Jonah 1

Jonah 1

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Jonah Flees the Presence of the Lord

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 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.

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. 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. 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.”

Jonah Is Thrown into the Sea

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. 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?” 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.” 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.

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. 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.” 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. 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.” So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.

A Great Fish Swallows Jonah

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 1 Commentary

by Hank Workman

Nineveh – on the world stage of mid 750 BC, it was a rising and dominant power.  Some 500 miles east of Israel, ancient historians say it was the largest city in the world at that time.  This dominating empire ruled by the Assyrians was evil and Israel’s most dreaded enemy.  Their viciousness renown, their sinfulness blatant they were known for exploitation against the poor, cruelty in war, idolatry, and prostitution could be found on any street corner.  Witchcraft was mixed in their pagan worship.

Enter Jonah.  A man in the company of prophets during Jeroboam II reign and connected to Elisha’s ministry, God called him to go to this hated enemy and preach.  And Jonah purchased a ticket to the furthest place away from there.  Tarshish was a city thought to be towards the end of the earth off the coast of Spain, past the straits of Gibraltar.  He wanted to go as far as possible from the calling of God.

But the calling of God on his life remained and He would bring about a storm and then a great fish to stop him.  His irresponsibility to this call not only affected the people he was called to preach to, but it also affected the crew of the ship as their very lives were in danger.  As the winds raged, the sea beat against the ship everyone would be lost.

Our disobedience always affects others… always.  As following God’s call upon our lives has other people on the other side of our obedience whom God has arranged for an encounter with Him; when we fail to be obedient not only are those whom He’s readied to meet Him are affected but those along the way are caught up in our lack of obedience as well.

Disobedience brings storms in our lives.  Being outside the will of God we sometimes think we can ride it out.  But that disobedience brought the storm to others as well.  It always affects those who are around us.

The moment of reality came when Jonah realized this storm and all these lives in danger were because of him.  Tossed over the side of the boat, the storm immediately ceased, the sailors dropped to their knees seeing the power of the true God and a fish came and swallowed this rebellious prophet.

We cannot seek the love of God in our life, want that love to be present, and then run in the opposite direction.  Before Jonah could do what God asked he had to stop going in the opposite direction.  That moment of repentance is critical.  But it doesn’t just stop there.  Whatever God has asked of us we must carry out those responsibilities and walk in the calling He has for us.  As John wrote in his first letter, we can’t say we truly believe in God if we don’t do what He says.  (1 John 2:3-6)

The story of Jonah is so much more than a man and a fish.  It is a stunning story of God’s mercy and grace.  Mercy and grace that called a man to a lost and pagan world. Mercy and grace that met Jonah where he was in his own rebellion.  Mercy and grace that went beyond the norm.  God would use whatever He had to in order to grab hold of the disobedient prophet and set his destination right.  He’ll do the same for us. 

Stop running in the opposite direction of the call of God upon your life.  Recognize the storms that have come not only to yourself but are affecting others because you won’t give in to that call.  His mercy and grace saved the life of Jonah and the crew members smack in the middle of his own disobedience and will do the same for us.

Jonah 1 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

Nineveh was both a great and wicked city. It was the capital of the Assyrian Empire and the Assyrians had a reputation for being extremely cruel. It was quite possibly the largest city in the ancient world. The book of Jonah tells us it was a 3-day journey (Jon 3:3) just to get from one side of the city to the other. Historians believe it may have been up to 60 miles in diameter when factoring in the greater metropolitan area. This fact alone is astonishing.

A comparable modern-day city might be Las Vegas, Nevada. It is, of course, nicknamed “Sin City” but it is also considered to be “great” with its amazing man-made structures and its buzzing, energetic nightlife. Imagine being called to a city like Vegas in order to proclaim a message of God’s judgment. Imagine going through the city, casino after casino, pleading with the people to repent of their sin.

This was Jonah’s task. It would not be a cakewalk. Nineveh was an absolute reflection of the people who lived there.

“…they would desecrate the bodies of the victims of war, impelling them, maiming them, cutting off the ears of their prisoners, or cutting off the noses of the prisoners, or pulling out the tongues of the prisoners. They were horribly cruel inflicting grotesque type of maiming processes upon the prisoners of war that they would take. History tells us that there were cities that when surrounded by the Assyrian army and doomed to fall that the inhabitants of the cities would all commit suicide.”

Chuck Smith

After knowing this, you can begin to understand Jonah’s reluctance to go. It’s likely that he also didn’t want the Assyrians to receive God’s forgiveness.

“It is easy to discuss Jonah’s reasons for not doing what God told him to do, but what is our reason? God told Jonah to go and to preach; every Christian has the same command in Mat 28:19-20. With Jonah’s example before us, we have even less reason than Jonah for our disobedience.”

David Guzik

This is a sobering reminder. It’s easy for us to question why Jonah didn’t obey because we know the outcome in the end.

The fear that stops Christians from accomplishing great works through faith is often rooted in a “what-if” scenario.

There is no doubt that whatever reason drove Jonah to flee from his responsibility to preach was birthed out of a “what-if” thought. What if I look like a fool? What if they mock me or torture me? What if I am killed? We entertain the same thoughts today because they are inevitable. Throughout history, every Christian who has followed after Jesus has unquestionably suffered the same fearful attitude at one point or another in their lifetime.

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  7  And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 HCSB

Sometimes we read verses like this and think we will never be able to achieve such a standard. But the truth of the Scripture does not call us to perfection. It calls us to grow. So today, instead of complaining or fearing, remember these words. Remember Jonah and his story. As the Holy Spirit to strengthen you. Actively meditate on the Scripture and see how it changes your perspective on your life this day.

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