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054 The Prophet Jonah

‘Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.…’ Jonah 1:1,2

Key Verse:

“Salvation is of the Lord”

Jonah 2:9

(Jonah)

In our last lesson, we looked into the story of God’s prophet,

Elijah.

Elijah was a great prophet because the power of the Spirit of God was upon him. He prayed to God that it would not rain and there was no rain in Israel for

three and a half years.

Also, Elijah confronted the false prophets of Baal,

exposing their false religion

before all the Israelites. Thus God used the prophet Elijah to turn the hearts of many Israelites back to the LORD their God.

We now want to consider the story of another prophet who came after Elijah. We will see how God chose an Israelite by the name of

Jonah

and ordered him to go and preach to foreigners who were enemies of the Israelites.

The Scripture says: (Jonah 1:1-2) “Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for

their wickedness is come up before me”.

Did you hear what the LORD commanded Jonah?

God told him to go and warn the people of the city of Nineveh to repent of their sins – even though Nineveh was the capital of the nation of Assyria, and the people of Assyria were a wicked people

who wanted to destroy the Israelites!

Why did the LORD God want to send Jonah to those foreigners who despised and hated the Israelites? Did God also care about Israel’s enemies? Yes, He did! God was about to judge the people of Nineveh because their sin had reached to heaven. However,

God takes no pleasure in destroying sinners.

God wants everyone to repent of his sin, believe God’s Word and be saved. That is why the LORD commanded Jonah to go to the people of Nineveh, and warn them so that they could repent of their sin, turn to God, and be saved.

However,

Jonah did not want to go

and warn his enemies! Jonah did not want to be a prophet to the city of Nineveh! God wanted the people of Nineveh to repent so that He could have mercy on them, but Jonah wanted God to punish them! Thus, Jonah refused his assignment and tried to run away from the LORD God. But where could he flee to get away from the presence of God?

Let us continue the story to see what Jonah did. The Scripture says: (Jonah 1) “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, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish

from the presence of the Lord.

But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was in danger of being broken. Then the sailors were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the goods that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep. So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper?

Arise, call upon thy God,

if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not. And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us. What is thine  occupation? And from whence comest thou? What is thy country? And of what people art thou art? And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who hath made the sea and the dry land. Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him,

Why hast thou done this?

For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. Then said they unto him, What shall we do for thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? For the sea raged, and was tempestuous. And he said unto them, Take me up, and

cast me forth into the sea;

so shall the sea be calm for you; for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring her to the land, but they could not; for the sea raged, and was stormy against them. Wherefore,

they cried unto the Lord,

and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood; for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee. So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows. Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish

three days and three nights”.

Let us pause here. To this point, we see how God pursued Jonah, His fleeing prophet! Jonah could run, but he could not escape the hand of God. Why did God pursue Jonah? God pursued him because

He loved Jonah

and wanted him to do His will. That is why God sent a huge fish to swallow him but not kill him.

Poor Jonah! Now he found himself in the belly of a great big fish! What could Jonah do to save himself? Nothing! Nothing except call out to the LORD God. Only God could save him. In chapter two, the Scriptures tell how Jonah prayed to the LORD from inside the fish and confessed his sin of refusing to obey God. For three days, God protected Jonah inside the sea creature until Jonah recognized that it is better to obey God than to run from God.

What an important lesson Jonah had learned!

On the third day, Jonah cried out, “Salvation is of the LORD!” (Jonah 2:9) When Jonah said, “Salvation is of the LORD,” the Scripture says: “the LORD spoke unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” (Jonah 2:10)

The Scriptures continues: (Jonah 3) “And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. So

Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh,

according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city of three days’ journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So

the people of Nineveh believed God,

and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the last of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd or flock, taste anything; let them not feed, nor drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God; yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?

And God saw their works,

that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that he had said he would do unto them, and he did it not”.

Thus we see that God had mercy on the people of Nineveh, because they believed the word which He sent them. The Ninevites repented of their sin with a broken and crushed heart and turned to the LORD. However,

Jonah was not happy

that God showed mercy to the people of Nineveh. Listen to what is written in the fourth and final chapter of the book of Jonah.

The Scripture says: (Jonah 4) “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore, I fled before unto Tarshish; for I knew that thou wast a gracious God, and merciful,

slow to anger, and of great kindness,

and repentest thee of the evil. Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live. Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry? So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made a booth for himself, and sat under it in the shadow,

till he might see what would happen of the city.

And the Lord prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So

Jonah was exceedingly glad of the gourd.

But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd, that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did rise, that God prepared a fierce east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live. And God said to Jonah,

Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?

And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night. And should I not spare Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” That is how the book of Jonah ends.

There is much that we can learn about the nature of man and the nature of God in the story of the prophet Jonah. One thing we see is that

God is no respecter of persons.

Jonah showed favouritism, but God did not show favouritism. God’s heart was very different from Jonah’s heart.

Jonah’s heart was full of favouritism, but

God’s heart is full of love and mercy for all people.

Jonah loved his own people and hated his enemies, but God loved the people of Israel and the people of Nineveh. Jonah wanted the people of Nineveh to perish because they were enemies of Israel, but God wanted them to repent of their sin, accept His word, and be saved. God does not show favouritism. Whoever you are, whatever you are like,

God loves you.

He does not love your sin and rebellion, but He loves you. God loves every individual in every nation and wants everyone to confess their sin to Him, to hear the Truth, understand it, believe it and be saved.

Some people think that God doesn’t care about each individual on earth; that He has chosen some to burn in hell and others to enjoy Paradise. While it is true that most people will die in their sins and face God’s righteous wrath, it is wrong to think that God doesn’t care about those who are perishing in ignorance. The Holy Scriptures tell us that God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth!”    (1 Tim. 2:4) “The Lord [does not want] anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9) However, for those who refuse to repent–God will judge them, because they refused to love the truth and be saved. . . . All will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness!” (2 Thes. 2:10,12) That is what the word of the LORD God declares.

God is good and merciful

and has provided a way of salvation for every person. But God is also holy and righteous and will judge every person who does not accept His righteous way of salvation.

Friends, let no one deceive you. God never shows favouritism, nor does He take pleasure in the destruction of sinners. God wants each person on earth to know the truth, believe it and be saved! That is why God, in the past, inspired the prophets to write His Word, so that we can know the way of salvation that God has ordained, accept it and be saved! Whoever accepts God’s way of salvation will go to heaven. Whoever rejects it or neglects it will perish!

God is no respecter of persons.

As it is written: God 

“wants all men to be saved! . . . unless you repent, … ye shall all likewise perish!” (1 Tim 2:4; Luke 13:3)

In the next lesson, God willing, we will learn about a great prophet who made many, many predictions about the Redeemer who was to come into the world to save sinners. That great prophet is Isaiah, a prophet of God who lived seven hundred years before the Messiah entered the world.

God bless you as you remember these two lessons God tried to teach His unfaithful prophet, Jonah:

One: “Salvation is of the LORD!” (Jonah 2:9)

Two: “God is no respecter of persons!” (Acts 10:34)

We would invite you to answer the questions attached and send them together with any questions that you might have.