We start a 2 week series in the Book of Jonah today.
Jonah was a prophet, and as Ross shared with us in our studies in Micah, a prophet’s purpose was to warn about a present situation which will lead to a future catastrophe, unless action is taken in the present, to remedy the future.
Jonah was in the middle of his prophetic calling. He had already been given the privilege of being a prophet before we read of him in Jonah. He had previously been called to bring a great message of hope when Israel was bound in sin and suffering. As we read in 2 Kings 14:25-27, Jonah shared the message that Israel would be saved by King Jeroboam, and what followed was a time of safety and prosperity for Israel.
So Jonah was known by his people, and was already a serving prophet of God.
Most of us know the story of Jonah.
Jonah was chosen by God to go and tell the city of Nineveh that God had fixed a day of judgement on them, because of their evil ways. Their sin.
Jonah chose to run away from God’s call and set sail in the opposite direction.
God was consistent in His call to Jonah and inflicted a storm that risked the lives of all on board the ship.
It soon became clear that Jonah was the point of the storm and so he allowed the sailors to throw him overboard in order that they would be saved.
God sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah.
He spent 3 days and 3 nights in that fish, calling on God.
God was merciful and had the fish vomit Jonah back onto dry land.
God then called Jonah to prophecy to the people of Nineveh, and he obeyed.
There is more to the story, but today I want to focus on chapters 1 & 2.
So who is the main character of the book of Jonah?
The huge fish?
The people of Nineveh?
The worm we will hear about next week in chapter 4?
As with the whole of the Bible, the main character is God. The very purpose of the book of Jonah, as with the whole Bible, is to reveal the character and nature of God. To give God glory! To reveal who we are in light of the author of the Bible. To point to our need of God, and His solution in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
As one writer put it…
“Men have been looking so hard at the great fish that they have failed to see the great God!”
The main character of the Book of Jonah, is God.
God has a message for us from the book of Jonah.
Our faithful God calls us as obedient servants to fulfill our appointed part in His purpose, that sees us share and experiencing His message of hope and deliverance in a world of hopelessness .
The word of the LORD came to Jonah, son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” Jonah 1:1-2
Jonah like all prophets, was given a message by God and he was called to speak it. A clear and concise message. “Go!” A call to preach repentance. To preach against Nineveh. In essence, Jonah was called to be a foreign missionary. God had chosen Jonah as His servant, to broadcast the knowledge of God.
In the same way we too have a call from God. Each and every one of us. You see, at the heart of the Lords plans, are people. You and I. The church.
We have been called to salvation in Christ. Our highest calling.
He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. 2 Timothy 1:9
We are all called to live in the new life we have in Christ. Our common calling.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13
We are each individually called to serve God in a specific way as He has planned it. Our specific calling.
But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 1 Corinthians 12:18
Where ever we are, we are placed there by God. In the same way that Jonah was called, so are we.
What is God calling you to do, to be, and in what place?
Jonah, like all prophets, like us, was given a message by God and he was called to speak it. A clear and concise message. “Go!”
And all God’s call required was Jonah’s obedience.
But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. Jonah 1:3
Jonah’s response to God’s calling was to flee. He doesn’t argue with God about the mission, he simply runs from it. An in-your-face act of disobedience. A futile attempt to run from the Lord. Jonah was opting out from the service of God.
We will look next week more closely at why Jonah might have abandoned/ignored/run from God’s call. But let’s be clear, it was a stubborn determination to disobey God’s call/instructions.
He ran/sailed toward Tarshish which was the farthest known city in the opposite direction than Nineveh.
Jonah must have known in his heart that it is impossible to escape from God. He would no doubt have heard the words of the Palmist…
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. Psalm 139:7-8
But sin has a habit of warping the thinking. What he knew in his head was distorted by a mind set on disobedience. Jonah was running from the presence of God.
As those called by God, all God requires of us is obedience.
Are you being obedient to God’s calling?
Highest calling – salvation. New life in Christ?