Series on Book of Jonah #1

 

"RUNNING AWAY FROM GOD!"

-or‑

"Going Overboard Sounds Fishy ... Even if you have a Whale of a good time!"

 

TEXT:         Jonah 1:1-17

 

INTRO:       There are 2 kinds of people who run away from God!

a.    Unbelievers

b.    Believers!

 

There are usually 2 basic reasons why people run away from God!

a.    They are frightened and fearful of loss - they think God will control them, or cost them too much.

b.    They are afraid of God doing too much good!  Some Christians fall into this category, they are fine with God blessing their own life; but aren't crazy about God blessings others that they don't think deserve it as much as they do!

 

Sometimes both reasons are at work ... the Christian who is running from God might be confused and fearful over losing something, but they might also be afraid that God might do something good that they don't want to happen ... and then they would have to accept it and act responsibly!

 

Jonah is a good example of the believer who is trying to run away from God because he knows God is good ... and the answer God wants to bring to sinful people isn't one that he likes!  But this kind of wayward running usually ends in a dead end!

 

ILLUS:     It is said that Dr. Mortimer Adler suddenly left a discussion group at a tea quite disgusted, slamming the door after him.  One person trying to relieve the tension, remarked, "Well, he's gone."  To this the hostess replied, "No, he isn't.  That's a closet!" We share the same plight when we attempt to rush from God's presence.  We are confined to ourselves. -- Myron S. Augsburger, When Reason Fails.  Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 9.

 

PROP. SENT:       Running from God will never make your life easier ... it will only add additional heartache to it ... God is merciful but the trip back might be rougher than you hoped for! ... best thing to do is not sail away!

 

I.   RUNNING AWAY!     Jonah 1:1-3

 

A.    Orders Received!   Jonah 1:1-2

1.    There were few prophets available at this time, Hosea, Amos and Jonah were about the only 3 men prophesying to all Israel.

a.    At this time the Northern Kingdom was enjoying the greatest strength militarily and monetarily since the days of Solomon.

b.    Judah too was strong and healthy at this time.

c.    Because of this quiet affluence there was no war, but also the people of God had become lax in their worship of God.

2.    In their lax attitudes toward God in prosperity and peace God decides to talk to both nations.

a.    Amos came from the Southern kingdom and prophesied to the Northern Kingdom, his style was a bit harsher than the native son of the Northern kingdom Hosea ... who wept over the Northern kingdom's indifference to real worship!

b.    Hosea was a native son to the Northern Kingdom, and so he spoke primarily to them.

c.    Jonah who also came from the Northern Kingdom ... although not far from the border between the two, had already prophesied this how the Northern Kingdom would become strong In 2 Kings 14:25-27.

3.    God desired to speak to His people, even if they weren't anxious to hear!

a.    The 3 prophets each had the same message ... but different styles because of their context:

b.    Amos spoke harshly against the Northern kingdom ... he was from the Southern!

c.    Hosea wept over the Northern Kingdoms indifference, his tone was much softer for he identified with the Northern kingdom!

d.    Jonah was popular and had gained a good reputation among the Hebrews for his word had come true about the expanded kingdom and prosperity ... They were God's privileged people and they liked this special status, prosperity, and peace!

4.    Now you can understand why Jonah wasn't thrilled with God's orders ... although it concerned a harsh word against a huge enemy Gentile city (Nineveh) ... Jonah knew God was loving and forgiving and the last thing he wanted to see was a bunch of Gentiles get in on the kingdom blessings by repenting of their sins!

 

ILLUS:     A farmer asked his neighbor if he might borrow a rope.

   "Sorry," said the neighbor, "I'm using the rope to tie up my milk."

   "Milk?" exclaimed the first farmer. "Rope can't tie up milk."

   "I know," replied the neighbor, "but when a man doesn't want to do something, one reason is as good as another." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 183.

 

a.    Jonah understood that these wicked enemies of Israel MIGHT repent; and if so, God would be good to them ... which;

b.    would make Jonah as a prophet look bad to his own people who loved him for his good and favorable words of prosperity and peace.

 

B.    Organized Resistance!    Jonah 1:3

1.    Jonah probably thought, if I get out of the PROMISE land, the land of God's promise and calling ... then God either couldn't find him or get anyone else to go and "save" these Gentiles!

2.    He pays a boat fare, the destination is the farthest point known in the world at that time in the opposite direction from Nineveh!  While Nineveh was east, he decides to buy a boat ticket to the furthest point west known to man in those days!

a.    He carefully plans his opposition and running from God!

b.    Travels to nearby Joppa on the coast.

c.    Purchases a boat ticket.

d.    Hops on board and justifies his actions all the way!  EVEN THOUGH HE KNEW BETTER!  How many times do we Christians do this?

e.    The irony here is that to prevent God from savings hundreds of thousands of Gentiles Jonah gets on board a Gentile ship!  He doesn't mind using them... when he should have been saving them!

3.    Why would God send Noah to Nineveh now!  Because Nineveh had just gone through 2 serious plagues and a solar eclipse which in those days were frightening to unsaved people ... and the people of the town were ripe for repentance!  God knew this, and so did Jonah, only Jonah didn't want it to happen and God did!

 

ILLUS:     Sign on the desk of an airline executive in Chicago: "Don't bother to agree with me, I've already changed my mind." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 464.

 

a.    This was jealously at work with the Hebrews enjoying the blessings of God as a special people; they didn't want anyone else to cash in on it ... especially not Gentiles!

b.    Yet this had been God's plan all along ... once they were secure and strong they were supposed to be doing missionary work and taking God's message to the nations of the world!

c.    Jonah refuses to be the missionary to the Gentiles, but using them and riding on their boats is ok!

 

II.  RECKLESS ATTITUDE   Jonah 1:4-11

 

A.    Operation Rescue!    Jonah 1:4-5

1.    You know you can't really run away from God!

2.    Sure enough God knows exactly where Jonah is ... and sends him a message via the air and water!  THINGS GET REAL STORMY when we run from God!

3.    While Jonah lay sound asleep in the belly of the boat caring nothing for the Gentiles he was riding with, they are battling the storm, trying to save not only their own lives, BUT HIS!  They cared more for him they he was showing toward them!

a.    Why the bottom of the boat ... because when you run from God you like to hide!

 

ILLUS:     I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine.  I don't want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant.  I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth.  I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.  I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please. -- Wilbur Rees, Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 1.

 

b.    What a contrast to the time when Jesus was sound asleep in the belly of a boat during a storm!  His sleep was sweet, Jonah's was escape!

4.    What Jonah didn't know was that running away from God by hiding in the belly of the boat would cost him a return ticket in the belly of a great fish where he would confront God anyway!

5.    The men sacrificed everything they owned to try and save their lives and Jonah's ... while Jonah wouldn't sacrifice anything to see 100,000's of lives saved!

 

B.    Ornery Rider!     Jonah 1:6

1.    "How can you sleep" ... a question I've asked many a backslider!

2.    All these Gentiles ask is for Jonah to call upon whatever God he served ... the least he could do at a moment like this for them!

3.    Still he refuses and acts indifferent!  They had a real problem on their hands ... an ornery believer!  Nothing could be worse!

 

ILLUS:     A summer visitor was asking a local farmer how to get off Southport Island in Maine and find his way back to Boothbay Harbor.  The farmer began to explain how to find the road back to the bridge.  The visitor insisted, "But I didn't cross any bridge to get here."  The farmer looked at him skeptically and replied, "Well, now, if you didn't cross any bridge, then you ain't here in the first place, so you got nothing to worry about." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 464.

 

a.    Instead of helping them, he continues to just be ornery and obnoxious. 

b.    They came to Jonah for help, they didn't mind asking a Jew for help as Gentiles; but he being Jewish he had no interest in helping them as Gentiles ... after all, he didn't care about the 100,000's of Gentiles in Nineveh either!

 

C.    Obvious Reason   Jonah 1:7-11

1.    Having exhausted every logical approach to the storm they assume this is not just some odd accident of nation ... someone has brought this upon them!

2.    As Jonah watched, they cast lots to find out who was the reason for the angry gods or god!  Guess who the lot fell to -- JONAH!

3.    Even unbelievers can be disgusted with miserable saints who are trying to run from God!

a.    Quickly they ask all the logical questions:

(1.    "Who is responsible for this trouble...?"

(2.    "What do you do?"

(3.    "Where do you come from?"

(4.    "What is your country?"

(5.    "Who are your people?"

b.    IRONICALLY he states to them that he belongs to the people of the one true God and that he is a worshipper!  * How interesting ... he can brag about his membership, but be out on the boat running from God while his brethren are worshipping!

c.    They immediately made the connections, and they were terrified ... Jonah had told them already that he was running from God, but now they realized that this might be the ONE REAL GOD since all their appeals had failed to their false gods!

4.    What this meant was that their safety was in the hands of a stranger ... one that didn't seem to care a whole lot about them or others!

5.    The final obvious question was, "WHAT CAN WE DO TO YOU TO MAKE THIS STORM CALM DOWN?" Jonah 1:11

 

III.   REPENTANCE ACCEPTED    Jonah 1:12-17

 

A.    Overboard Results!   Jonah 1:12-16

1.    Jonah's answer was simple and honest!  "Throw me overboard!"

a.    This quick answer demonstrates the state of mind he was in ... while he acknowledges his sin he seeks to play the role of a martyr in the end!

b.    Martyrdom using the means of going overboard!

 

ILLUS:     Between two farms near Valleyview, Alberta, you can find two parallel fences, only two feet apart, running for a half mile.  Why are there two fences when one would do?  Two farmers, Paul and Oscar, had a disagreement that erupted into a feud. Paul wanted to build a fence between their land and split the cost, but Oscar was unwilling to contribute. Since he wanted to keep cattle on his land, Paul went ahead and built the fence anyway.

   After the fence was completed, Oscar said to Paul, "I see we have a fence."  "What do you mean 'we'?" Paul replied. "I got the property line surveyed and built the fence two feet into my land. That means some of my land is outside the fence. And if any of your cows sets foot on my land, I'll shoot it."  Oscar knew Paul wasn't joking, so when he eventually decided to use the land adjoining Paul's for pasture, he was forced to build another fence, two feet away.  Oscar and Paul are both gone now, but their double fence stands as a monument to the high price we pay for stubbornness. -- Daren Wride Valleyview, Alberta.  Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 1.

 

2.    Though he repents of sorts ... he at least assumes his death will mean that the capital city of the Assyrian empire, Nineveh won't hear and repent!  While he is sorry enough to save the lives of these few Gentiles on this boat, he still hopes not to have to see hundreds of thousands saved from Nineveh!

3.    Ironically again, the men refuse this harsh treatment and continue to do everything humanely possible to save Jonah as well as themselves!

a.    They were more compassionate towards him than he to them!

b.    If he really was sorry for his sin, he could have just offered to jump without their help of throwing him overboard ... but he doesn't offer to simply jump himself, he wants them to throw him overboard!

c.    They realize human effort won't work ... so the PRAY TO THE GOD OF JONAH!

(1.    They ask for God's forgiveness before they act!

(2.    They acknowledge the innocent blood they would be spilling!

(3.    They acknowledge the Sovereignty of God in the process!

d.    Then they threw Jonah overboard ... and the sea immediately calmed down!

(1.    This brought a great sense of conviction on them about God!

(2.    Jonah's rebellion would save even these few Gentiles ... they sought for God by making sacrifices for their sins ... and making vows before the true God!

4.    Would Jonah have been mad if he knew that these Gentiles had gotten saved in the process of his rebellion?  Now he has several Gentile converts on his conscious!

a.    Poor Jonah, he couldn't even disobey God without someone getting saved!

b.    How ironic is God's love that even our worst actions can sometimes lead to other people's redemption!

 

B.    Ocean Ride!     Jonah 1:17

1.    But Jonah had an even bigger surprise waiting for him!  As he fell over­board thinking, "at least Nineveh won't hear the gospel" what happens?  HE GETS SWALLOWED BY A GREAT SEA CREATURE ... something as big as a whale!

2.    He couldn't run away from God like he thought!

a.    Now, he who rode in the belly of a comfortable ship ...

b.    He would now return in the belly of a smelly fish!

3.    The ride back to God can sometimes be uncomfortable... but it is better than never returning!

4.    Had Jonah originally gone to Nineveh it would have been a one month trip ... now it cost him MORE time because of the detour he took!

a.    What did he gain by trying to run from God!?

(1.    Bitterness

(2.    Storming climate

(3.    Cost an entire crew their earthly supplies!

(4.    A ride in the belly of a huge fish, slop and all!  (if you think handling a fish makes you smell, try living in one for 3 days)!

b.    How much better if he had obeyed God in the first place and not run!

5.    God got the first word and the last ... He always does you know!  Jonah bought a one way ticket, and got a free return trip ... God doesn't let go of us very easily but that doesn't mean the return trip is always smooth!

 

ILLUS:    The captain of the ship looked into the dark night and saw faint lights in the distance. Immediately he told his signalman to send a message: "Alter your course 10 degrees south."  Promptly a return message was received: "Alter your course 10 degrees north."

   The captain was angered; his command had been ignored.  So he sent a second message: "Alter your course 10 degrees south--I am the captain!"  Soon another message was received: "Alter your course 10 degrees north -- I am a seaman third class Jones."

   Immediately the captain sent a third message, knowing the fear it would evoke: "Alter your course 10 degrees south -- I am a battleship."  Then the reply came: "Alter your course 10 degrees north -- I am a lighthouse."

   In the midst of our dark and foggy times, all sorts of voices are shouting orders into the night, telling us what to do, how to adjust our lives.  Out of the darkness, one voice signals something quite opposite to the rest -- something almost absurd.  But the voice happens to be the Light of the World, and we ignore it at our peril. -- Paul Aiello, Jr., Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 2.

 

6.    Why fight it?  Why run away from God?

a.    Usually it is because we are bitter against God ... so we think we are going to get even with Him, imagine that!

b.    Sometimes we are running away because we are afraid God might do something wonderful and then we have to adjust our hearts toward this miracle.  It seems easier to run away!  Sometimes we hope God won't answer because then we might have to accept something we don't really want ... so we run hoping we won't have to be responsible or so it won't happen!

c.    God might let you run a certain distance, but remember that return trip ... the longer you're running away the more time spent in the belly of the fish on the return trip!

 

CONCLUSION:   In reality it is hard to run away from a God who is everywhere ... even when you're running away from Him you are sure to run into Him!  While you might get some satisfaction out of running away, just remember the return trip might be more uncomfortable than you would like to have ... just ask Jonah about his return trip!  Running away NEVER gains you anything except a big fish story!  It is far better to run to God than to try running from God!  SO IF YOU RUNNING AWAY ... GIVE IT UP ALREADY!