shutterstock_106892996The prophet Jonah was the son of Amittai and was from Gath-Heper, located a few miles north of Nazareth, which later became the childhood home of Jesus. Jonah was given clear instructions by God to go to the city of Nineveh and prophesy against them for their evil ways.  His first commission from God was found in Jonah 1:1-2

Jonah 1:1-2 (KJV)
1 Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.

Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, situated on the river, Tigris.  It was a country that was the enemy of the Israelites.  The Assyrians were some of the meanest and most awful people of that day.  God told Jonah to go to the enemies of Israel and warn them that they were going to be destroyed because their wickedness was great.  What God was asking Jonah to do was to go to his enemies and prophesy to them which would cause them to be saved.  This is a clear example of the mercy of God.  He wanted His servant to go to those who were on their way to Hell and warn them of their coming destruction.  Jonah knew that God was a God of mercy and that he would forgive and save the Assyrians if they repented.

God still works through His chosen vessels to warn mankind of their sinful ways today.  As ministers, we have to remember that it is never about us!  It is not about our comfort zone or what we do or do not want to do.  If He tells us to speak to a prostitute about her coming destruction, we have to tell her the truth.  If He sends us to warn the Hip-Hop culture that their behavior is not pleasing to Him, we must go.  If He says to tell the religious-but-lost group that they need to be delivered, we have no other choice than to obey God.  Where He sends us we must go.  God never tells us to try to make anyone do anything.  We are simply to obey His mandate and He will do the drawing, the convicting and the saving.  When God calls, we must either obey or suffer the consequences of disobedience.

Well, Brother Jonah decided that he just would not do it!  He did not like the Assyrians and He did not want them to be saved.  He could not see himself witnessing to his enemies.  Instead, he wanted them destroyed.  He knew that his God of mercy was sending a warning so that the people could turn and repent and be saved.  He realized that God is a good God who loves all of mankind, even our enemies.  He knew that God would never destroy a man or a woman without first telling him or her how to avoid that destruction.  Because Jonah did not want any part of the salvation of the Ninevites, he decided to give God “the hand” and run.  Jonah’s behavior said, “I’m not available.  I have something else that I’d rather do.   Maybe I’ll get back with you later on that Nineveh thing.”  Instead of going to Nineveh, he went to Joppa, and started on his way to Tarshish on a ship.

Jonah 1:3 (KJV)
3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

Why didn’t Brother Jonah know that you can’t run from God?  Wherever you run, He’s already there when you get there.  I’ve heard so many stories of ministers who’ve tried to run from God because they didn’t want to be a preacher.  I wonder if they’d ever read the book of Jonah?

God gave me a little song that is based on an older Holiness song.  (Sorry the tune is in my head and there’s no way to share it in this Post).  The words of the song go like this:

Refrain

You can’t hide, no you can’t hide.

The word is gonna find you and you can’t hide.  (You sinner)

You can’t hide, no you can’t hide.

The word is gonna find you and you can’t hide.

Lead

You’ve been sitting in the corner, think the Saints can’t see

You’d better get on this altar, better get on your knees.

You’ve been running around, you’ve been doing your dirt

You haven’t even thought about the people you’ve hurt.

Refrain

You can’t hide, no you can’t hide.

The word is gonna find you and you can’t hide.  (You sinner)

You can’t hide, no you can’t hide.

The word is gonna find you and you can’t hide.

So what happened to Jonah next?    God sent a great storm in the sea that was very terrible.  All of the men on the ship were dipping water out with buckets and calling on their “gods”.  They even threw cargo off the ship that they could have kept.  Somebody realized that Jonah was not helping.  He was sleeping instead.

Jonah 1:6 (KJV)
6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.

The men decided to cast lots to discover who caused the sudden fury that fell upon their ship, and it turned out to be Jonah.  Well, the lots told them who the culprit was, but not why the terrible events were taking place.  Jonah had to ‘fess up.

Jonah 1:8-10 (KJV)
8 Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?
9 And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.
10 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.

These unsaved men asked him, “Man, are you out of your mind?  You can’t run from God.”  The men wanted to help Jonah, so they asked him what they could do to turn God’s fury around.  Jonah had to tell them to destroy him so they could go free.

Jonah 1:11 (KJV)
11 Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.

Jonah 1:12-13 (KJV)
12 And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.
13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.

The men tried their best to save Jonah.  They rowed harder and harder to try to outrun the storm, but to no avail.  Now isn’t that typical of people today?  They row their little boats of sin, sometimes going in a tight little circle but getting nowhere.  God says, “Get saved”, but they say, “Not me!”  God says, “I’m warning you”, but they say, “I don’t hear you”.  God says, “This is your final warning”, but they say, “ I don’t believe you”.  Then, death catches them in their sins and its over for eternity.  When that soul stands before God at the Great White Throne Judgment, what will he be able to say in his own defense?  He’ll have to say like Jonah said, “Throw me overboard”.

When the men realized that throwing Jonah overboard was their only option, they actually stopped calling on their gods and called upon the true and living God.

Jonah 1:14 (KJV)
14 Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee.

The men on that boat were so awed by experiencing the might and power of God they changed gods.

Jonah 1:16 (KJV)
16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows.

You know what happened next.  They threw Jonah overboard.  This sullen prophet actually chose death rather than to obey God.  But, how many of you know it “ain’t over until God says it’s over?”  God controls life and death.  Even if Jonah chose to die, it did not happen or could not happen if God did not approve his death.  Jonah was swallowed up by a specially prepared whale.  He was in the belly of the whale for three days, and while he was there, somehow he got his thinking straightened out about his disobedience to God.  He repented, cried out to God and God let him out.  When God got through with Jonah, he was ready to obey God.  The Bible tells us that Jonah made a three-day journey in one day.  Prophet Jonah had to be running!  He ran into the city preaching, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be destroyed!”  Hearing this Hebrew running and preaching like a madman convicted the city.  Everyone went on a three  day fast, including the animals.  God heard their repentant prayers and accepted their fast and forgave the city.  Because of the pressure that God put on his backside, Jonah obeyed God and did what he was told to do.  But Jonah still had a “stank” attitude.

Jonah was angry because God forgave the people.  He asked God to kill him since He forgave the people.  There were about 120,000 people in the city and their lives were spared because of Jonah’s preaching.  Jonah should have been happy about the success of his mission but he was not.  Jonah was angry at God for four reasons:

1.  God is merciful.

2.  God is gracious.

3.  God is slow to anger.

4.  God changes his plans to destroy men when they turn from sin to righteousness.

When his book of the Bible ended, Jonah was still angry.  History tells us that the city of Nineveh was ultimately destroyed 100 years later, when the people returned to their sins.  How does Jonah’s story apply to our lives today?  The same four descriptors of God that were identified in Jonah’s book still prevail today.  God is still merciful, gracious, slow to anger and He saves those who repent.  He is still directing His ministers to move when He tells them to do so and He expects obedience.  I do hope and pray that Jonah got his attitude right before he left planet earth.  Thank God for His mercy.  As we often say at my church:  “Pray my strength in the Lord, because I do mean Jesus in my life”.  God bless.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s