Commentary on the Book of Jonah
I. JONAH TRIES TO FLEES FROM GOD'S WILL. Jonah 1:1-17
A. God Commissions Jonah. Jonah 1:1-2
Jonah was one of God's prophets during the period of the Divided Kingdom. He was God's instrument to carry out God's Will on earth. He had the great privilege to have been chosen to be God's servant, in bringing God's message of salvation both to his nation of Israel and also to Nineveh. He was the son of the prophet Amittai, and most certainly was popular in that he had revealed that it was God's was to allow Israel to add a great expanse of territory to its borders. (II Kings 14:25)
He prophesied about seventy five years after the Prophet Elisha. His ministry was to the Ten Northern Tribes called Israel. In the south, was the Kingdom of Judah, made of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin. It was a time when Israel was regaining some of its power and prosperity.
After Jeroboam II, came to power the nation of Israel began to flourish. He carried out several successful wars, defeating Syria, Moab and Ammon, bringing great wealth to the nation.
Spiritually, he followed the evil ways of his father, Jeroboam I, in continuing the idolatrous worship of the golden calves. There was also a token worship of God at Dan, Bethel,Gilgal, and Beersheba, however the Prophet Amos, a contemporary of Jonah, preached against it, saying it was only vain ritual acts being carried out devoid of any righteous intent.
Jonah was a popular preacher in a prosperous time, yet when put to the test of being called to carry out a difficult and unpopular task, the true spiritual state of his heart was revealed. God told Jonah to go and warn the wicked and hated city of Nineveh to repent or God would bring judgment and destroy the city. Jonah was to be a messenger of God's mercy in affording Nineveh the opportunity to turn from their sin unto God.
Even today we have Jonah's, who would preach only a positive message of peace and prosperity, and who avoid the negative and generally not well received message of God's judgment of sin. They take the easy road catering to well to do and affluent, often avoiding people not of their color or the down trodden. It is interesting to consider that fact that God called Jonah, instead of maybe Amos or Hosea who boldly declared God's warning against Israel's sin and idolatry. But God chose Jonah, and this recorded account teaches us some very valuable principles concerning our response and attitude to doing the work of God. Jonah is not a man to pattern your life after for he was, "proud, self-centered, pouting, jealous, blood-thirsty; a good patriot and lover of Israel, without proper respect for God or love for his enemies" (Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, Merrill C. Tenny, Zondervan Publishing House, 1976, pg442)
B. Jonah runs from God. Jonah 1:3
After receiving God's call to go and preach to Nineveh, he tried to run from his calling and from God. The true spiritual condition of Jonah's heart is revealed in the actions he took.
Anyone who truly understands who God is and has a proper respect for Him, knows you can not run from God and that obedience to God is always the best course for us. You would think a prophet of the Lord would know that. Jonah, probably knew deep in his heart the truth, but the sin of rebellion makes one irrational. One might suppose Jonah thought that God might just over look his rebellion. He was to shortly learn the hard way that God can not be ignored and he can not be avoided.
Jonah lived in Gath-hepher, which was a city in Northern Palestine near Nazareth. Joppa, is the sea port of Jerusalem, being thirty five miles west. The disobedient prophet traveled some fifty miles south to buy passage on a ship headed for Tarshish, which was on the west coast of Spain. It was located about as far from Nineveh, as one could conceive of going in Jonah's day. It was at the end of the known world.
What Jonah did was to resign from the ministry! As long as things were going good for him Jonah did great. It was not too difficult to preach what everyone wanted to hear. However, going to Nineveh, the enemy of his beloved Israel was too much. It appears Jonah's fear of the Ninevites added to Jonah's reluctance to accept God's call to go to that Gentile and pagan city. (See 4:1-2) Jonah's lack of faith in God's ability to protect him is very clear. So Jonah left his home, family, friends and most of all his ministry and took off for parts unknown.
There is always opportunity to disobey the Lord. Jonah found that he had the necessary money for fare and there was a ship to take him away. But it was a waste of money! He would never get to Tarshish. Those who try to run from God will always find their efforts to be in vain. Many spend a life time, buying passage to the "Tarhishes" of the world, but as Jonah they will find in time it to be a futile effort.
C. God Stops Jonah from running. Jonah 1:4-17
1. God Sends a Storm. Jonah 1:4-7
Although Jonah slept peacefully after the ship had set sail, God was at work sending a great storm which threaten to destroy the vessel. Such was the magnitude of the storm that all the sailors began to cry out to their gods to help them. But they cried in vain, for their gods were only figments of their imaginations. As sincere as they were the only true God, did not hear them. They simply were not praying to Him.
It would appear that the captain of the ship was a little put out with Jonah in that he was sleeping while the rest of the ship's company were all praying for help. The sailor's prayers were not being answered, so in desperation the ship master rudely awakens Jonah and rebukes him for not praying to his God for deliverance. It is always a sharp awakening to be out of fellowship with God and have someone call on us for spiritual help.
The storm was so fierce they perceived that it must be from God. Their prayers not helping, the sailors cast lot to try to determine who it was that had made God so angry. So they mixed a number of small stones together, as was the custom, and when they cast the lots it fell on Jonah. They must not have know who Jonah was for when the lot fell on him they excitedly inquired of him, why this was happening, what was his occupation, where he had come from and what was his nationality.
2. Jonah Admits His Failure. Jonah 1:8-16
Jonah knew God had caught up with him! So Jonah confessed that he was a Hebrew and a prophet, of the true God who made the heavens, sea and land. He further explained he was running from God. The sailors then ask a very sensible question, "Why hast thou done this?" Even they saw it was a most foolish thing to do. He was being very open with them so they ask him the logical next question, "What shall we do?" Up to this point Jonah had acted cowardly, but when confronted by the storm sent by God, and the sailors, he honestly admitted his quilt and instructs the sailors to throw him over the side. God had stopped him dead in his tracks. Jonah, was the prophet of the Lord, and he did know God. He had backslid and was out of fellowship, and still God pursued Him, not willing for him to be a castaway. God was chastening His child that he might be brought to repentance and back to a place of fellowship and service.
It would be hard to speculate as to what would have happened if Jonah had not at this point turned back to God. Hebrews 12:6, states that, "...whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." 1 John 5:16, clearly teaches there is sin that leads unto death. It does not name a particular sin, but means there can be sin in a believers live that they can refuse to admit or confess that will ultimately lead to death. In the Corinthian church there were believers who were sick and some had died because they blatantly were making a mockery of Christ's suffering on the cross by their sinful lifestyle. Christ had borne their sin, and were forgiven, yet they show no thankfulness or concern for Christ's suffering for them. God chastening hand was on that congregation that He might bring them to a place of repentance and restoration of fellowship.
God seeks to restore fellowship to all His children that stray, and all we must do is simply and honestly repent of the sin, confess it as sin to God and He promises to forgive and help us keep from continuing in that sin. ( I John 1:9).
The sailors were reluctant to take such a drastic action and throw Jonah overboard so they rowed hard trying to make land and safety. But the storm was too great and they make no head way at all. It was soon apparent they had no choice but to do what Jonah had told them and cast him into the sea.
They then cried to God, for help and that God would not hold them accountable for Jonah's death. Having prayed then they threw Jonah to his fate in the sea.
What an fearful experience it must have been, to have been so desperate as to throw a passenger over the side in an attempt to save their own lives, and then to see God immediately calm the storm!
There was no question in their minds as to who God was. They knew that Jonah's God, the God of the Hebrews, was indeed the One who had created all things. They on seeing this marvelous demonstration of God's power showed Him great respect (V16 "fear") and offered sacrifice and vows to God.
A great truth is taught here in this verse that may not be apparent at first glimpse. Man sees himself with a distorted vision. He sees his accomplishments and is led to believe he is pretty special and has great power. Yet, when faced with the reality of death, and man's frailness in the face of God and His power, a man can not but see himself as he really is. It is a shocking reality, the raw truth that man is nothing in comparison to God. Always, man will do two things when he finally catches a glimpse of God.
First he will bow to God and admit to His greatness and second he will see himself as the sinner he is and make promises to do better. (See Isaiah's response at seeing God in all His might and glory. (Isaiah 6:1-9) We need to understand, that sin hardness our hearts and blinds our eyes to the truth. Many times, God has to take some drastic actions to shake us to get our attention and bring us to reality.
3. Jonah is Shallowed by a Great Fish. Jonah 1:17
The Bible tells us that God prepared a great fish which swallowed Jonah. Using human logic many so called "scholars," have questioned the authenticity of the Book of Jonah, because they find it hard to believe a fish could shallow and man and the man live. However, lets look at the facts of the account.
Note that the fish that swallowed Jonah was specially prepared of God for the purpose of delivering him from death. This is not the account of a chance happening in nature in which a huge fish just came by that was large enough and with a inclination to swallow a man. This fish was prepared by God. Many have speculated as to what kind of fish it was. Many contend it must have been a whale. Others believe it was a huge shark. The Hebrew word used here is "dag." In Numbers 11:22, the word is used to mean "all the fish in the sea." Thus it refers to all that live in the sea, which would include fish and mammals such as whales. In other places in the Old Testament the word is used of eatable fish. Isaiah 19:10, refers to "fish" in ponds. Ezekiel 29:4, refers to "fish" in rivers or fresh water fish. The "Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, blatantly states as unquestionable fact that, "The `great fish' of Jonah 2:1 was either a whale or shark". (Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume 1, Walter A. Elwell, 1988, pg101)
This is a good example of poor Bible interpretation. One basic rule of proper interpretation is not to go beyond what the Bible actually says. Further it is a gross error to state mere speculation as fact. The authors of the authoritative book, "Theological Word Book of the Old Testament", in examining the use of the Hebrew word "fish" make this correct and truthful statement, "The identity of biological classification of this great water monster is unknown as Jonah does not give us details about the miracle." (Theological WordBook of the Old Testament, Volume 1, Harris, Archer, Waltke, 1981,pg182)
It is an honest and correct statement to say that this was a specially prepared fish by God. Whether it is like any fish or mammal we find in the oceans today is of no consequence. The fish had to be large enough to swallow Jonah. Maybe there were great fish in the area which could have swallowed Jonah or maybe there was not. It was no matter, for the account is clear that God made one specially for the task. It means nothing that we could not today find a fish capable of swallowing a man whole. However, there is a recorded account of a man being swallowed by a sperm whale and living!
Sir Francis Fox, was told by a captain and crew of a whaling ship, that a sailor fell overboard and was swallowed by a sperm whale. The sailor was rescued alive, some twenty four hours later when the whale was captured and cut open. After being mental deranged for two weeks the sailor recovered. (Tenney, pg45)
This event, recorded under the inspiration of God, ( II Peter 1:20-21) was a
miracle done by God for His purposes and one need not be able to rationally explain the event
to believe it. Those who deny miracles are a best very short sighted individuals who suppose
to degrade and limit God to operating within the narrow bounds of man's understanding.
II. Jonah Turns Back to God. Jonah 2:1-10
A. Jonah's Prayer. Jonah 2:1-9
This prayer of Jonah reads like one of the Psalms. It is a poetic prayer of thanksgiving to God for deliverance. It records how Jonah in his time of distress immediately turned back to God. He was God's prophet, and he knew God personally. His circumstances he fully understood were the result of his trying to run from God. Further, Jonah freely admits he is under the chastening hand of God. Finally, Jonah submits himself humbly to God, seeing the utter futility of his rebellion.
Truly it was a most horrible experience. His heart was gripped with fear as the sailors threw him into the raging waters and what appeared to be certain death. Surely, it was terrifying also, when the waters compassed about him, to be suddenly swallowed alive by a huge fish. In desperation, Jonah, turned to God, who he knew was there and sought for help. (2:2) What a pity that God had to go to such drastic measures to bring Jonah back to a place of dependence on Him. But now, as hopeless as his circumstances may have appeared, Jonah was in the best place he could possibly be; that being under the care and protection of a loving God.
There are two views as to whether Jonah was alive or dead during the three days and nights he was in the great fish. The author of these notes holds the view that Jonah died and was raised on the third day by God. Others contend he remained alive, protected from death. The question that we have is not whether God could have done either thing, but what did God actually do? The only way to arrive at a correct understanding of the event is to look at the Scriptures themselves.
It must be understood that is no reflection on the Bible that we sometimes disagree as to the interpretation of a part of it. The problem is not in with the Bible, but with man's ability to understand what he is reading. Some assume some idea to be correct and then go about to find evidence to back them up. However, the proper way to understand the Scriptures is to come to the Scriptures to be taught. An absolute rule of Biblical interpretation is the Scriptures interpret the Scriptures. This is accomplished by close and honest investigation of the account, and all related verses and then letting the evidence speak for its self. With this in mind let us continue and see what is the evidence.
Charles Ryrie, speaks for those who hold that Jonah remained alive. As evidence he states concerning the phrase, "out of the belly of hell":
"Although hell refers to the place of the dead, the expression here means, `from death's door', and does not necessarily indicate that Jonah actually died." The Ryrie Study Bible", Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Moody Press, 1978, pg1280.)
Others, translate the verse, "out of the depths of the grave", and conclude that the phrase means Jonah was not expressing the fact of his death, but of his being "gripped in the fear of death". (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck, Victor Books, 1988, pg1467)
J. Vernon McGee, holds the view that Jonah actually died while in the belly of the great fish. The Hebrew word "sheol" is translated "hell" by the translators of the KJV Bible. McGee says this concerning the use of this word in the phrase, "out of the belly of hell":
"Sheol is sometimes translated in scripture by the word "grave" and in other places as "the unseen world", meaning where the dead go. This word any way you look at it has to do with death. It is a word that always goes to the cemetery, and you cannot take it anywhere else. Therefore, my interpretation of what Jonah is saying is that the belly of the fish was his grave, and grave is a place for the dead--you do not put a live man in a grave. Jonah recognized that he was going to die inside that fish and that God would hear him and raise him from the dead" (Jonah & Micah, J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Radio, 1979, pg36)
Other so called evidence that Jonah remained alive concerns when he actually prayed. It is held that the use of the word, "then" in 2:1, following 1:17, which states Jonah was in the fish's belly
three days and three nights, indicates that his prayer follows in sequence and was prayed after the time spent in the great fish.
Again, McGee, makes a very sensible response to that argument:
"It is characteristic of the Hebrew language to give the full account of something and then go back and emphasize that which is important. This same technique is used in Genesis concerning the creation. We are given the six days of creation, and then God goes back and gives a detailed account of the creation of man, adding a great deal. To attempt to build an assumption on the little word "then" is very fallacious. It simply means that now Jonah is going to tell us the story in detail; he is going to tell us what really happened inside the fish" (McGee,pg35)
He further makes this comment about when Jonah actually prayed:
"But if I know human nature at all, Jonah didn't wait very long to pray this prayer. When that man found himself in the condition he was in, you can be sure of one thing: he immediately went to prayer before God. In fact, I think he prayed on the way down, and by the time he got into the fish's tummy, it was time to say amen". (McGee, pg33)
In Verse 4, Jonah states he was "cast out of thy sight". That by itself could mean he was simply out of God's sight in the fish. However, the rest of the verse says, "yet I will look again toward thy holy temple". Jonah is appearing to say that he knew he was going to die and that God would raise him up again.
In Verse 5-6, Jonah states that, "the waters compassed me about, even to the soul". Further he reveals that seaweed was wrapped around his head. All this is happening as he is slowly sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Some believe this account is of his state in the fish's belly, but it could well be describing his sinking to the bottom of the sea before the fish swallowed him.
The phrase, "earth with her bars," is Elizabethan English and this was a way death was spoken of in day the King James Bible was translated. There is no other way to interpret the phrase except to mean, "bars of death".
Further, the phrase "brought up my life from corruption", is referring to the decay of the body. "Corruption" is death. In Acts 2:25-31, Peter states the Lord Jesus did not see corruption. It does not mean He did not die, but that His body did not decay.
The greatest argument for Jonah actually dying and being raised form the dead is in Matthew 12:40. Jesus told the Pharisees that wanted a sign that none would be given but the sign of the prophet Jonah. Jesus said the sign was that as Jonah was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, so should He would be. Jesus actually died on the cross and was physically dead for three days and nights in the grave and on the three day rose. Jesus's using Jonah as a illustration of His resurrection which was to be a sign the Jews would see can not be ignored. For the sign to be used they must have been paralleled. This is the strongest argument to evidence that as Christ died, so did Jonah.
I believe the evidence weighs heavy in favor of Jonah dying in the fish and being raised again. The miracle of Jonah's deliverance was greater in that God raised him from the death.
This is a prayer of thanksgiving that he was not now among those who were clinging to vanities. He concludes the prayer with a statement of commitment to God. He says he will be thankful and keep his promises to God.
What a great truth is in the last five words, "Salvation is of the Lord." Some commentators conclude this phrase refers to Jonah's being delivered from a perilous situation. (Walvoord & Zuck, pg1468) However, much more is involved that physical deliverance. The greater deliverance is of the soul from sin and hell.
Jonah's perilous journey had just straighten up his thinking. Salvation was the reason Jonah had been called to go to Nineveh. God wanted to save the Ninevites and God's purpose would not be hindered even by Jonah's disobedience. Salvation was in view through all the events. Before God called him, Jonah knew "about" salvation, but the Jonah's understanding of it was limited and shallow. Through his experience it had been made clear and sharp. He saw it now in a quite different way. Now he understood how wonderful is God, in reaching down and out to sinful man with the marvelous offer of forgiveness of sin.
To be sure he was glad to be alive and delivered from the sea and the fish, but this was overshadowed by the reality of the scope of eternal salvation.
He had learned that to possess eternal life and be saved is to serve God. He was not only saved from death, he was saved to life, a live dedicated and submitted to God, and grateful to called to service.
He also understood that salvation is of the Lord, and not of man. Jonah had been saved and he had done nothing to bring it about. It was totally the act of a loving God. So many, never grasp this vital truth. Man can not work for his salvation! He can not earn it by doing good works or taking part in some ritual. Salvation is of the Lord -- Salvation is NOT of man! God had used the storm, the sea and the great fish to show Jonah how utter helpless he in truth was to control or direct his life. Salvation is the free offer of God. It is given in response to simple child like faith in trusting in the promise of God. Salvation is accepting God, accepting His control in ones life. It comes when faith comes and replaces rebellion and there is a commitment to live as God directs.
B. Jonah is Delivered by God. Jonah 2:10
God made the great fish to swim toward the dry land and deposit Jonah safely on the shore. We are not told where he was returned to land. But God was directing the fish and Jonah was now submissive to the will of God, so it was in the best place possible.
III. Jonah Preaches God's Message of Repentance. Jonah 3:1-10
A. God Again Commissions Jonah. 3:1-2
God again instructs Jonah to go to the great city of Nineveh and preach as God would instruct him. This time God does not mention the reason for sending Jonah. The Lord really did not have to tell Jonah the reason he was being sent for he knew so well of their wickedness.
B. Jonah Obeys God. Jonah 3:3-4
Without hesitation this time Jonah left on his long journey of some five hundred and fifty miles to go an preach to a people he hated and feared.
The God of the Bible is a truly loving and forgiving God. Jonah had forsaken the Lord, resigning from his ministry as a prophet in Israel. He had openly refused to obey God. Jonah had left God, but God had not left Jonah.
God does chasten His own, and having the chasten hand of the Lord on us is no fun. The writer of Hebrews has this to say:
"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." (Hebrews 12:11)
At this point Jonah responded well to God's intervention in his life. It would have taken him around twenty five days to travel to Nineveh, and as he traveled he may have still not liked the idea or understood God's purpose in sending him, but he went anyway.
Nineveh is described as a "great" city. It is estimated to have been sixty miles in diameter. It was large enough that it took Jonah three days to journey through it. After arriving at the city, Jonah immediately traveled about days journey which could mean near the center of the city, all the way preaching a message of doom. "Yet, forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown"!
The Bible says the city believed God. It is well to note that the message was being delivered by a prophet of their enemy, Israel. He was proclaiming the destruction of the whole city---and they believed! They accepted Jonah as the prophet of God, and they repented.
Much has been written as to why Nineveh responded so well. One might suppose they would have killed Jonah on the spot for just being a Hebrew. If that was not reason enough to murder him his message of doom surely was.
Some suppose that Jonah's deliverance by God from the great fish was the reason they responded. They suppose that being inside the fish changed Jonah's appearance. It was reported that a sailor rescued after forty eight hours from inside a large whale, came out with his skin discolored with brown and yellow patches. (McGee, pg4-42)
The Bible does not say, why they repented, but just states they did. Surely God was at work in there hearts. Only God can bring man to conviction. The inhabitants of the city proclaimed and a fast and put on sack cloth which was their custom to show humility and submission to God. The sack cloth was coarse and uncomfortable to wear and showed their repentant hearts. Food was not eaten, as all attention was to be given to God.
The King to the lowest animal was covered with sack cloth. The people cried unto God for deliverance. They also in the face of judgment from God for sin, repented from the evil ways they had so long practiced.
One might consider how drastic was their change by considering an evil of our day, abortion. For some eleven years now millions of women have murdered their unborn children for the sake of convenience. During recent months there has been a great arising of those who oppose abortion and want to see the law changed to make it illegal. Many pro-abortion people say they will never give up their "right" to have an abortion and that they will not obey the law if it is changed. These people show not even the slightest sign of repentance or willingness to change. It is a good illustration to the fact people do not give up their sins easily, especially after they have sunk to the level of murder.
Nineveh had practiced gross acts of cruelty for centuries. It was a part of her social environment, Their policy of cruelty and gross evil acts was at the core also of their economic well being. They were a ravaging people which lived off the spoils taken from their conquered nations.
Their repentance was as great a miracle as Jonah being saved from the sea and the great fish. Yet, God is the God of miracles. He is all powerful.
It must also be understood that at this time God's chosen nation Israel was in sin and idolatry. The nation was divided and at times at war one with the other. There was little of the might, power and grace of God to be seen in them. Both Israel in the north and Judah in the south were practicing the sin of idolatry. But God will always provide himself a witness. (Acts 14:17)
Also, it was a rebuke to proud and self centered Israel who thought they the chosen people had eternal life as a birth right. God in this case was shunning them and saving the most wicked nation on the face of the earth and Israel's arch enemy. Jesus said, that he came not, "to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Matt. 9:13) Israel in their own self righteousness rejected God's righteousness. They would not allow God to bless them and restore His fellowship to them. Thus God went to the hated, Gentiles and saved a whole city of them.
God saw the works of Nineveh that they had in truth repented and as evidence of true repentance had turned from their evil ways. Thus, God saw their contrite hearts, had compassion on them and stayed the destruction he had threaten.
It would not be consistent with what the Bible tells us of God, to believe their repentance was not real. In times of tragedy many cry out to God, only to return to sin after the crisis is past. Many a "fox hole", or "death bed" confession of faith in God, has been proven to have not come from the heart. Truth repentance will absolutely have a life changing effect on the one repenting. To repent means to turn from sin. That simply means you stop doing it.
Feeling sorrow is not repentance! Often a person will feel sorry when they are catch in a wrong act. They may be very emotional, however many times what seems to be true sorrow for wrong doing is merely regret and embarrassment over being caught. For some it is a only a way to seek sympathy and to avoid the consequences of their actions.
It was not that way with the Ninevites, they were truly repentant for sin and God forgave and saved them. Jesus confirmed they was saved in Matthew 12:41:
"The men of Nineveh shall rise up in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here"
Jesus came to Israel and presented Himself as their Messiah. His message was one of salvation. He also warned them of the end result of their rejection. They had the Son of God preaching to them and were rejecting the message when the Ninevites had responded to Jonah's preaching and repented. He seems to be saying their judgment would be greater and the Ninevites would be called to testify against them.
The statement that "God repented", simply means he changed his mind. That what the Ninevites did, the repented also, they changed their minds. It does not mean that God did something wrong and repented of it. Had Ninevites not repented, history would have recorded their destruction some almost 150 years before it actually happened.
God had said he would destroy the city in forty days, but he did not do it. It shows the wonderful compassion of God, and the intend of his judgment of sin--that is to bring men to salvation.
Today, as then God has warned that the "wages of sin is death". But he does not end the message there, for He continues by saying that, "the gift of God is eternal life". (Romans 6:23) The end of wickedness and sin is death, pure and simple. To remain in sin is to die. God is gracious enough to warn us of the consequences of sin, that we might avoid its awful result.
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-war, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." II Peter 3:9
IV. The True Spiritual Condition of Jonah's Heart is Revealed. Jonah 4:1-3
In spite of all Jonah had been through in refusing God's call to go to go and preach to the Ninevites and having experienced the chasten hand of the Lord, three areas of Jonah's spiritual heart remained unchanged.
First he still hated the Ninevites and was outwardly angry with God for sparing them. The phrase, "displeased exceedingly", is "typical Hebrew parallelism expressing the extreme reaction of Jonah of the salvation of the city of Nineveh". (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Charles F. Pfeiffer, Moody Press, 1974, pg849)
Second, as pretty as his prayer was thanking God for saving him in Chapter 2, he had little regard for the salvation of others.
Third, he had a real problem with pride.
Jonah was so upset he verbally attacks God, saying that God had misused him. God had told him that he was going to destroy the Ninevites and he had really embarrassed Jonah in not doing so. Its seems Jonah was saying something like this:
"God I knew you wouldn't do it even when you said you would destroy them. I knew you well enough to know you are gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and would rather not destroy them. That's why I fled to Tarshish in the first place. You told me tell them of their destruction when all the time you had no intention of doing it. You used me! You made a fool of me and I'd rather be dead that face the embarrassment you caused!"
The Bible says you can tell a person is saved and a child of God because he will love his brethren. ( I John 3:14) In reality, God in saving the Ninevites had made them Jonah's spiritual brothers. This hard headed Hebrew prophet wanted no part of that. These Gentiles to him were not worth saving. He was really hot under the collar at being the instrument God used to save them.
Most preachers would shout for joy over just one soul saved, let alone a whole city. Most saved people would have been happy and hardly be able to wait to tell of this great act of God's mercy. What a privilege to have been chosen of God to be a part of it all.
This week your author received a call from a preacher friend of his in Winston-Salem, N.C. He was bubbling over with excitement. He said he could hardly believe it, but he had had someone saved in every service for over a month!
Jonah loved his country more than his God. Jonah was a dyed in the wool Hebrew, proud and patriotic. He had a very narrow view of the scope of God's mercy.
The first church I pastored was in a rural country church. I came across a very similar
spirit in the church he was pastoring. A woman who was not well known had a great tragedy in her life which caused her to withdraw from the world. The story of how she came to know the Lord was heart rendering. Without the aid of another person or friend she heard the Gospel on a TV program. In her desperation she accepted the Lord Jesus and then began coming to this church. I had only been in the church a short time and I did not know her. The people in the church refused to befriend her. They seems a little put out with their pastor because his heart went out to her in friendship. You see she did not fit into their social circle very well and you might suppose was somewhat of an embarrassment for them. Such was the attitude of Jonah. In this way of thinking God was exclusively the God of Israel and not repentant sinners.
How we need to be kind and loving one to the other. Its is the ugliest spirit that a church member can have. The church belongs to Christ; He died for it. We have nothing to say as to who is saved and becomes a part of it. It should be joy for every Christian to receive with open arms all who come to Christ. What a gross sin it is to be clannish and high minded.
Probably nothing can kill a church faster and more deadly than one or more church members thinking more highly of themselves or their friends than others in the congregation. This spirit is of Satan. It breeds division and disunity and will quickly destroy a church.
We are all sinners, to the last one of us and God is no respecter of persons. Every man who receives eternal life stands on the same level as all others when he comes to the throne of Grace.
John has this to say:
"Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren". I John 3:15-16
If we did not know that Jonah was saved it would be hard to imagine that he was. A person who is saved must come to a realization of his own worthlessness and that he is a sinner. He understands that Christ suffered and died for his sin. Surely one who has experienced such a great salvation would not begrudge it of others.
Jonah too, was high minded and proud. He could understand God saving the Hebrews because they were his people. They thought themselves better than other peoples referring to other nationalities as "dogs".
One might suppose that in wishing himself dead, he thought that his demise would be a great lost to the world and even to God. What a sickening twisted view Jonah's hate had fostered. What a pathetic creature was Jonah.
V. God's Response to Jonah's Harden Heart. Jonah 4:4-11
In spite of Jonah's pride and unloving heart, God still loved him. It that not amazing! Romans 5:8, states is clearly, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
God, spoke to Jonah and ask him a question to help him see how sinful was his actions. God asked him, "Jonah, is my saving the lost displeasing to you?" Jonah should have responded with the confession of his sin, but instead he walked away pouting. Did Jonah know he was wrong--sure he did, but he was not going to admit it.
What a depressing scene this is. Jonah should have been happy rejoicing over the greatness and glory of God. Yet, weighted down with sin, he is miserable and sulking in self pity and pride.
Jonah went out of the city and built a himself a booth in full view of the city so he could watch it. How haughty were his actions and disrespectful of God. God had accepted their repentance which He had seen as genuine. God had forgiven the Ninevites, but Jonah had not! Jonah would not believe it. He in fact was saying that God had made a mistake; God had let himself be fooled by the Ninevites who had not really repented, but were only putting on a show. So Jonah, goes out and sits where he could be there when the Ninevites showed their true colors. Jonah was going to be there to remind God, that he had told him so.
God reached out to Jonah again and prepared a gourd that quickly grew up and gave Jonah shade from the hot sun. Jonah was pleased with the gourd and it made him glad. But the next day, God prepared a worm that killed the gourd and it withered. Then God prepared an extreme east wind to blown down on Jonah and that combined with the sun caused Jonah to faint.
Folks, Jonah could have gone down into the city and found relief, yet he chose to sit in the hot sun and be roasted rather than admit he was wrong in his attitude toward God and the Ninevites. His response is revealed in God's next question. God ask him was he upset because the gourd had been destroyed? Jonah sulking response was again, "Yes I am, I'm angry enough to die!"
The Lord then still seeking to bring Jonah out of his depression ask him how he could have compassion on a simple little soulless vine and not have compassion on a city full of people who were such a state they did not know their right hand from their left.
I believe God was still working with Jonah trying to turn him around again from disobedience. There was a whole city of at least, one hundred and twenty thousand people who needed a prophet. They needed the guidance in following the Lord. It does not seem proper to interpret the phrase "more than sixscore thousand persons that can not discern between their right hand or left hand", to be revering to children as is popular among commentators. They were children all right, in a spiritual sense and babies in the Lord, needing to learn the ways of God.
It has always been God's plan to lead with a man. A man chosen and equipped by God for the task. Jonah was God's choice, and he was still running from the will of God. What did Jonah do? Did he go into the city and begin to preach God's laws? We do not know. It was many years later before God did destroy Nineveh, and maybe we can speculate some as to what happened.
Maybe Jonah, saw his sin and confessed it and ran down that hill into the city to serve the Ninevites and thus serve God. Whether he did or not can not be known this side of heaven. But one thing is clear, that was the proper response. That was the very best thing Jonah could have done.
He had a opportunity for a rewarding life in service to God's people as the Ninevites had become. He surely did not have a future sitting on that hill, having a pity party all by himself.
God is a loving God, and seeks us when in our sin. He longs to forgive and restore us to fellowship pure and sweet. But he will not force us, but will allow us to disobey and to reject his love. However, there is a limit to God's longsuffering. One day there will come a day of reckoning. God has provided the way, that in the Lord Jesus Christ, no one should have to stand in that day of judgment in disfavor with God.
First, trust the Lord, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and let God forgive you and give you eternal life.
Then, live your life, letting Christ have the first place. (Colossians 1:18)
In closing, I would like to share a couple of verses from the Book of Romans that back in 1977, God used to call this pastor into his ministry:
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable, and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:1-2).