From Jonah 1-4
There once was a man named Jonah. He was your average Jew called by God to preach to a nation he cared little for. Unfortunately he ran away and got swallowed by a big fish.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.
4 But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. 6 So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.” (Jon 1:1–6)
Of all the cities surrounding Israel, the evil from Nineveh offended the LORD. Consequently, Jonah is called to preach against the people of Nineveh.
Have you ever gone out and publicly condemned a whole city?
People who perform evil like Nineveh will not inherit God’s kingdom (cf. Gal 5.19-21; 1 Cor 5.9-11; 6.9-10; Eph 5.1-12; Lk 3.2-14). So, unless the people of Nineveh repent, God will punish them for their evil.
Jonah doesn’t like the idea of calling against the city, so he runs away. Unfortunately, he doesn’t realise God is omnipresent. He cannot run away from the LORD not matter how far he goes.
When the storm hits the ship Jonah is trying to escape in, the mariners with him cry out to the own gods. Useless cries because their is only one true God.
Do you pray? Do you think God listens to your prayers?
After their unsuccessful prayers the mariners wake Jonah up. He seems to be able to sleep peacefully, while in a ship about to sink in a storm. They plead with Jonah to pray to his own god. Jonah realises what is happening and why it is happening.
7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” (Jon 1:7-8)
Lots are like dice and are used to (randomly) determine a course of action. The lot falls on Jonah. So they suspect him. They ask him these questions.
What is Jonah’s occupation?
Don’t you think this is a strange question to ask first? The answer of course is Jonah’s occupation or job is to preach against Nineveh.
What is your occupation?
Where does he come from? What is his country? Israel.
And of what people is he? The Hebrews. The people of the one true God.
9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. (Jon 1:9-10)
The penny drops for the mariners and the others in the ship. Jonah is the reason why they are about to die in the storm.
Describe your relationship with God? Is yours like Jonah’s? Or something else?
11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” 13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. (Jon 1:11–13)
Jonah realises they are about to suffer for something he has done. He accepts the consequences for what he had done. In a rare act of selflessness, Jonah asks them to throw him overboard in the water in the hope that the sea will quiet down for them. He will die, but they will be spared.
Amazingly, the mariners try to spare his life. They dont want to throw him overboard. But the more they try the more the power of the storm increases.
The sea grew more and more tempestuous against them because the LORD wanted them to throw Jonah in the sea.
14 Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows. (Jon 1:14–16)
The mariners recognise what they are about to do is wrong and for possibly the first time they pray to the one true LORD. They recognise he is behind the storm and they ask for forgiveness.
True to Jonah’s words, after they throw him in the sea, the storm quietens down. This of course makes the men even more afraid because they see the hand of the LORD in it. So they offer a sacrifice, presumably some sort of made up sin – guilt offering and make promises to the LORD trying to make up for what they just did.
The story doesn’t end here.
Id like to suggest the story of Jonah was preached to the people of Israel and Judah and used to highlight their role among the nations. God has called them to be his people and call out to the nations as his witnesses. But they had abandoned their calling and tried to run away. God would not allow this and would judge Israel for their disobedience. Sending them into exile, the LORD would eventually call them back and restore them. He would cause them to obey him and the nations would flock to the LORD.
If we zoom forward in time to Jesus. Jesus also had a job to do and it was much more difficult than Jonah’s.
27 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. … 34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”(Mk 8.27-31,34-35)
Jesus knew he was the Christ and what his role was. To suffer, die and rise again. He knew this would bring about the salvation of Israel and the nations of the world.
Unlike Jonah Jesus did not try and run away from the presence of the LORD. He did what he was asked to do, and something more difficult. He boldly walked to the place where he knew he would suffer and die.
Do you believe Jesus is greater than Jonah? What is a good way to respond to him?
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