Jonah 1:1-3; 3:1-5,10
Bible Studies for Life, July 19
Barry Snapp, pastor
Victory Baptist Church, Rockmart
Most of us are familiar with the story of Jonah. We have heard about Jonah since the early days of Sunday School.
A summary of the Book of Jonah is as follows: In Chapter 1 Jonah is running from God. In Chapter 2 he’s running to God. In Chapter 3 he’s running with God. In Chapter 4 he’s running ahead of God.
God spoke to His man and said, “Arise, go to Nineveh and preach.” However, Jonah went in the opposite direction. God said “go,” but Jonah said “no.” Jonah was a man on the run, a fugitive, a prodigal prophet who stiff-armed the will of God. Jonah was the runaway preacher. Jonah was going the wrong way.
It’s something you might expect to hear on a one-way street: “You’re going the wrong way.” If you ever hear it on the interstate in Atlanta traffic, you’re in big trouble.
When a husband is driving on that out of town vacation trip and takes a wrong turn, he’ll never admit it and he won’t stop to ask for directions. So his wife says smugly, “You’re going the wrong way.”
Today through modern technology even the GPS gadget says, “Turn around! You’re going the wrong way.” Sometimes it’s what parents say to a wayward child, “Stop, you’re going the wrong way.” Thousands of years ago Almighty God said to a rebellious backslidden prophet named Jonah, “You’re going the wrong way.”
…it’s not the part of God’s Word that I don’t understand that gives me trouble. It’s the part of God’s Word that I do understand that gives me trouble.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” You’ll always get into trouble when you start butting up against the will of God.
“Billygoat Baptists” are always butting up against the will of God. Jonah has determined he’s not going to Nineveh. We’ll see about that …
God’s Word was very clear. I’ve found in my life when God really speaks, I know it. There’s no doubt about it. There’s no debate. Someone said it’s not the part of God’s Word that I don’t understand that gives me trouble. It’s the part of God’s Word that I do understand that gives me trouble.
Jonah had trouble with God’s Word. The trouble was he didn’t want to obey. God said, “Jonah, your destination is Nineveh.” Nineveh was a wicked, ungodly city, but it represents God’s will. Yet, Jonah said his destination was not Nineveh. His destination was Tarshish.
Nineveh represents God’s will. Tarshish represents Jonah’s will. So Jonah caught a ship headed to Tarshish. He got on the Tarshish Titanic. But the ship wasn’t going down. Jonah was going down. Jonah went on a sin cruise.
It’s longer out of the will of God than in the will of God. Sin will take you farther than you want to go. Verse 3 says, “But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it.”
Jonah had to pay the fare. God pays the fare when you go His way, but you have to pay the fare when you go your way. When it’s God will, it’s God’s bill.
It’s true, sin is very expensive. The wages of sin is death. What will your disobedience cost you? Will it cost you your family, your career, your job, your testimony, your witness, your ministry?
It’s longer out of the will of God than in the will of God.
Verse 5: “… But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship…” When you disobey and get away from God, you go down, down, down. Jonah was on a downward spiral. Hey, somebody stop the runaway preacher. Hey Jonah, you’re going the wrong way …
Of course, when we consider Jonah, we also think of the fish. The Lord prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. Can you imagine being inside the belly of a great fish? Jonah went to SBU (Smelly Belly University). For three days and three nights Jonah was inside the fish and he learned some lessons along the way.
Maybe Jonah did some praying in the fish’s belly. The depth of our prayer is connected to the depths of our despair. The real miracle of this story is not what’s going on inside the fish, but what’s going on inside Jonah. When Jonah came out of that fish he was ready to preach.
He said, “I’m ready to go to Nineveh.” No longer was he going the wrong way. He was going the right way. When he went the right way, God did a great work in Nineveh. Jonah preached and the people repented in sackcloth and were saved by grace.
Let’s don’t go to Tarshish. Let’s go to Nineveh. Let’s don’t go the wrong way. Let’s go the right way.
Live it out
When we hear the voice of God speak through the Word of God, let us obey. James tells us to be “doers of the Word, and not hearers only.” Let us follow God, and not flee from God.
When rebellious disobedience has landed us in the belly of some deep despair, let us use that depression as a time to pray and repent in sackcloth. Let us return from our retreat. We may be surrounded by heathen unbelievers. Let us remember that God loves all people.
Like Jonah, perhaps we could “Arise, and go to our Nineveh” and proclaim the message of grace and mercy so that even the ungodly may hear and be saved.