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Minority Report: Jonah

Prophets… bring God’s message… good or bad… popular guys (Micaiah… Ahab/Jehoshaphat)… scary guys (Samuel)…
Jonah… served during Jeroboam II’s reign in Israel… most popular prophet of the day, prophesying victory for Jeroboam in ....
for the prophets that were NOT successful… Jonah was a SUCCESSFUL prophet
On this occasion… the CALL from God is different than anything he’s seen / heard before
Jonah 1:1–17 NIV84
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 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. Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 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. 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, and we will not perish.” 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. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” 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.) 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?” “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.” Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried to the Lord, “O Lord, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O Lord, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him. But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.

The Call

He was told to rise and go to Nineveh… a foreign city… someplace the prophets in Israel usually didn’t go to
An honor: to be the first foreign missionary
Jonah didn’t look at it that way...
the distances required a journey of a month or so… if he traveled the normal 15-20 miles per day… city was second in size to Babylon
The people were relentless and persistent in their sins… jonah was to preach against this city

That distance required a journey of more than a month, if Jonah traveled the normal distance of 15–20 miles a day. The great city was second in size only to Babylon

The reason God sent Jonah to preach “against” Nineveh (i.e., to pronounce its doom under God’s judgment) is that its wickedness had come up before Him, that is, the people were relentless and persistent in their sins.

The Call is Intimidating

Verses 1-2
Nineveh… modern Iraq… northwest of Baghdad… home to Sennacherib’s “palace without rival” (archaeologists have found it)
This nation (Assyria) was a great threat to Israel
Nineveh was a great city in that nation… a wicked nation
there were approximately 5 times the amount of people in Nineveh than in Jerusalem… you could not find a more impressive city… capital of Assyrian Empire when northern kingdom fell
A quote from an Assyrian general / leader:
Old Testament Survey Series: The Minor Prophets Jonah’s Disobedience (Jonah 1:1–3)

I stormed the mountain peaks and took them. In the midst of the mighty mountains I slaughtered them; with their blood I dyed the mountain red like wool. With the rest of them I darkened the gullies and precipices of the mountains. I carried off their spoil and their possessions. The heads of their warriors I cut off, and I formed them into a pillar over against their city; their young men and their maidens I burned in the fire!… I built a pillar over against the city gates, and I flayed all the chief men who had revolted, and I covered the pillar with their skins; some I walled up within the pillar, some I impaled upon the pillar on stakes, and others I bound to stakes round about the pillar.

One commentary called Nineveh the “Second Sodom”… it was wicked
They were not just against the Lord… HE was against THEM...

The Call makes us want to run

Verse 3-5
Jonah outright rebels… heads the other direction
Tarshish was the farthest known geographical point at that time
Debate whether it was southern Spain or Carthage in North Africa… set off from Joppa
MANY believe Jonah paid for the whole ship himself… quite a price to run
What price do we pay to run?
Old Testament XIV: The Twelve Prophets The Folly of Escaping God

For God alone of all things cannot be escaped from or contended with. If he wills to seize and bring them under his hand, he outstrips the swift. He outwits the wise. He overthrows the strong. He cuts down the lofty. He subdues rashness.

God cannot be escaped or contended with. If he wills to seize and bring Jonah under control, He will… He outwits the wise and overthrows the strong, cuts down the lofty
Evangelical Commentary on the Bible C. God’s Pursuit (1:4–16)

God is the principal person in the narrative, not Jonah. He takes control immediately

God doesn’t give up on the Call

Jonah should’ve known… what probably started as a tap on the shoulder became a storm on the sea… as Jonah hardened his resolve, God resolved to greater measures
Some commentators have maintained that Jonah’s statement to the sailors in verse 12 is his final way of escaping his mission. In one sense, that is true. Jonah will not go to Nineveh. He would rather die than preach to that wicked people (cf. 4:3). Others have lauded Jonah for his willingness to give his life in order to save the sailors. Perhaps there is also some justification for that view. But principally, Jonah realizes that he cannot escape or defy the Lord of heaven and earth and get away with it unscathed.
The author lets us know immediately that Jonah can neither escape nor defy God. Verse 3 ends with Jonah fleeing “from before the face of Yahweh.” Verse 4 begins, “But Yahweh.” Into the path of Jonah’s horizontal flight from God, the Lord “hurls” (mt) a great wind onto the Mediterranean, which causes a violent storm with enormous waves. Thus Jonah’s flight is brought to a dead stop only shortly after it is begun.
Getting Jonah’s attention… while he was sleeping
How do you sleep well during a storm? Exhuastion… and I’d argue he was mentally, physically and emotionally drained as he ran from God...
OR… he could have simply been so content with his decision he was going to bed

Trying times turn people to God

STORMS cause lots of reactions
Resigned despair… “woe is me”
Fear… sailors were petrified
Organized religion… they each turned to their gods
Secular common sense… get rid of the cargo!
Escapism… Jonah was sleeping his troubles away
“Their” gods… not God… polytheistic society
They drew lots… their situation must be someone’s fault, right?

And they drew lots between them, and so forth. Neither because of this example, nor because the prophet Jonah was found out by lot, are we to believe indiscriminately in lots, “since the prerogative of individuals,” as Jerome says, can in no way “make a general law.” For in that instance pagan men were compelled by a storm to seek by lot the source of their danger.

The captain summons Jonah to pray to your god and then calls Jonah’s god “the God” (mt; the niv reads simply “he”). The sailors have already prayed to their various gods with no saving result. Perhaps the unknown God of Jonah will hear and keep them all from perishing. The captain hopes to locate at least one god who has power to say to the storm “Peace, be still!” (cf. rsv) and thus rescue them all from perishing.
Something NEW: they already KNEW that Jonah was running from God because he told them… and now God has shown up
REACTION of sailors: they offered a sacrifice to Yahweh… how possible? There were animals on the ship, so it’s not unbelievable… their reaction was one of faith and belief… THEN the focus shifts to Jonah
Minor Prophets I Section 4: The Sailors Converted (Jonah 1:13–16)

In utter relief and gratitude, and with overwhelming awe at the sovereignty of Yahweh, the pagan sailors offer an animal sacrifice to Yahweh and make vows, verse 16. There has been some discussion among commentators about how it would have been possible to offer such a sacrifice on a ship, but again, those who are familiar with the history of sailing know that animals were often carried on ships to provide fresh meat for the crew, and the fire of a sacrifice could easily be contained. The notice of a sacrifice really is not unbelievable.

We are not told what the content of the vows was or what the future relation of the sailors to Yahweh would be. In fact, the sailors now disappear from the story and are not mentioned again. But certainly the Lord of the world has used Jonah to convert one small group of heathen, and so Yahweh’s purpose has begun to be fulfilled. The focus of the story now shifts to Jonah, who is sinking to his deserved death.

JONAH makes a confession of faith… NIV says he worships Yahweh… best translation may be FEARS...
two meaning in the Biblical sense
ONE - to obey
TWO - to stand in awe
Jonah was not doing well with either one… knows the right words, but it’s lip service only at this point
Minor Prophets I Section 3: The Lot (Jonah 1:7–12)

That Jonah makes such a confession of faith is totally ironic. He says that he “fears” (NIV: worship) Yahweh. “To fear God,” in biblical usage, can have two meanings. It can mean simply “to obey” (Deut. 5:29; 6:2, 13, 24; 10:12, passim), and Jonah certainly has not obeyed Yahweh. “To fear God” can also mean to stand in awe of God (Ps. 33:8; Lev. 19:14, 32, etc.) or to reverence or honor God (Exod. 1:17; Ps. 55:19; 66:16, etc.), and Jonah has not been in awe of God; he has deliberately disobeyed Yahweh and then gone soundly to sleep, with not a disturbing worry. So Jonah is an Israelite who knows all the right words but who pays his God lip-service only (cf. Isa. 29:13). He is an orthodox believer who is not acting according to his beliefs, a message that the author undoubtedly wants to convey to his readers.

The Lord provides for the Call

Jonah had a redirection… and God calmed the storm… and provided a “great fish” to swallow Jonah (doesn’t necessarily mean whale… or even a fish… but a sea creature…)
Old Testament Survey Series: The Minor Prophets Jonah’s Deliverance (Jonah 1:17)

The fish event occupies only three of the forty-eight verses in the Book of Jonah. Obviously the author did not see this as the main emphasis of his book. G. Campbell Morgan observed that “men have been looking so hard at the great fish that they have failed to see the great God” which is the main burden of the book.

What redirection may your life need?

Call #1: Relationship with Jesus

MAYBE you’ve been running… from a life of faith in Jesus

Call #2: Live for Jesus

MAYBE you’ve been running… from a life of surrender… we will talk about it more next week...
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