were covered in sackcloth as well – all the herds and flocks. And fasting – nobody ate until they heard from God – not even the animals. They were all in. And it may not have lasted much more than a generation or two, but they were all in.

What does repentance look like for us? We don’t do sackcloth, and we don’t do ashes. Many of us don’t fast. Repentance from sin for many people has been saying a prayer, being earnest – but true repentance changes us, our actions – it causes us to be all in. It should cause us to think differently about sin, about what holiness means. The Greek word for repentance means to do a 180, to go completely in the opposite direction. When you repent from something, some sin, it isn’t just saying, “I’m sorry” to God as if we hurt His boo-boo feelings. It is something life-changing, direction changing.

Let me give you an example of repentance: Appetites are funny things. They so easily control us without us even realizing it. The issues of obesity in our society, our culture, are well known. The stats are there for our kids – a high percentage who will grow up fighting weight and health issues, probably for life. I read an article a while back that said over 90% of people can’t lose weight. They may drop some weight, but they always gain it back.

I was 119 pounds when I graduated high school. I know that, because that was my wrestling weight, and before a tournament you had to weigh in. Time goes on, the weight creeps up. I had excuses – good ones of late. I do a lot of work with my brain, a lot of writing and studying, so I am sitting a lot. But I needed to make a change. We have talked a lot about food as a family over the last 5 or 6 years. We cut out fast food and a lot of processed foods. We focus on whole and clean foods, chicken (less beef), veggies and fruits. Not as much grains or things with added sugar (not easy to find things without sugar added). But my weight kept slowly creeping up. I thought exercise was the solution. Nope. It wasn’t until I realized my problem was not food itself, but my attitude towards food. I knew the right stuff, but knowledge wasn’t enough. The thing, my appetite, had taken the driver’s seat and I was in the passenger seat. I realized that food was a tool to power my body first, not just something to appease my appetite. To appease my appetite I would eat all kinds of things that were pretty useless to power my body. They sure tasted good, and I had the belly to prove it; but in the long run it was unhealthy – too much fat becomes an entity in and of itself. It acts like a tumour, releasing all kinds of harmful things back into the body.

So I changed my attitude, and food no longer controlled me. I repented of the control it had on me, because for me to be all in for Jesus, to pursue holiness and God’s character, meant I needed to make that choice. What does the pursuit of holiness, being “all in,” look like for you?

 

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