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Swallowed by the Crashing Sea: (Following God's Will)

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Jonah 1:1-17


INTRODUCTION: Illustration: A married couple were on vacation and staying overnight at a motel. They had to get up early the next morning to continue their trip, so they called the front desk for a wake up call the next morning. The front desk called, and the wife got up and began packing everything.

She told her husband to get up, but he just laid there.

She continued packing, and once again told him to get up. He still just laid there.

Finally she told him, "I am going to take our suitcases to the car, and you had better be up by the time I get back!”

She took the suitcases to the car, and started back to the room. She mistakenly went to the room next door, and the door happened to be unlocked. She opened the door and said, “I SAID FOR THE LAST TIME, GET UP!”

She then realized she was in the wrong room, so she quietly shut the door. The man rose up, rubbed his eyes, and said "Now that is what I call a wake up call.”

Sometimes we need such a drastic wake up call to get us moving. Jonah did. In tonight’s passage about Jonah, we see that God has given him a command to go to Nineveh, and to preach repentance to the wicked Ninevites. But as you all know, Jonah didn’t want to go. Let’s start tonight by reading from God’s Word: Jonah 1:1-17.

Jonah 1:1-17 (ESV)
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 on board, 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.”
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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 as many others despised the Ninevites. He knew, feared, and hated the Ninevites because they were blood thirsty and vicious pagans. Plus, he likely heard through the prophet Amos that these people would some day conquer and enslave his own countrymen.

In the time of Nineveh’s prosperity, it was a center of crime and wickedness. It has been characterized as "the bloody city,… full of lies and robbery." In figurative language the prophet Nahum compared the Ninevites to a cruel, ravenous lion. "Upon whom," he inquired, "hath not thy wickedness passed continually?" Nahum 3:1, 19

Jonah knew that God’s mercy may follow, so he turned down God’s assignment, and headed toward Tarshish instead. He didn’t want to see Nineveh come to forgiveness. He thought he knew better than God and decided to follow his own course. Jonah didn’t realize that you don’t say no to God’s commands.

He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish, so he paid his fare and got on board. He was running from the Lord. But, before we start judging Jonah, we need to take a look at our own lives. How many times do we run from the Lord? How many times do we disobey Him?

Jesus commanded us to spread the gospel, but do we? If not, we are running from The Lord, and disobeying His commands.

Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, but if we hold grudges, aren’t we guilty of disobedience?

God told us not to bow down to any graven image, not to have any other God’s besides Him, but if we put our friends, or our hobbies, or even our families before Him, we have broken His command.

Proposition: Today I want you to see that Running from God is never the Answer.

Transitional Sentence: As we focus more on this passage of scripture, let me share with you four things we can learn from the account of Jonah that will help you to avoid Running from God.


A.    Toward God’s Will

                    i.            God’s Will can seem difficult and dangerous.

1.      Jonah was afraid of the people of Nineveh. He knew that this mission could be his last. He knew that he could die or worse if the Ninevites did not accept his message.

                  ii.            We need to be willing to follow God. Our example should be that of Christ who in the Garden of Gethsemane prayed Father if there are any other way, take this cup from me, but if it is your will, it will be done.

                iii.            Illustration: I was very much a part of where you all are right now. It was 17 years ago that I was sitting where you are now listening to the Camp Pastor at music camp.

I never wanted to go to camp. I thought it would be boring, but my music director at church convinced me to go. I think it was because she was helping to lead the band and needed a percussionist that year.

I remember thinking to myself, “Choir? I am not a singer! I don’t want to sing in front of people.” I was a back-row Baptist. I spent 98% o my time during the Sunday service either sleeping, or passing notes, or talking during the song service.

But I convinced a few of my buddies to go when I told them that it was 4:1 odds of guys to girls. And I arrived at camp with little expectation.

I professed to be a Christian, and I believe I was saved when I was 8yrs old, but it wasn’t until 1989 when I truly felt God’s presence and call in my life.

I don’t remember what the sermon was on that night, but I remember the song that was sung by one of the All-States Choir members, “Shepard Boy”. It said when others see a Shepard boy God may see a King. I was that Shepard boy. I wasn’t the most popular, I didn’t date, I was alone a lot, but I was being drawn by God to accept a life of Christian service.

By the end of the week I had made that commitment. But just as Jonah, I ran from it. I ran for 15years. I like Jonah knew what God wanted but chose for selfish reasons not to follow.

Jonah and I both took it so far that we had lost our witness. My attitude was far from God’s will, and even farther from witnessing

B.     Toward Witnessing

                    i.            We can’t turn our witness on or off.

1.      I spent my weekends partying when I was in High School. My language was terrible, I had a lot of hate and rage for people, but I still called myself a Christian and played Super Christian on Sunday’s. When our words and actions don’t live up to the beliefs that we profess, we are still witnessing, it’s just not always a good witness.

2.      We are witnessing for or against the Lord no matter where we are.

                  ii.            We are to witness even to those we don’t want to.

1.      Jonah wanted to see the Ninevites perish.

a.       He did not want to preach forgiveness, he wanted to see God’s wrath evoked on the Ninevites because in his eyes they were so despicable that they should suffer.

Transitional Sentence: But model God’s attitude is only the first step, we have to then…


A.    Disobedience, not doing what God wants, always leads Downward:

                    i.            Jonah went Down to Joppa.

                  ii.            He then went Down into the ship to hide.

                iii.            He then had to be cast Down into the sea.

                iv.            And finally he was then swallowed Down into the great fish.

                  v.            I also went down,

1.      in my appearance

2.      in my witness

3.      in my grades

4.      in my friends

B.     Even in disobedience things “seem” to go well.

                    i.            The ship was waiting for Jonah.

                  ii.            He had the money to pay the fare.

                iii.            He was so at peace that he was even able to go to sleep in the storm.

                iv.            I felt that I was having fun and that I was more popular. I seemed to have more friends and I fit in more.

                  v.            Things only seem good on the surface

1.      Deep down I was depressed, lonely, and scared.

Transitional Sentence: By following God’s call the problems could have been avoided and the lessons that where learned would have been far easier. Our disobedience can place a void between us and God and when this happens we must…


A.    Jonah made the mistake of ignoring God

                    i.            God speaks to Jonah through a storm

                  ii.            Jonah lost his desire to pray

                iii.            Jonah lost his testimony with the men on the ship.

                iv.            Jonah lost his influence for good

1.      He was the cause of the storm

                  v.            Had Jonah looked for God’s guidance to change his heart we would not have the story of the great fish, but one of obedience and great revival.

Transitional Sentence: Sometimes God’s voice is clear, and sometimes as with Jonah it comes through that of a raging storm, but whatever the form we must learn to…


A.    Being swallowed by the great fish was a grace not a punishment.

                    i.            The punishment was the sea.

1.      As you read farther into Jonah you find that he was drowning at the bottom of the sea with no hope nor willingness to live. Being swallowed by the fish was God’s salvation of Jonah to give him a second chance at life and obedience.

2.      God gave me the same kinds of saving challenges.

a.       First he gave me a brain tumor when I was 18

b.      Next he gave me a child with birth defects when I was 23

c.       Finally he broke my back twice. Once to slow me down to see that the world would not come to an end without me and that I wasn’t as important as I thought I was and the other to provide for my needs.

I was lacking money to pay my bills off so that I could attend seminary and God broke my back to prove to me that through my pain and at my worst he can still show me His best.

CONCLUSION: Jonah wasn’t the best person as most of us remember. We know that Jonah went on to follow God’s will and to be more obedient, but what most of us miss is that he still wasn’t happy about it. His worst nightmare had come true, God gave the Ninevites a second chance and forgave those who repented, and belief in God became widespread throughout Nineveh.

The difference that I am striving for in my life is not to end with the same bitter attitude that Jonah had. I want to follow God out of the right attitude, God’s attitude. I want to follow God’s call no matter what the consequences or the no matter what I want to do; to always seeks God’s voice, through the reading of His Word and prayer, but also in the happenings of the world around me; to recognize His divine grace through the good times as well as the bad.

When I was a teenager I was swallowed by the crashing sea, drowning in my own desires. It wasn’t until I began to say yes to God that my great fish came. I was saved from my own disobedience. I was able to stand instead of run.

What are you running from? Are you following my example, that of Jonah, or are you going to choose to be obedient to the decisions that we have made. Will you Follow God?

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