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For prior background for today’s post, skim Jonah 1:1-3:9. Today’s post is in reference to Jonah 3:10-4:11. Click on the links and you may select your preferred translation from within Bible Gateway.

Jonah was not the typical prophet. He doesn’t exactly offer us a great role model to go by. So what were the Israelites to learn from this prophet, and what is our “take-away” for the book of Jonah?

  • No one can run away from God. He is everywhere.
  • God gives us second chances.
  • God loves even the worst sinners and expects us to love them too.
  • We can serve God with a willing spirit or begrudgingly. Our relationship with God suffers when we serve begrudgingly.
  • Serving God isn’t about personal satisfaction, we are the servants.
  • We don’t limit God with our resistance to his call, but we miss his blessings.
  • God wins, sometimes in spite of his “called”.

The first three points above are self-explanatory and were discussed in my last post. I mention them here for the purpose of review.

Does it matter how we serve God? Jonah was not a willing messenger, but at least at his second call he went. He hated the people he spoke to as he begrudgingly gave them God’s message. Jonah resented the very God who gave him the message to deliver.

Has your service to God ever resembled Jonah’s service? Have you ever participated in a church function out of a sense of duty even though you secretly resented that you were expected to be there? What happened to your sense of joy in serving the Lord?

Why do we serve God? Jonah wanted to have the last word. He told the Ninevites that God was going to destroy their city, and he wanted to see it happen. To Jonah, it was all about being seen as right when it was all over, it was all about Jonah.

When we serve God, it isn’t about us. It shouldn’t matter if we are recognized as great leaders. What really matters is our obedience to God and our relationship with him, even if the people we are trying to serve don’t seem to respond. The greater prophets in the Bible seldom experienced the joy of seeing revival among those to whom they ministered.

Is God limited by our failures to respond to his call? Not hardly. God is God and he will accomplish his ends one way or another. God was not surprised to see Jonah board the ship to Tarshish. Nor was he surprised to witness Jonah’s pouting when Ninevah was given another chance. Perhaps God chose Jonah because he knew this would be his response. Perhaps God knew the Ninevites needed to see an angry man who would shake his fist at them saying something like, “and He’ll do it too! He just had a whale swallow me in the bottom of the sea and spit me out so I would come here and tell you this!”

What kind of follower of Christ are you? Do you willing do what God asks in his Word? Or do you resist his commands with “I know that’s what the Bible says, but I think…” When you feel the voice of the Holy Spirit leading you to do something that takes you outside your comfort zone, how do you respond? When we fail to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, we lose. We lose fellowship with God, we lose the joy of our salvation, and we lose opportunities to experience first-hand the mighty hand of God at work.

Read Jonah 1:1-3:9. Click on this link to read the passage. You may select the translation you prefer on the Bible Gateway website.

Jonah 1:1-2  This was no small order. Jonah and most of the Jews hated the people of Ninevah. But God told him to go and tell them that He was going to destroy their city because they were so wicked.

Where is there a Ninevah in or near your community? Are you willing to go to them and share the Gospel with them?

Jonah 1:3  What did Jonah do? He bolted and ran in the opposite direction. He spent his own money to purchase a ticket to run away from God.

What do we do in response to God’s directive to teach the Gospel to the world? Are you reaching out to the Ninevah in your community? If not, what is holding you back?

Jonah 1:4-17  Jonah paid a high price for his disobedience. Not only the price of his ticket to board the ship, but the price of being thrown into the sea and being swallowed by the fish (whale).

What price(s) have you paid at times when you rebelled against God?

Jonah 2  Then Jonah came to his senses. He hadn’t run far enough to get away from God, and God came to his rescue. Jonah’s prayer from inside the whale is powerful. It tells of his desperation as his life was ebbing away, of his vow to keep his promises to God. Then God commanded the fish (whale) to vomit him on dry land.

When have you been in the pits of despair and prayed for God to rescue you? Can you relate to Jonah’s prayer? Sometimes this is the manner that God must use to get our attention. Have you thanked Him for bringing you to your wit’s end so you would again reach out to Him? If not, thank him now.

Jonah 3:1-2 Again God called Jonah to go to preach to the Ninevites.

Has God given you a second chance to respond to his call?

Jonah 3:3-4  Jonah went immediately this time. It took him three days to cover the city and give the message to all the people.

Have you taken advantage of second chances to obey God’s call on your life?

Jonah 3:5  The people heard Jonah’s message and repented at once. I’m certain that Jonah’s appearance helped him to get their attention, and his explanation of why he looked like he did caused them to take God’s message seriously. If God could cause a fish (whale) to swallow Jonah and then spit him out again after three days, what might He do to the city of Ninevah?

Have your hardships ever opened doors for witness that you might not have experienced otherwise?

Jonah 3:6-9  Even the king repented and commanded all people and all animals to fast in sackcloth and ashes.

If it happened in Ninevah, perhaps it can happen in the USA. Where is your Ninevah? Are you willing to go to them?

Father God, give us listening ears and willing hands, feet, and hearts to hear your call when you speak to us. Enable us to be willing to see the Ninevahs in our community and to reach out to them. It wasn’t comfortable for Jonah to reach out to the Ninevites, but you didn’t accept that as an excuse from Him. Neither should we expect you to accept that excuse from us. Grant us courage of heart and willing spirits to reach out to others with your Gospel and your love.

© 2009 by Janice D. Green

Jonah 1-4 (Click here to read the book of Jonah. It is only four short chapters in length. You may choose whatever translation you prefer on the Bible Gateway website.)

Tomorrow’s Sunday school lesson is on the book of Jonah. I am grieving over the teacher’s manual that supplements the student handbook for this quarter because the writer obviously does not believe in the account as historical fact but only as a parable.  I deeply regret that teachers across the US are given all of this author’s reasons to discount the story of Jonah as a historic book, and I have written to the editor of our Sunday school curriculum about this.

Jonah 1:1-2.  “Jonah, son of Amittai” as he is identified in the book of Jonah was also referred to in 2 Kings 14:25.  This lends credibility to the person of Jonah as a true historical figure. It also gives a time frame for the account.

Jonah 1:17. There is no reason to be upset over the Bible’s use of the word “fish” rather than the word “whale” as the story has been traditionally taught. God was perfectly capable of using either. However, I used Bible Gateway to search the entire Bible for the word “whale” in several translations and found it did not exist. This leads me to believe that the word “fish” in the Bible was loosely applied to any and all fish-shaped animals in the sea.

Jonah 3:3-4. The argument was made in the teacher’s edition that the city of Ninevah would have to be sixty miles wide for it to take Jonah three days to cross it. Jonah wasn’t on a hike. He had to stop and give the message to everyone there. He would not have taken a straight path through the center of the city.

Jonah 3:5-9. Would all the people have believed Jonah? In our time that may seem unrealistic, but consider that:

  1. Jonah would have looked quite strange after spending three days in the belly of a whale. His skin would surely have been exposed to all kinds of gastric juices. His hair would have been affected and his clothing would have been a mess. He probably looked like a walking zombie.
  2. The people surely would have asked what happened and why. Jonah’s experience would have added both conviction and credibility as he gave them God’s message. It may not have been so unreasonable to believe that the people listened to Jonah and took him seriously.

It is sad when we let the skeptics of out time write our Sunday school literature. It grieves me even more to learn that most of our major Christian publishing companies are being bought out by the mega secular publishers. It is important that we as individuals read the Bible for ourselves and teach it those within our sphere of influence. There is too much to lose if we don’t.

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