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Jonah's Lesson of Aligning His Heart with God's Is Our Lesson!

In the Heart of the Sea
In the Heart of the Sea

Like all of us Jonah was rebellious.

Jonah rebelled against what God wanted him to do, in fact he ran away.

Jonah discovered what we all discover that no matter where we go God has already been there.

The city of Nineveh was evil but God wanted to save all the souls in it.

So God sends his prophet Jonah to a wicked people to proclaim the judgment of God. But Jonah, instead of going to Nineveh, runs away from God by sailing in the opposite direction.

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 down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. Jonah 1:3

Eventually as a storm rages on the high seas, and Jonah is reluctantly thrown into the sea by the fearful sailors. The pagan seafarers have for hours called out to God for mercy, but throughout the storm, Jonah says nothing. He will not say one word, he would rather than be an instrument of God’s mercy (to others or himself). Jonah is not the hero of the story actually a very stubborn and selfish person.

We can all recognize ourselves in Jonah’s character deficiencies. We can also find comfort in the fact that God still heard Jonah’s prayer, just as he continues to hear our prayers.

In Chapter 2 we see Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the fish (did he know he was in a fish?). Jonah gasps for air, in darkness and with the possibility of death, he finally manages to cry for help.

2 saying,

“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress,

and he answered me;

out of the belly of Sheol I cried,

and you heard my voice. Jonah 2:2

Jonah finally admits that God is in control, and this reminds us that we can trust him even in difficult and impossible circumstances. God is still sovereign when our safety is compromised.

Jonah concludes that his deliverance has meaning, and he begins to declare God’s greatness from the belly of the fish.

9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving

will sacrifice to you;

what I have vowed I will pay.

Salvation belongs to the Lord!” Jonah 2:9

Jonah’s prayer is heard and answered, as he eventually washes ashore. Jonah then relents, goes to Nineveh as requested, preaches, and the people heed God's message and repent.

But Jonah does not rejoice over their repentance instead he gets angry.

Do you get angry when you don't get your way or when God assigns you to something you in your pride resist?

Jonah prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:2–3)

God is not like us.

We are quick to anger, slow to forgive, easily frustrated, and we like to hold grudges.

God is not like us. Jonah teaches us that God is more merciful, patient, and more forgiving than we will ever be or can imagine. Through Christ we call out to God, with confidence that he will overflow with mercy to sinful, rotten people like us and we also have confidence that his mercy will change our hearts to be more like his.

Video from Bible Unbound

"This hilarious fish tale filled with twists and turns comes to life in a whole new way! Explore the profound depths of God's mercy, providence, and faithfulness as we discover: The Book of Jonah." from video introduction


Who wrote the book?

The book of Jonah, written primarily in the third person, does not explicitly name the prophet as the author of his own account, but we have no reason to doubt either the inspiration or the historical veracity of the book. Identified in verse 1 as the son of Amittai, Jonah came from a town called Gath-hepher, near Nazareth in the area that later came to be known as Galilee (2 Kings 14:25). This makes Jonah one of the few prophets who hailed from the northern kingdom of Israel.

Where are we?

During Jonah’s years as a prophet, Israel stood tall among the nations, though in a political rather than a spiritual sense. The reign of Jeroboam II (793–753 BC), who was an evil king before the Lord, saw Israel’s borders expand to their greatest extent since the time of Solomon. Increased prosperity resulted in a materialistic culture that thrived on injustice to the poor and oppressed, one of the key messages of Jonah’s prophetic contemporary, Amos.

However, rather than direct Jonah to prophesy to his own people, God commissioned him to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh. At first unwilling to make the journey northeast to deliver God’s message, Jonah turned and aimed for the farthest westward point known to him—Tarshish, located in modern-day Spain. After God eventually turned Jonah in the right direction, the prophet obediently prophesied to the people of Nineveh while Ashurdan III (772–754 BC) sat on the throne of Assyria. Though Assyria had been in a politically weakened state for some time, by the time of Jonah their cruelty to captives and other undesirables was well-known in Israel, creating an obvious need for Jonah’s message of repentance.

Why is Jonah so important?

Jonah was one of only four writing prophets that Jesus mentioned by name during His earthly ministry (Isaiah, Daniel, and Zechariah were the others). But Jonah received more than a mere mention. Jesus actually identified Himself with the prophet’s three-day sojourn in the belly of the great fish, noting it as a foreshadowing of His own death, when Jesus would spend three days “in the heart of the earth,” before His resurrection (Matthew 12:39–41). Jesus’s identification with the prophet at the lowest point of Jonah’s life finds echoes in the book of Hebrews, where it teaches that Jesus “had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17). The book of Jonah stands as an important link in the prophetic chain, giving readers a glimpse of Christ’s death and resurrection hundreds of years before they actually occurred.

What's the big idea?

When the call of God came to him, Jonah could not see beyond his own selfish desire for God to punish the Assyrians. How could God want him to take a message of mercy to such people? Before Jonah could relay God’s message, he had to be broken. He had to learn something about the mercy of the Lord. Through his flight to Tarshish, his shipwreck, and his time in the great fish, Jonah was convinced in a powerful way that all salvation comes from the Lord (Jonah 2:9). And because of God’s supreme power, only God decides where to pour out His salvation and His mercy (4:11).

How do I apply this?

Do you ever find yourself fighting God—your desires pulling you one way, God’s desires pulling you another? Jonah found himself in that very position, but his own desire won out over God’s for a time. Or so he thought. As we often see in our own lives, God accomplished His purposes through Jonah even though it meant God doling out a heavy dose of humility on a prideful and unwilling heart.

While Jonah eventually departed and proclaimed God’s message, the lesson of his story does not end there. Jonah prophesied to Nineveh but he wasn’t happy about it (Jonah 4:1). Herein we find another touchstone for our lives: aligning our desires with God’s is always a process. Just because we go through the motions of following God’s will does not mean our hearts are aligned with His. God wanted Jonah’s actions and his heart. He wants ours as well." from the article: Jonah

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