Running into God

You are listening to:Running into God

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Do you blame Jonah for running?
  2. What were some of the “reasons” Jonah may have used to justify his decision?
  3. Why do you think Jonah went below deck and began to sleep? Do you think it had anything to do with his decision to run?
  4. What changed in Jonah from the opening verses of his story to the prayer in the belly of the great fish?
  5. Has God ever put you or someone you know in spiritual time out? How do these type of experiences change us for the better, (or for the worse)?

Introduction:

When you look at the book of Jonah and its place in the Bible, it, seems to be in the wrong section. It seems strange that it’s stuck among the books we call Prophets.

  • It really doesn’t seem to fit in.
  • There’s a grand total of eight words of prophecy spoken (and that’s the English – in Hebrew it’s only four words).
  • And even those eight words seem to be a bit of a sideline to the overall story of the book.

The book of Jonah is not so much a book of Prophecy as a book about a Prophet.

  1. It’s a book about the man Jonah, and his relationship with God.
  2. A man that in a sense was placed in quarantine not just for his own good but that of entire nation.

Israel

Jonah lived in the nation of Israel and had served God there as a Prophet (2 Kings 14:25).

  • Israel at this time is in a bad way.
  • It may have looked pretty prosperous.
  • They may have had political stability.
  • They may not have been at war with any other nation. But Israel had moved away from God. They were proud and arrogant.
  • God has displayed great patience with them.
  • He keeps calling them to repent and turn back to him through the prophets Elijah and Elisha – but they refuse to listen. The hearts of the people are a long way from God.

Assyria (Nineveh)

  • Assyria was a significant nation in the area at that time – but a wild and brutal bunch.
  • They had gained a wide reputation for their disgusting war practices including the following: –
  • When they took over a town in battle they would take any survivors and impale them on stakes in front of the town. –
  • Assyrian leaders would often cut off the heads of foes and wear them around their necks. –
  • After a battle they’d pile up the skulls of enemies making pillars of them.
  • The relationship between Israel and Assyria was far from being close. The Israelites hated their northern neighbors. And the Assyrians felt much the same way about them. And this is the nation that Jonah was called to preach to.

I. The Storm of Conviction

The book has an abrupt opening (Jonah 1:1-2). Jonah’s response to the call from God is instant – he runs off in exactly the opposite direction. (Jonah 1:1-3) God called him to go to the nation north east and Jonah heads south to catch a boat west to Spain.

Jonah 1

1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

Jonah buys a ticket and jumps a boat for Spain.

  1. The boat puts out to sea. Jonah would have been feeling rather confident as they pulled up the anchor and set sail.
  2. But that confidence was about to be shattered.
  3. God sends a storm.

The sailors all begin to pray to their foreign gods.

  • They finally decide to cast lots to find out who is responsible for the storm.
  • The lot falls on Jonah.
  • He tells them he is running away from God and that the only way to calm the storm is to throw him overboard.
  • The sailors are not willing to do that – they don’t want to be responsible for taking his life. And you can understand that.
  • If Jonah being there can cause that storm imagine what KILLING him could do! They try to row the boat to shore to save his life – and theirs.
  • Finally, when the storm becomes even more fierce, they agree to throw him over.
  • Jonah knew the storm was his fault. He knew that he deserved to be thrown over.
  • Jonah is thrown into the sea where he is swallowed by a huge fish.

Contrasting Attitudes

There are some amazing contrasts in this passage between Jonah and those around him: –

  • The pagan boat captain has to tell Jonah the prophet to pray –
  • The pagan sailors work to save Jonah’s life when * he had endangered theirs –
  • The sailors begin to worship the true God while Jonah’s running away from God
  • The sailors understand the seriousness of Jonah’s disobedience better than he does

A: Convicted of God’s Greatness

Vs. 14

Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

When we are convicted of Gods greatness we are convicted of our smallness.

B: Convicted of our Failure

When we are trying to run from God, I believe He often times he sends a storm to bring us around.

 vs 9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

What Jonah forgets is that you can’t run from God!

  • He knows it in his head – he even tells the sailors on the ship, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord , the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” (verse 9)
  • If God is the creator of all that there is, it is not like you can leave town on him!
Psalm
139

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, [1] you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

Have you ever done that? You know that God is calling you to a specific thing, but out of fear or rebellion, you run the exact opposite direction?

The call on your life might not be to a place as dangerous as Nineveh, but it is a call all the same;

  • A call to change your behavior – but instead you do everything you can to avoid the topic
  • A call to be more public with your faith – but instead you keep your light under a bushel
  • A call to forgive someone for harm they have done to us – but instead you avoid them at all costs in order to keep your grudge.
  • A call to quietness and prayer – but instead you fill your life with really important busy things
  • A call to a specific ministry or use of your spiritual gifts – but instead you put it on the back burner until a more opportune time
  • A call into relationship with God through Jesus – but instead you throw yourself into the things of the world

Jeremiah 31:19

After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.”

II. Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

When the Sailors discover that the storm has come because of Jonah, they ask him what they should do, and he says, “Throw me overboard.” They don’t want to, but the storm is so great that they throw Jonah overboard into the raging sea.

  • And the storm stops and the sea becomes calm. The sailors are safe. But Jonah is not! He is sinking to the depths of the sea, about to expire.

Jonah 1:17

And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah 2….

Jonah is in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. And while he is there he prays.

It can be easy to be so obsessed with what was going on inside the fish that we miss seeing the drama inside Jonah.”

II. The Changing Room

THREE VERY IMPORTANT THINGS ARE HAPPENING:

Three ministers were talking about prayer in general and the appropriate and effective positions for prayer. As they were talking, a telephone repairman was working on the phone system in the background.

  1. One minister shared that he felt the key was in the hands. He always held his hands together and pointed them upward as a form of symbolic worship.
  2. The second suggested that real prayer was conducted on your knees.
  3. The third suggested that they both had it wrong–the only position worth its salt was to pray while stretched out flat on your face. 

By this time the phone man couldn’t stay out of the conversation any longer. He interjected, “I found that the most powerful prayer I ever made was while I was dangling upside down by my heels from a power pole, suspended forty feet above the ground.” 

1. Broken:

 Jonah  3-4 For you cast me into the deep,
    into the heart of the seas,
    and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
    passed over me.
Then I said, ‘I am driven away
    from your sight;
yet I shall again look
    upon your holy temple.’


There is no ill-will directed toward God for the deadly  circumstances Jonah was in. This displays a penitent heart.

Two Very different Prayers:

 Luke 18:10  “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector
Luke 18:11-12The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men–extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’”  

Notice two things about the Pharisee’s prayer:

  • 1) The Pharisee makes no mention of his sin. People tend to have the ability to see sin in others but not in themselves.
  • 2) The Pharisee holds up his religious deeds as the reason he feels he’s right with God

Now let’s look at the tax collector’s prayer.

Luke 18:13And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!”

1
John 1:9“if
we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

And that’s what the tax collector did. He knew his sin was great, and that he had no way of paying for his sin, so he simply begged God for mercy.

Who Are We Comparing Ourselves To?

Luke 18:14 “’I tell you, this man – the tax collector – went down to his house justified rather than the other; For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 1 John 1:8if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 

2. Focused

 Jonah 2:7 When my life was fainting away,
    I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you,
    into your holy temple.
Those who pay regard to vain idols
    forsake their hope of steadfast love.

You need to keep your eyes on your master or you’ll get distracted. Get your mind off your circumstances and your problems and focus on God’s goodness to you in your past, his closeness to you in your present and his power to help you in your future.

 Do what Jonah did as he sat in the belly of the great fish: “When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord”  Jonah 2:7

God wants us to walk with Him every moment of the day — and the first step is to begin the day with Him.

Mornings are hurried for most of us — but develop the habit of setting aside a few minutes to be alone with God.

In addition, develop the habit of constant prayer.

The
Bible says, “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

In dog obedience training, they put a dog at one end of a room and its master at the other end of the room, with a plate of food in the middle. And then the master calls the dog. If the dog eyes the food, he’s a goner; he’ll go straight for it. So they teach the dog to focus his eyes on the master. If the dog keeps his eyes on the master, he won’t be tempted. Instead of heading for the food, he’ll head straight to the master.

3. Thankful

 Vs 9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving
    will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.

A couple really neat stories in the Bible stand out to me when the subject of thankfulness is brought up. One is when Paul and Silas were cast into prison, but instead of grumbling… can anybody tell me what they were upto? Let’s see…

"And
at midnight Paul
and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto
God: and the prisoners heard them." (Acts
16:25)

Now if you ask me, few of us have circumstances like Paul and Silas had to complain about.

But instead of complaining, they lifted their hands to the Lord with thankful hearts and began to sing praises!

Why? Because they took what Jesus said literally when He told them…

 Matthew 5:11 ""Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  

1 Thessalonians 5:16–18

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Conclusion:

 Salvation belongs to the Lord!”

10 And
the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon
the dry land.

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