Encounters With God: Jonah, The Prodigal Prophet: Running to/with God – Jonah 2-3

13 Jun

The Book of Jonah — God's Character and Human response. | by Chesvic  Lordgape | Medium

Sometimes the prophets of the Lord tried to challenge His wisdom in calling them for divine service (see Moses in Ex. 4; Jeremiah in Jer. 1). However, Jonah is the only case in the record of Scripture where a true prophet of the Lord (see 2 Kin. 14:25) tried hard to thwart the will of God by fleeing from the task that God had given him (1:3).

There is something humorous in this account. How could a prophet of God hide from the Creator of the universe? The location of Tarshish may have been the southeast coast of Spain. In any case it represents the farthest place known to the people of ancient Israel. It is similar to going “to the ends of the earth.”

From an experience of rebellion and discipline, Jonah turns to an experience of repentance and dedication, and God graciously gives him a new beginning. Jonah no doubt expected to die in the waters of the sea,1-10 but when he woke up inside the fish, he realized that God had graciously spared him. As with the Prodigal Son, whom Jonah in his rebellion greatly resembles (Luke 15:11-24), it was the goodness of God that brought him to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Notice the stages in Jonah’s spiritual experience as described in his prayer.

He prayed for God’s help (Jonah 2:1-2).

 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. {2} He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.

It may be asked, “How could Jonah either pray or breathe in the stomach of the fish?” Very easily, if God so willed it. And let the reader keep this constantly in view; the whole is a miracle, from Jonah’s being swallowed by the fish till he was cast ashore by the same animal. It was God that had prepared the great fish. It was the Lord that spake to the fish, and caused it to vomit Jonah upon the dry land. All is miracle.

His prayer was born out of affliction, not affection. He cried out to God because he was in danger, not because he delighted in the Lord. But better that he should pray compelled by any motive than not to pray at all. It’s doubtful whether any believer always prays with pure and holy motives, for our desires and God’s directions sometimes conflict.

God heard Jonah’s cries for help. Prayer is one of the constant miracles of the Christian life. To think that our God is so great He can hear the cries of millions of people at the same time and deal with their needs personally! A parent with two or three children often finds it impossible to meet all their needs all the time, but God is able to provide for all His children, no matter where they are or what their needs may be.

He accepted God’s discipline (Jonah 2:3).

{3} You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.

It wasn’t the sailors who cast Jonah into the stormy sea: it was God. “You hurled me into the deep . . . all Your waves and breakers swept over me” (v. 3, niv, italics mine). When Jonah said those words, he was acknowledging that God was disciplining him and that he deserved it.

Jonah’s use of the pronouns You and Your in this verse are not accusations, but acknowledgments of the Lord’s sovereign control of his life (see Ps. 88:6–18).

How we respond to discipline determines how much benefit we receive from it According to Hebrews 12:5-11, we have several options: we can despise God’s discipline and fight (v. 5); we can be discouraged and faint (v. 5); we can resist discipline and invite stronger discipline, possibly even death (v. 9)1-11; or we can submit to the Father and mature in faith and love (v. 7).

Discipline is to the believer what exercise and training are to the athlete (v. 11); it enables us to run the race with endurance and reach the assigned goal (vv. 1-2).

The fact that God chastened His servant is proof that Jonah was truly a child of God, for God disciplines only His own children.

He trusted God’s promise (Jonah 2:4-7).

{4} I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ {5} The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. {6} To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God. {7} “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.

I will look again toward Your holy temple: The man who had run from God’s presence (1:3) was alone, yet he clung to the hope that God would not abandon him. The temple, the sanctuary in Jerusalem was the symbol of God’s presence.

Jonah was going in one direction only—down. In fact, he had been going in that direction since the hour he rebelled against God’s plan for his life. He went “down to Joppa” and “down into the sides of the ship” (1:3, 5). Now he was going “down to the bottoms of the mountains” (2:6); and at some point, the great fish met him, and he went down into the fish’s belly (1:17). When you turn your back on God, the only direction you can go is down.

What saved Jonah? His faith in God’s promise. Which promise? The promise that involves “looking toward God’s holy temple” (2:4, 7

By faith, he looked toward God’s temple (the only way to look was up!) and asked God to deliver him; and God kept His promise and answered his call. “I remembered [the] Lord” (Jonah 2:7) means, “I acted on the basis of His commitment to me.” Jonah knew God’s covenant promises and he claimed them.

I remembered: Jonah reaffirms his faith in the Lord and renews his commitment to Him (see Ps. 22:27; 63:6; 106:7).

He yielded to God’s will (Jonah 2:8-9).

{8} “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. {9} But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”

Now Jonah admits that there were idols in his life that robbed him of the blessing of God. An idol is anything that takes away from God the affection and obedience that rightfully belong only to Him.

Jonah closes his prayer by uttering some solemn vows to the Lord, vows that he really intended to keep. Jonah promised to worship God in the temple with sacrifices and songs of thanksgiving. He doesn’t tell us what other promises he made to the Lord, but one of them surely was,” I will go to Nineveh and declare Your message if You give me another chance.”

  1. Redemption (Jonah 2:10)

(Jonah 2:10)  And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

The focus in the story of Jonah is on the Lord’s sovereign control over creation to bring about His purpose.

The sign (Matt. 12:39; 16:4; Luke 11:29).

The “sign of Jonah” is seen in his experience of “death,” burial, and resurrection on the third day, and it was the only sign Jesus gave to the nation of Israel. At Pentecost, Peter preached the Resurrection (Acts 2:22-26) and so did Paul when he preached to the Jews in other nations (13:26-37). In fact, the emphasis in the Book of Acts is on the resurrection of Jesus Christ; for the apostles were “witnesses of the Resurrection” (2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39).

Some students are troubled by the phrase “three days and three nights,” especially since both Scripture and tradition indicate that Jesus was crucified on Friday.

To the Jews, a part of a day was treated as a whole day; and we need not interpret “three days and three nights” to mean seventy-two hours to the very second. For that matter, we can’t prove that Jonah was in the fish exactly seventy-two hours. The important things is that centuries after the event, Jonah became a “sign” to the Jewish people and pointed them to Jesus Christ.

Running With God – Jonah 3

  1. The marvel of an undeserved commission (Jonah 3:1-2)

God met Jonah.

We don’t know where the great fish deposited Jonah, but we do know that wherever Jonah was, the Lord was there. Remember, God is more concerned about His workers than He is about their work, for if the workers are what they ought to be, the work will be what it ought to be.

Throughout Jonah’s time of rebellion, God was displeased with His servant, but He never once deserted him. It was God who controlled the storm, prepared the great fish, and rescued Jonah from the deep.

God Spoke to Jonah.

After the way Jonah had stubbornly refused to obey God’s voice, it’s a marvel that the Lord spoke to him at all. Jonah had turned his back on God’s word, so the Lord had been forced to speak to him through thunder and rain and a stormy sea. But now that Jonah had confessed his sins and turned back to the Lord, God could once again speak to him through His word.

God commissioned Jonah.

“The victorious Christian life,” said George H. Morrison, “is a series of new beginnings.” When we fall, the enemy wants us to believe that our ministry is ended and there’s no hope for recovery, but our God is the God of the second chance. “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time” (Jonah 3:1).

God challenged Jonah.

Four times in this book, Nineveh is called a “great city” (1:2; 3:2-3; 4:11),2-2 and archeologists tell us that the adjective is well-deserved. It was great in history, having been founded in ancient times by Noah’s great-grandson Nimrod (Gen. 10:8-10).2-3 It was also great in size. The circumference of the city and its suburbs was sixty miles, and from the Lord’s statement in Jonah 4:11, we could infer that there were probably over 600,000 people living there. One wall of the city had a circumference of eight miles and boasted 1,500 towers.

The city was great in splendor and influence, being one of the leading cities of the powerful Assyrian Empire.

Nineveh was great in sin, for the Assyrians were known far and wide for their violence, showing no mercy to their enemies. They impaled live victims on sharp poles, leaving them to roast to death in the desert sun; they beheaded people by the thousands and stacked their skulls up in piles by the city gates; and they even skinned people alive. They respected neither age nor sex and followed a policy of killing babies and young children so they wouldn’t have to care for them (Nahum 3:10).

The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God can’t keep you and the power of God can’t use you.

Jonah’s Preaching and Nineveh’s Repentance (3:1‑9)

For the second time, the “word of the Lord” came to Jonah: “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you” (vs. 2). It is not a new command that Jonah is given, but almost a repetition of the command given to him in chapter 1. This time Jonah obeyed, not joyfully or with a proper attitude, as we shall soon see, but at least Jonah went to Nineveh.

The population of the city of Nineveh, perhaps including its “suburbs,” was exceedingly large (cf. 1:2; 3:2; 4:11). We also know that the city was great in size. The city was described as being a “three days’ walk” (3:3).

Jonah’s message was simple, to the point, and frightening: “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (3:4).[1]

  1. The marvel of an unparalleled awakening (Jonah 3:3-10)

From a human perspective, this entire enterprise appears ridiculous. How could one man, claiming to be God’s prophet, confront thousands of people with his strange message, especially a message of judgment? How could a Jew, who worshiped the true God, ever get these idolatrous Gentiles to believe what he had to say? For all he knew, Jonah might end up impaled on a pole or skinned alive! But, in obedience to the Lord, Jonah went to Nineveh.

Jonah’s message to Nineveh (Jonah 3:3-4).

“Three days’ journey” means either that it would take three days to get through the city and its suburbs or three days to go around them. The niv translation of verse 3 suggests that it would take three days to visit all of the area. According to Genesis 10:11-12, four cities were involved in the “Nineveh metroplex”: Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen (niv). However you interpret the “three days,” one thing is dear: Nineveh was no insignificant place.

When Jonah was one day into the city, he began to declare his message: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be over-thrown.”

At this point, we must confess that we wish we knew more about Jonah’s ministry to Nineveh. Was this the only message he proclaimed? Surely he spent time telling the people about the true and living God, for we’re told, “The people of Nineveh believed God” (Jonah 3:5).

They would have to know something about this God of Israel in order to exercise sincere faith. Did Jonah expose the folly of their idolatry? Did he recount his own personal history to show them that his God was powerful and sovereign? We simply don’t know. The important thing is that Jonah obeyed God, went to Nineveh, and declared the message God gave him. God did the rest.

Nineveh’s message to God (Jonah 3:5-9).

In the Hebrew text, there are only five words in Jonah’s message; yet God used those five words to stir the entire population, from the king on the throne to the lowest peasant in the field.

God gave the people forty days of grace, but they didn’t need that long. We get the impression that from the very first time they saw Jonah and heard his warning, they paid attention to his message. Word spread quickly throughout the entire district and the people humbled themselves by fasting and wearing sackcloth.

When the message got to the king, he too put on sackcloth and sat in the dust. He also made the fast official by issuing an edict and ordering the people to humble themselves, cry out to God, and turn from their evil ways. The people were to cry “mightily” (“urgently,” niv) to God, for this was a matter of life and death.

Like the sailors in the storm, the Ninevites didn’t want to perish (Jonah 3:9; 1:6, 14). That’s what witnessing is all about, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, nkjv).

Their fasting and praying, and their humbling of themselves before God, sent a message to heaven, but the people of Nineveh had no assurance that they would be saved. They hoped that God’s great compassion would move Him to change His plan and spare the city. Once again, how did they know that the God of the Hebrews was a merciful and compassionate God? No doubt Jonah told them, for this was a doctrine he himself believed (Jonah 4:2).

He began by personally repenting (3:6). The king then made a proclamation which required all of Nineveh to fast, and to abstain from drinking water (3:7). Both men and animals were to be covered with sackcloth, and all the people were to call upon God and to abstain from their wicked ways and their violence (3:8).

If the Ninevites had but 40 days left, why would they cease sinning? One would think that they might be inclined to act in accordance with the expression, “Eat, drink, and make merry, for tomorrow (or 40 days) we may die.” Nineveh’s motivation for putting off the wickedness of the city is described in verse 9: “Who knows, God may turn and relent, and withdraw His burning anger so that we shall not perish?” (3:9).

God’s message to Nineveh (Jonah 3:10).

At some point, God spoke to Jonah and told Him that He had accepted the people’s repentance and would not destroy the city. The phrase “God repented” might better be translated “God relented,” that is, changed His plan.

From the human point of view, it looked like repentance, but from the divine perspective, it was simply God’s response to man’s change of heart God is utterly consistent with Himself; it only appears that He is changing His mind. The Bible uses human analogies to reveal the divine character of God (Jer. 18:1-10).

How deep was the spiritual experience of the people of Nineveh? If repentance and faith are the basic conditions of sal

God took note of Nineveh’s repentance, something which involved more than mere words or token gestures. Verse 10 does not tell us that God heeded the words of the Ninevites, or even that He regarded their sackcloth and ashes, but that He took note that their deeds had changed, that they had “turned from their wicked way.” Here is genuine repentance. No mere words of regret, no trite, “I’m sorry,” but a change of conduct signaling a genuine change of heart. Nineveh had truly repented of her evil ways, and God therefore relented of the calamity which He had threatened.

[1] The word “overthrown” had strong connotations for Jonah. This term was used in connection with the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:21, 25, 29). It was also used in the poetic description of the overthrow of the Egyptians at the exodus (Ex. 15:7). It was also used in Deuteronomy 29:23 in connection with God’s warning of judgment on His people Israel, if they disregard His law. Cf. also 2 Sam. 10:3; 1 Chron. 19:3.

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Posted by on June 13, 2022 in Encounters with God


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