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August 16, 2014

Welcome to my Jonah Series. For the next several weeks I am going to blog on the book of Jonah. I believe that there is a lot to learn from his experience. I suggest if you have not read the book of Jonah, you do so and see apart from the information I will share what additional gems you can glean from it.

Jonah, the son of Amittai and a descendant of the tribe of Zebulun is introduced to us in Jonah 1:1. Also though categorized as a minor prophet, chronologically Jonah is the first missionary prophet who is sent to preach a word of repentance to the heathen nation of Nineveh.

Nineveh was known to be a pagan, flourishing, capital city of Assyria. It was a dominating world power with ruthless warlike people who were Israel’s enemy. They were known for skinning and impaling people who were yet alive and for beheading victims by the thousands leaving the heads stacked in piles at the city gates. It was here that God instructs Jonah to go and cry against their wickedness. However, Jonah did not want to follow God’s instruction; instead, he goes down to Joppa and gets on a ship headed in the opposite direction. Please note as Jonah attempts to flee from the presence of God he goes down (1:3).

Jonah first mistake was his disobedience. Directives from God are meant to be followed. We can reject God’s word, but there are consequences for doing so.

Secondly, he thought he could escape God’s presence, and for those of us who also believe this is possible, please ponder this scripture in Psalm 139:7- 12. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.” A simple fact to remember is, “There is nowhere that you can go that God is not present.”

Jonah’s disobedience and the act of rebellion now affect those with whom he is in contact, and a strong wind and tempest arise that is causing great turmoil on the ship. Thus, the Mariners start seeking solace from their gods and questioning, “Why this turmoil?” I cannot even begin to count the times in my distress that I have asked God the “Why.” How about you? I think this is His number one question.

Jonah oblivious to what is happening has fallen asleep in the bottom of the ship. Jonah’s action is reflective of many people who cause others grief, but they can rest comfortably as if they did nothing wrong. Are you like Jonah? Has your disobedience (sins) desensitized you to what is happening around you? If your answer is yes, you are in a dangerous place.

The shipmaster confronts Jonah about his actions and requests him to start praying to God for divine intervention. Jonah did not honor this request;  he did not pray, nor did he feel the need to ask God for forgiveness. He did not admit he was the cause of the turmoil. He was willing to stand by and let others suffer while he did nothing.

The Mariners cast lots which result in Jonah’s rebellion being revealed. Listen to what Jonah says to them in 1:9-10, “And he said unto them, I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land. 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.” I think a good question with which to confront Jonah is, “If you really feared God, how could you flee from his presence?” for Jonah’s actions appeared to contradict what he believed. How many times have we praised God for who He is, what He has done, and for what He has said, and shortly after that we act as if He did not do or say anything? I find during storms in my life; it is easy to forget; that is why I must meditate on the Word day and night.

The mariners understood it was necessary to rid themselves of the cause of their problem, namely Jonah, and they politely asked Jonah for suggestions. Jonah told them to throw him overboard, but the mariners were reluctant to do that; so they tried to bring the ship to the shore. When their efforts failed, they asked God for mercy and threw Jonah overboard and this resulted in the sea calming down and the mariners fearing God. This action brought an immediate positive response from God and an acknowledgment that there is a higher power that must be recognized and obeyed. What is causing turmoil in your life? Like the mariners, you may need to get rid of it to acquire some peace.

Chapter 1 ends with this, “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Rather than allow Jonah to drown, God had a plan to bring Jonah into submission, and he is enveloped in a dark confined place. Now he has to give an account for his actions.
Jonah’s response to this situation can be found in chapter 2 and will be discussed in my next blog. I pray this first chapter has given you food for thought.


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