Read Jonah 1 and recap last week. We saw Jonah running away from God and saw how God cares for and loves everyone. He ended up in a fish as a result of rejecting God.
Read Jonah 2.
1. How does Jonah describe the situation he’s in? Who’s responsible?
His description is quite horrific. He says he was in the depth of the grave and facing certain death. He’s alone and helpless.
2. Why is it a bad idea to run away from God?
Jonah is showing that it’s very foolish and that God will hold you over the pit. It’s a taste of how it will be to be shut off from God forever.
3. What do you make of the content of Jonah’s prayer?
He doesn’t show remorse. He still doesn’t love God that much. He prayed because he was so distressed.
4. What do we learn about panic prayers?
It’s not wrong to pray them and God responds to them. We don’t earn our way back by the quality of our apologies. We can pray from anywhere at any time.
5. What can the fish teach us about God?
God is always prepared to deal with sin through the most miraculous solution.
6. How does God respond to Jonah?
He wants to save and isn’t distant or judgmental to anyone who wants to know him. He’s committed to answering this prayer, which is fitting for Jonah’s problem.
7. What’s the warning that we need to take?
Jesus is the real God, so stop running.
‘All bets are off.’ The book is full of surprises.
Introducing God (v9)
God relates to this world as its maker. He speaks to Jonah and what he says is quite surprising. This isn’t Jonah’s first mention in the bible. He’s mentioned in 2 Kings as a prophet. God says to broadcast to the city of Nineveh. There was a particularly evil empire called Assyria. It had its own religion and the capital was Nineveh. Jonah wasn’t used to God having a personal reaction. It would shake us up if we found out that God was interested in the world out there just as much as the world in here. God will prove that he owns everything.
You can’t hide from God as long as you’re committed to staying in the universe. Jonah thought he’d hide at sea. God threw a great storm onto the ship. You can’t hide from him anywhere. The world is his. He is a God on a mission. There’s a reason why he wants Jonah to go. He is always extending his reach to those who don’t know him. This chapter is a warning. Don’t take on the God of the universe because you’ll lose. Jonah discovered this.
He is just like all of us. He didn’t really like God or love him even though he was serving him. He was happy to be a Christian until the challenge came. Why would Jonah run from God’s presence? He is every man. All of us, when we’re face to face with God and see who he is, we all want to run. The boat was going to the place where Jonah wanted to go. He managed to go to sleep and slept through a storm. He’s happy to say he believes things without putting them into practice. He volunteers to be thrown overboard in order to save everyone else. He makes a mess but with flashes of doing the right thing. God is fighting against someone who is trying to push his presence away.
There is a big fish. It’s a scary detail of the story but is a happy detail. God is willing to come and help and not abandon you. God wants to welcome you so turn back and don’t run.
Jonah is exposed by the great contrast between him and God.
What is God like? God uses this description a lot to introduce himself. Jonah does believe it’s true but it’s made him angry.
God loves to forgive and treats people better than they deserve. God’s character isn’t to find the good people but to heal the rebellious who ask for his help.
God doesn’t give us what we deserve. He gives us better than what we deserve. God held Jonah out over what it’s like to be separated from God.
Slow to anger
We’ve seen a lot about how God feels about the sin of the world. He gives lots of chances to cry out to him and ask for forgiveness. God never snaps or gets tired of you.
Abounding in love
This promising steadfast love is flowing out of him in every direction. His committed love is never exhausted. There is always enough.
What is Jonah like? He’s not gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. He’s exceedingly displeased now that other people are rescued. Why shouldn’t God rescue other people? Unless we think that he’s rescued us because we’re good.
Jonah loved his vine.
He was very happy about the vine. His ultimate concern wasn’t for the rescue of other people but for his own comfort. He gets angry when the vine dies. He’s angry enough to die. The things that we get happy or angry about are the things that matter to us. Something that God is always doing is reaching out. The problem is that we’re not excited about it.
What’s the difference between God and Jonah? God is concerned for people and Jonah is concerned about himself. God is teaching Jonah that there are more important things than how he feels. Gifts from God can be great but they’re temporary. God is so concerned about the world that he became a person. The selfishness of Jonah isn’t too far from us. What makes God happy or angry? People being rescued or not being rescued. Jonah is a book all about reality.
The book ends with a question. Will we actually change the way we think about the world? Should we not be concerned about this great city?
When God gives Jonah the command for the second time, he went. Jonah doesn’t appear to want kindness for others as he preaches such a terrible sermon. It’s eight words. Jonah was happy to sing about his own rescue but didn’t want to share it with others.
God’s not quitting
He won’t have Jonah sitting around and enjoying the grace he discovered for himself. There is no rest. Jonah is learning that God is always on this mission. God is always extending his grace and kindness to people all over the world. If you’re a Christian you will always be involved with this. If we are joining in with what God is doing we will always be moving outwards. His people are always involved.
Jonah’s not trying
He went but didn’t try very hard. He’d rather God destroyed these enemies. Jesus has a right for everyone to be talking about him. Our weakness is no excuse. Here is someone who did a terrible job because he didn’t want to do it. God has a record of using weak efforts to do remarkable things.
Nineveh’s not burning
All of this was an expression of their response to God. The Ninevites believed God and understood the message that they were facing God’s anger was right. It changed them. They were throwing themselves on God’s kindness.
We’re often like Jonah because it’s easier. Our rescue is part of God’s ongoing plan for the world. Jonah is a picture of Jonah. Jesus is the great evangelist. We are sent like Jonah but unlike Jonah we are not a lone prophet.
Most articles about Jonah are about the fish. Easy to get sidetracked. Should look at the image of God and of Jonah.
Jonah is told to go to a weakened city. Why go to them and give them an opportunity for God’s grace? That’s Jonah’s thinking. He wants to go to Tarshish as it’s not Nineveh. He goes to flee. He’s a disobedient prophet. Everything God is in v2, Jonah is not. The kindness and compassion of the pagan sailors is a stark contrast to Jonah. They’re reflecting God more than him.
Jonah is spewed onto the land in a flood of gastric juices. He proclaims judgment to Nineveh. The people hear it and repent. Jonah didn’t want Nineveh to turn from their evil. God does have compassion and didn’t bring the destruction. Jonah is angry when God shows grace and mercy towards them. Jonah knows the Assyrians and in his hatred he has a determination to deny God to them.
God sent a vine to bring comfort to Jonah. He sends a worm to eat it and Jonah grew faint. He says he wants to die. God asks if he has any right to be angry. He’s more concerned about a vine than a city of 120,000 people. He’s hardened to the plight of those who face God’s judgment. He rejoices that they’re going to be sent to hell.
Jonah is a human contrast to God. We are so sure about judgment that we resent the possibility of others being saved. God will see the wicked judged but he takes no pleasure in the death of them. His desire is for all to be saved. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He knows that the biggest problem with humanity is God. The only answer to the problem is God.
We must never sit back and let Nineveh come to us. Are you prepared to open up conversations? We have no right to feel morally superior to anyone. God will not put up with resentful Jonahs. Everyone needs Christ.
How do you know you’re a Christian? God will keep Christians forever and yet God warns them to keep going. For someone who really knows Jesus, they will see that the Bible gives warnings about giving up.
We have Jonah’s prayer from inside the fish. He views it as a kind intervention by God.
Jonah was in deep water
His description is quite horrific. He says that he was in the depth of the grave. He was facing certain death and feeling totally helpless and alone. Death is like the water. A sea of darkness coming towards us. Even though he is nearly physically dead, he says there’s something more serious going on. He’s realised that there’s a problem between him and God. It’s God’s verdict on anyone no matter who they are if they reject him. If you’re a runner from God, Jonah is showing that it’s very foolish and that God will hold you over the pit. It’s a taste of how it will be to be shut off from God forever.
God will respond to panic prayers
Jonah doesn’t express remorse about what he’s done. He still doesn’t love God that much. He only prayed because he was so distressed. He remembered the Lord when his life was drifting away. God helped and rescued. He is much more interested in you than the proof that you’re sorry. We don’t earn our way back by the quality of our apologies. Even the banished can look back. God wants to be personally welcomed back. The prayer was from a strange place in which he had ended up as a result of rejecting God.
Salvation comes from the Lord (v9). God wants to save. He always hears these prayers. Just the slightest hint that we want his help and he will hear and respond. God isn’t distant or judgmental to anyone who wants to know him. God is very committed to answering this prayer. It’s brilliantly fitting for his problem. The great fish is showing that God is always prepared to deal with sin through the most miraculous solution.
Jesus is perfect for us and the mess we have made. If you’re a real Christian, you will take Jonah’s warning that Jesus is the real God. So stop running.