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Sunday, 17 May 2015

Jonah Chapter 3: God's gracious recommissioning.

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

Jonah was thrown up onto the beach, he had gone through the worst experience of his life but God had met with him in a most amazing way. He had come face to face with death but in God's mercy had been saved. Now we find him on an unknown beach. Sometime soon:

  • God speaks to him a second time.
  • God speaks to the people of Nineveh through Jonah.

God speaks to Jonah a second time:

It is so different this time around. God speaks to Jonah a second time and he obeys. That is how it should have been the first time.

God is amazingly gracious with His people. We might have thought that Almighty God would not want to have anything to do with this rebellious man let alone appoint him to be a prophet. As we have seen previously Jonah was faithful in preaching to Israel but he was not willing to be a missionary to Nineveh. 

At this point put we need to put some theology in place in order that we understand more fully God's grace towards His own people otherwise we might jump to the wrong conclusion that Jonah's rebellion took God by surprise. In Ephesians 1:4 Paul tells us that we are chosen by God before the foundation of the world. We were not chosen because God knew that we would ultimately repent or because we have special qualities; He simply chose us by His grace alone and for His own pleasure and purpose otherwise salvation is one area where man is sovereign over God. In all things God is sovereign and so He must be in control of our salvation as Ephesians teaches. The reality of this is that God knew exactly what Jonah was like with all of his complexities and yet He chose him for this very task which he would rebel against. As we saw last time God took Jonah to the point of death to bring him to repentance and obedience. Until that time Jonah neither had the desire nor the ability to repent but God provided the way for him.

This is equally true of all of us today. God knew all about you and your own unique character long before you were born but yet He has chosen to save you at the time, place and circumstance which He ordained before the foundation of the world. At this time all of heaven rejoiced with you as you repented and were born again. Do you remember how you rejoiced at the time when you knew that our sins had been dealt with and you had been born into the family of God?

Do you continue to continue to rejoice as you did the day that you were converted?

When heaven rejoiced over your salvation it was not a momentary event but it is an ongoing situation. Every soul is precious to God and as such pleases the whole company of heaven as they await our arrival. Our stay on earth deprives heaven of our presence. All of heaven clearly knows of our conversion which suggests that heaven knows our current state and also the quality of our Christian life also.

Certainly God knows all about us just as Jonah experienced.

This helps us to understand why God came once again to Jonah and spoke to him. He did not come with a new message, the word of the Lord for Jonah on this occasion was a repeat of the command to go and to preach God's word. God does not change His mind simply because His prophet is rebellious, He simply changes the prophet.

That is an amazing work of His grace.

.God has also given each of us a command to take His word to our own Nineveh.
  • Where is it that God has given to you or us corporately as your or our unique mission field?
  • Are you/we fulfilling His call or are you/we rebelling?

God speaks to the people of Nineveh through Jonah:

Jonah obeyed and went directly to Nineveh where he preached the word to the people just as God commanded. The city was so large that it took 3 days to cover with many thousands of people, possibly more than a million.

This might come as a surprise to you but:

Jonah is one of the most effective preachers in the bible.

His message was simple, 40 days and Nineveh will be judged by God Almighty the result was amazing, the whole town repented. We ought to pray for the anointing that Jonah had on his preaching that day it would be wonderful if our little town were affected by our gospel witness. If I read the account correctly the word came to the king second hand but nevertheless when he heard of it he was immediately challenged by it.

The Holy Spirit of God who is the One who enlightens hearts and causes people to repent was powerfully at work that day through Jonah's preaching.

It would be fantastic if people listening to our preaching today were as affected as were the people of Nineveh on that day. The immediate result of the message was faith to believe it to act accordingly. How wonderful it would be if it were the same here today! The people of Nineveh not only believed God but they also displayed their faith by changing into the clothes kept for mourning the death of a loved one and instead of sitting in comfortable surroundings sat on the ash heap which displayed to God their sincerity of heart.

Even the King removed his royal robes and stood as an equal alongside his people, all of the people of the city were humbled before God!

As the king sat on his ash heap he was concerned for his people and their animals.

He passed an edict that all must fast and pray to God for help. Everybody must change their ways. They must give up their evil practises and their violence. The were to fast and pray in the hope that the judgement might be averted.

Repentance always has an effect, it changes ways and attitudes.

The king did not fully understand God's ways at this point because he hoped that their actions might change the mind of God from judgement upon them to mercy towards them. He hoped that their deep sorrow might turn away Gods anger and that salvation might come to them.

It was due to their faith and repentance that God saved them.

God did forgive them and did not bring about the threatened disaster. Ephesians clearly teaches us that this was God's intent all along. Jonah knew that to be the truth also as He boldly tells God later on in Chapter 4 verse 2

The great lesson for us here is that the Word of God is powerful and effective and it always accomplishes the purpose for which God sent it. For Jonah the preached word was effective for the salvation of an entire city. For others their ministry was ineffective for salvation. For instance Jeremiah was told to go to Israel with God's a message of judgement upon them but God forewarned him that they would not believe. Was Jeremiah less effective? His ministry was just as effective as Jonah's but the outcome was very different. It is obedience to God's calling on our lives that is paramount, results are His and so we must never be tempted to count blessing by numbers!

The outcome of all gospel witness is God's and not ours, therefore we are fully effective when we are obedient. It is always our desire to be effective for the salvation of others but if converts are our measure of blessing then we are deluded. We live in days when it is rare to see conversions in the UK but that does not mean that God's work is not accomplishing it's purpose! God's word always accomplishes it's purpose but the reality is that we do not always fulfil God's command. When we do not take our gospel opportunities we are guilty of running away from God's calling as was Jonah God's command is that we go to all people everywhere with the good news of the gospel. People will never be converted if we do not preach in the first place!

The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:8-17
In the great commission as recorded in Matthew 28 the Lord Jesus tells His disciples that they must make disciples wherever they are. The gospel is for all ages and for all people and as Jonah found out the responsibility of all believers is to tell others without fear or favour. That is OUR commission here at the Mustard Seed. The question that needs to be answered is; how do we accomplish it?

In effect your experience over recent months has been something of a roller coaster ride. It has not been easy but the Lord has brought you to this place now. We must remember that:

  • God knew all about you and this situation from before the foundation of the world.
  • He knew all about Pam and I and our difficulties.
  • His purpose is for us to work together.
  • As with Jonah we have our own experience as to how God has brought us together.
  • The only thing that we have that is effective for the salvation of people is the Word of God.
  • Our commission is to make disciples of all who are converted and to teach them to obey the commands of Jesus.
  • Our comfort is that Jesus is with us always, Jonah learned that in the depths of the sea but we have the promise articulated in our bibles from the lips of Jesus.
  • Together we are about gospel work here in East Cornwall.
  • A line needs to be drawn in the sand now, this is a new beginning but we rejoice and praise God for all that has gone before:


A new beginning for the Mustard Seed Evangelical Church therefore let us work together for the glory of God.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Jonah chapter 2: God's grace that leads to repentance.





And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, 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.
For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows passed over me.
Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’
The waters closed in over me to take my life;
the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me for ever; yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O Lord my God.
When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.
Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the Lord!”
And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.

Read also Psalm 139

Jonah the rebel prophet was hurled into the sea and left for dead! Certainly death was what Jonah had hoped for but it was not to be the case. It seems to me that all of Jonah's hopes and dreams in this were futile because God had a much higher purpose for him and for his ministry. God by His good grace and mercy was about the work of re-commissioning His prophet. That is a point worth noting, Jonah and his ministry belonged to God therefore he should have been more concerned for His God and His ministry than he was. This is also true of all who belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ. His reputation ought to be of greater importance to you than anything else!

As we can see from chapter 1 Jonah had absolutely no intention of repenting. The later chapters of the book reveal that Jonah knew the full implications of preaching to Nineveh and as such he had absolutely no desire to go there! Jonah preferred to die than to obey and so he not only rebelled against God's instruction but he also argued with God. If I read correctly between the lines of scripture Jonah was hoping that the greater the offence the greater the judgement from God. How could God ever use such a man? Or so he hoped would be the case. We can imagine him saying to God “send somebody else because I will not go!” Such rationale only goes to show that even the tried and tested prophet of God was guilty of a lack of understanding of the character of God Almighty. Our God in heaven is much bigger than Jonah's theology and He is certainly more faithful to His promises than Jonah would ever be. God had told Jonah to go to Nineveh and that includes giving him the ability to go, safety whilst he was there and also success of the prophetic or preached word! God's plans and purposes will never be thwarted by the antics for a rebellious, racist and sulking prophet. This is yet another lesson that we must learn: God is working His purposes out through those whom He has chosen and He will do it despite our protestations and even our rebelliousness. That having been said, Jonah had a very painful experience which eventually brought him to repentance. We will not experience God's anger as did Jonah if we act according to God's will and purpose.

The big lesson to learn from all of this is that God is sovereign. Backsliding or rebellious Christian we would do well to take a keen interest in this passage before us. It is recorded for our benefit and to warn us to not go there. It is for this reason that I think that Jonah did actually write this account; who else would know his secret thoughts and prayers before God and who better to warn us from backsliding than Jonah?

Despite all of this Jonah would rather die as a rebel prophet rather than go to Nineveh in obedience to God's calling. To some this is thought to be a battle of wills but is that true? God's position is non-negotiable and Jonah's is totally unreasonable. During the 70's and 80's the UK was blighted by industrial tensions that all too often resulted in strike action. The problem was that there was a total stand off between employers and employees where both believed that they were right and the other was wrong. It usually took many days of negotiation with mediators in order to bring about compromises to resolve the issue. This stand off between Jonah and God is nothing like that, God is always right. If that were not the case then God is no longer God! Jonah was not only wrong, he knew full well that he was. He simply did not want what God had planned for Nineveh and so he refused to go. The way that God chooses to bring Jonah to obedience is quite remarkable; a giant fish is provided just for this purpose. It is too much to believe for some; science and critics alike love to tell of the impossibilities of this account. Coming from a scientific background and also my being a pragmatist I can honestly tell you that I agree entirely with them. It is actually impossible for a fish to sustain human life in it's stomach. Hydrochloric acid at ph1 is perfect for digestion but it is disastrous on the complexion. Naturally Jonah would not last many minutes inside a fish's stomach.

BUT

Does science or pragmatism have all of the answers? Of course they do not! It is equally impossible for a man to stand up in a boat and still the storm but yet Jesus did. It is impossible to walk on water but Jesus did and He also encouraged Peter to do the same. It is impossible to make water into wine but Jesus did it! It is impossible to raise the dead but Jesus did it. God who created the heavens and the earth supersedes the laws of nature therefore He can at any time perform any miracle that He chooses for the sake of His purposes and glory. This is an occasion that He did just that. He prepared a fish big enough for the job and He kept Jonah alive despite the normal and natural workings of the stomach. Equally he directed the fish to the shore at exactly the place of His choosing and at exactly the right time (3 days and 3 nights!) Then He gave the fish a large dose of spiritual emetic and Jonah was thrown up or vomited out upon dry land; safe and secure.

There is so much imagery in this that we do not have time to consider but can you not see the signposts here that are pointing to Jesus?

Again as is consistent with God's character revealed in scripture, God is displaying His sovereignty in the life and through the experiences of Jonah. Today's big lesson is that God is sovereign over Jonah's repentance.

It was God who brought Jonah to:

Recognition: Seeing the need of repentance.
Repentance:The place of repentance.
Restoration: Re-commissioning.

Recognition:

As we have previously seen Jonah's great desire in all of this was that he die and get out of his responsibility. He is taking a rather extreme position because to most of us life is precious. But when things get on top of a person then even the value of life becomes at risk. Elijah was another prophet who wanted to die because he no longer had the fight in him. We would say that Elijah was burned out which resulted in his depression which was evidenced by his desire to die. I see no reason to believe that Jonah was burned out, he was simply rebelling against God's command on his life and rather than come to God in repentance he rebelled which caused him to be depressed and had to lose the will to live.

The interesting thing about both of these prophets is that neither of them could “pick themselves up, dust themselves down and start all over again!” They were simply sinking deeper and deeper into self pity. To both of them it was far better to die than to continue. They were both severely depressed but from two different causes. I am in no way saying that all depression is a spiritual issue but I am more and more convinced that we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater somewhat in our efforts with depression. Modern medicine does not make allowances for the soul and as such cannot generally accept the need of spiritual counsel. The church has taken this mindset on board somewhat and has lost sight of the need for wise spiritual counsel for those who are depressed due to spiritual issues.

A doctor friend of mine when coming across some people with mental issues would say that on occasions a persons needs a priest rather than medication. On the other hand some Christian groups are guilty of seeing sin as the only cause of depression! As the church we need to be aware of the real needs of each individual and to offer the correct help for their condition.

For Jonah and Elijah they both needed a priest and were ministered to in different ways by the Great High Priest. Today we will concern ourselves with Jonah. Notice that God was allowing Jonah to experience something of his desire to die. Jonah was at the point of no return, he was also in relationship far from God. But God was clearly closer to him than he knew! Jonah was in trouble and now he recognised it. At last he could see his dilemma and it is at this point that he realises that life is precious; but it is too late for him personally to do anything about it. He had descended into the depths of the sea which he described as Sheol or to us hell.

In his depressed state he wanted to take his own life by being thrown into the sea, but Jonah now saw that God had not forsaken him. Even though things were going from bad to worse and the sea was mustering all that it could in order to take Jonah's life;

Jonah suddenly can see the temple.
The sight of the temple comes to him with a certainty that he will once again look upon it personally. Hope is now coming to Jonah but he is still in the sea facing death and hell. Only a miracle can save him now. All that Jonah can do is to call upon the God of Grace to rescue him.

Verse 6 is key to what God teaches in this passage, Jonah is just outside the gates of hell but the wonderful thing for him was that they were locked to him. He could not enter. But God lifted him back to life from the very point of death. It was here that the work of the Great High Priest was accomplished. God's anger which could rightly have sent Jonah into the land of the dead (Sheol) was abated and Jonah lived. Jonah did nothing to deserve this; it was purely an act of grace on God's behalf. This is one of the great bible passages that reveals God's grace being extended to an undeserving sinner.

The wonderful thing here is the picture that this portrays for us: remember a sign that Jesus gave to His critics was of Jonah being in the belly of the fish for 3 days and 3 nights. The implication of that being that it would be the Son of Man would rescue His friends from the gates of Sheol.

There is one fundamental reason why Jonah did not enter into those gates; if he had there would be no way out for him. But the power of hell had to be conquered and so it was Jesus who did go on through those gates. The sin that He bore was so odious to God that He was hurled into hell by God and this was on our behalf. The cross was Jesus' hell where he experienced the full wrath of God as He bore our sins in His body on the tree. The darkness that came upon the land was clear evidence that the “Light of the World” had been extinguished. Jesus' vehicle of rescue was a grave where he stayed for those 3 days and then He came out and is now our Conquering King. He is our Great High Priest who always intercedes on behalf of His people as he did with Jonah on that day.

Jonah's lesson from God taught him the value of life and gave him the ability to go to the next phase.

Repentance:

For Jonah repentance was was brought about by his fear of death and of going into hell. That is an unpopular message in our 21st century church but it is nonetheless biblical and as such is of vital importance. We have somewhat lost sight of the severity of hell. Do you believe that if Jonah had once entered hell then there would be no way out for him ever. Hell is eternal and there is no way out. I think that it was general Booth of Salvation Army fame who once said that if it were possible he would like to dangle gospel preachers above the fires of hell to show them the awful suffering contained within. The purpose being that this would make them more diligent and passionate in their preaching of the gospel and that they be determined to rescue as many from hell as was possible.

Jonah saw hell at close quarters and knew there was nothing but grace that could save him from it. He was dying (verse 7) and the only thing left was prayer. Even at this point we see Jonah's impotence in the situation; but God's grace was at work. The sight of hell had caused Jonah to remember God! Sinner or Backslider how far has God got to take you before you remember Him? God at this point had enabled Jonah to pray and then His grace was displayed to Jonah.

From the depths of the sea staring at the very gates of death and hell a prayer is heard in heaven and Jonah is saved.

Jesus who is the second and perfect Jonah fulfilled this completely He experienced hell it's very self and to all of His followers everything seemed to have gone hopelessly wrong. It was when darkness was covering the earth that Jesus prayed the prayer which is effective for our salvation. “Father forgive them” and “It is finished” was His prayer. Sin had been dealt with, God's wrath has been turned and salvation had been accomplished by that one act of Amazing Grace. Just as Jonah could not save himself then neither can we! We must call on the Great high Priest who made Himself to be the Ultimate Sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins and He will rescue us from the clutches of sin, death and hell.

Have you come to Christ in repentance yet?
Apply.

Restoration:


You will be please to hear that this is for the next time. I leave you with a cliff hanger to ponder concerning God's providence and sovereignty over our ministry.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Jonah Chapter 1: God's good providence




Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 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 on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise,call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”
And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.
Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. ESV


Background:

Author: The book does not say who wrote it. Logic says that Jonah would not have written such an account which portrays the prophet in such bad light. But this is scripture which is inspired by God's Holy Spirit and which exalts God always. Therefore we do not apply human logic to such issues. Suffice it to say there is no real evidence that Jonah was or was not the author.


Jonah was a prophet in the land of Israel from about 800-750 BC. At this time Israel shared its northern border with Syria. When the army of Syria defeated the army of Israel in war, it took some of Israel’s land. Eventually Assyria defeated Syria in war, which very much weakened Syria. Jeroboam king of Israel 793-753 BC seized the opportunity to get his land back which God had prophesied to happen through Jonah. (2 Kings 14:25).
Israel in their arrogance expected God to be always favourable towards them and to be angry with other nations. In their eyes Israel was God’s special people whatever they did!
It was at this time that the Lord sent Jonah to the city of Nineveh the capital of Assyria. Assyria were a powerful and extremely cruel people. God instructed Jonah to warn the people of Nineveh that He was going to punish them soon for their evil ways. This was too much for Jonah who did not want God to show grace and mercy to such a people. His reaction to God at that time is recorded in chapter 4:1-4
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he 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. And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?” ”
The background of this prophecy is somewhat confused which makes the central theme even more powerful. In God's purposes He was making provision for a very cruel nation to hear his word and to respond in repentance and so to be blessed by Him. Israel was learning the vital lesson that even though called to be a special people, God's purposes are for all nations. These are lessons that we as the church need to continue to learn because as with Israel of old we so easily become arrogant as God's especially chosen people and forget that there are enemies of God and His people that are called to salvation and that we have the mandate to tell them of God's grace and mercy extended to repentant sinners.


God's good providence:

It has often been said that life is a rich tapestry. When we apply that to our personal experience it is truly a marvel to behold. We think back to all that has happened in our lives and discover that every event has been significant in bringing us to where we are today. We also know from scripture that it is all plotted out by God and will eventually lead each one of us to our final destiny. This is even more amazing when we consider that all events throughout the whole of human history are plotted out by God. The example of a tapestry is a good one. I am not sure how the maker of these things can create such a magnificent artwork. They work with small pieces of thread and tie knots with it in a canvas. When observed it is a messy piece of canvas covered in knots of twine of various colours. To me it is a confusing mess until it is turned over and then a magnificent picture emerges. That is what human history looks like to us; God is weaving his character and purposes into the canvas of history which one day will be revealed and then we shall see everything as it really is. Until such a time we are somewhat in the dark other than through the revelation of His word. God has declared something of His purposes for mankind and how He is calling His people to repentance and making them fit for eternity.

Often as we study this short book of Jonah our focus is on the prophet, upon his call and rebellion. Whilst that is perfectly legitimate it is possible to miss the more important lesson of the book. This small book reveals God's missionary heart and His grace and mercy that is always extended to undeserving but repentant people from any nation in the world. It also reveals the way that God sends His servants to such people with a message of judgement due to sin. Jonah is an ancient part of God's rich tapestry for all mankind and therefore is significant in so many ways. This account is Old Testament proof that the evangelism of the early church to the Gentiles was not a new concept kept for the post Christian era. God has always had a heart for the nations and He has always expected His spokesmen to go to them with the good news of God.

The whole book of Jonah is about how God provided for the King of Assyria and the people of Nineveh to come to faith in Him. It is important to see just how comprehensively God provided for this to happen and to observe that His saving grace was not only to gentile Assyria but also to a pagan ships crew who found themselves caught up in Jonah's rebellion.

A question that it is worth considering is “in what ways has God provided for you in order to bring you to where you are today?” Has He provided for your salvation? Is he still providing? In what ways is he providing for your church here in Callington? As we shall see God's provision comes in many different ways and also through good and bad experiences.

I believe that it is fair to say that Jonah was a racist who did not want the people of Nineveh to experience God's saving grace. There are of course reasons as to why he was so anti the people of Nineveh. They were extremely cruel and evil but God sent him and so Jonah is without excuse for running away. In a way it is Jonah's rebellion that is significant for the salvation of a ship's crew. These issues are hard for us to understand but they are all threads of God's perfect tapestry.

Chapter 1 is full of God's provision and is the foundation for the rest of the book. For our considerations we will merely mention the many ways that God provided and then sum up our thoughts as we go along. To do this book justice we need to study it more in depth but there is much to challenge and encourage us in the short time that we have today.

What does God provide?

  • The Word: It is by His Word that God's name and purposes are made known. Therefore He provides:
  • A prophet: A tried and tested prophet of Israel. Not a self appointed man but God's man who has a good track record. Jonah son of Amittai was a real man and not a legend, he had previously spoken to the Israelite kings Jeroboam II on God's behalf and now he was entrusted with:
  • A message: Not just any message but God's message. It is not the sort of message that any one of us would want to take to the most violent nation on earth. Jonah was having to go to the equivalent of ISIS to tell them that the God of Israel will destroy them in 40 days. We should never judge Jonah for running away if it was due to fear, but sadly it was because he did not want Nineveh to benefit from God's grace that caused him to flee.
  • Seeing eyes: God saw Nineveh's evil. What a wonderful provision that is. God sees all of the injustices and wrongdoing in the world and as we shall see God also sees all that His rebellious prophet does. So far these provisions are as we might expect, but how does God provide for his rebellious prophet? With chapter 4:1-4 in mind, Jonah has already told God of his anger, he simply did not want Nineveh to be given a chance BUT God in His mercy is going to save Nineveh and Jonah will be the preacher. Jonah foolishly believes that he can run from God and go to Tarshish (Spain) instead. This is where we learn of God's:
  • Directing provision: Jonah flees to Joppa where there just happened to be a ship heading for Tarshish. He just happened to have the fare and he was allowed on board and off he sails away from God and on his own adventure of life. There could be nothing farther from the truth. God has always been with His people and will never forsake them. Jonah could not flee from the presence of the Lord in the same way that the Psalmist speaks of in Psalm 139 which we read earlier. God directed Jonah to a ship that was on course to meet a great fish in the middle of the sea. God never stops providing for His people even when in rebellion against Him. This very example teaches us to be cautious of any thought that if all seems to be going well for us then this is evidence of God's blessing on our lives. On the other side of the coin we find Joseph where for many years nothing seemed to go well for him. Joseph's problems were God's kind provision for the children of Israel at a later date. This tapestry is certainly complex. We are encouraged by some modern thinking that unless all is rosy then we are guilty of gross sin and then ease and comfort denotes our own righteousness. Think again! Jonah was able to sleep soundly in his complacency even though God had provided a:
  • Storm of life: Frightened sailors and a storm that is so fierce that it is threatening to break up the ship. There are 2 other similar instances in the New Testament, one has the Apostle Paul aboard where the sailors throw cargo away but Paul encouraged them to stay on board because he recognised that this was God's provision for him to winter on Malta. The other of course is the Lord with His disciples. Jesus as Jonah was asleep, and similarly was the way of respite from the storm. Jesus proved His divinity by His authority used over nature by telling the storm to stop. It was very different for Jonah who was rebelling against God who was bringing him to the place of repentance. The storms of life are often God's way of providing either security as with Paul, salvation as with Jesus but also repentance as seen in this account. How are the storms of life affecting you today. What is it all about, you know and so does God;  He has provided these problems for your benefit. In all of this God has also provided:
  • Concerned people: The sailors were afraid, they prayed to their false gods and found no help. Their casting of lots due to superstition was a God given provision in that He guided Jonah to the short straw which in turn was the sailors provision for hearing the good news of God. This is so full of provision that we cannot but help to be amazed at how God is working His purposes out:
    God is working his purpose out
    as year succeeds to year:
    God is working his purpose out,
    and the time is drawing near;
    nearer and nearer draws the time,
    the time that shall surely be,
    when the earth shall be filled
    with the glory of God
    as the waters cover the sea.

    From utmost east to utmost west,
    wherever foot hath trod,
    by the mouth of many messengers
    goes forth the voice of God;
    give ear to me, ye continents,
    ye isles, give ear to me,
    that the earth may filled
    with the glory of God
    as the waters cover the sea.

    What can we do to work God's work,
    to prosper and increase
    the brotherhood of all mankind--
    the reign of the Prince of Peace?
    What can we do to hasten the time--
    the time that shall surely be,
    when the earth shall be filled
    with the glory of God
    as the waters cover the sea.

    March we forth in the strength of God,
    with the banner of Christ unfurled,
    that the light of the glorious gospel of truth
    may shine throughout the world:
    fight we the fight with sorrow and sin
    to set their captives free,
    that the earth may filled
    with the glory of God
    as the waters cover the sea.

    All we can do is nothing worth
    unless God blessed the deed;
    vainly we hope for the harvest-tide
    till God gives life to the seed;
    yet nearer and nearer draws the time,
    the time that shall surely be,
    when the earth shall be filled
    with the glory of God
    as the waters cover the sea.
    Arthur Campbell Aigner 1841-1919

Not only did God provide concerned sailors but he also provided them with:

  • Understanding: The sailors were afraid of Jonah the prophet, they understood that even though Jonah was rebellious God was with him and so fear came upon them. They also immediately understood that Jonah's running away was serious. Backslider this is a most challenging truth, God has provided you to be His servant to all that you are in contact with and even though you are being rebellious you still have a responsibility to them. God will make you useful somehow just as He did Jonah. The great thing is that you do not have to wait for the final provision in order to return:
Author: E.H. Swinstead

There's a way back to God from the dark paths of sin;
There's a door that is open and you may go in:
At Calvary's cross is where you begin,
When you come as a sinner to Jesus.

If you do not take notice of this then God may well have to provide for you a:

  • Sea of God's wrath: provided just for Jonah on this occasion. There could be no peace for the sailors unless Jonah was hurled into the sea which represented God's wrath upon Jonah. Sin and rebellion will be punished but as we see from Jonah's experience there is relief through repentance. This very incident is so full of meaning that it is impossible to mine the depths just now. It teaches Jonah the foolishness of disobedience but in an even more remarkable way it speaks of the greater provision of God fulfilled perfectly in Jesus. Jesus took this account to Himself when He was asked by skeptics for a sign. He used the great fish provided as a prophesy of His death. The sea is the place where sin is hurled in Revelation and so the whole event points to Jesus in a number of ways. Jonah's sin is dealt with by God's wrath and mercy and so is ours. God's sea of wrath is awaiting all who will not turn to Christ in repentance. The vehicle from wrath to security for Jonah was a specially prepared fish, for us it is the cross of Christ and His death, burial and resurrection. The pictures flood out of this passage and point us to Jesus. He is our hope and our stay. Do you trust in Him as God's special provision for our salvation? Will you trust in Him?

The sailors trusted in God through the experience of Jonah, the result of which was a sacrifice to God and promises of obedience made to Him.

What does God want of you?

  • To fear Him, that means to have respect and abeyance to the Saviour who has done all that is necessary for your salvation.

  • A sacrifice needs to be made to Him; not for salvation which Christ has made once for all who are being saved but in praise for salvation accomplished for us. The sacrifice which God requires is a broken and contrite heart. Your heart should be broken due to sin and then committed to Him and contrite or humbled before our Holy God who has forgiven all of our sins eternally.


He promises to never leave you nor forsake you if you are a Christian and from when you became a Christian and forever you must promise to follow Him to the end just as the Apostle Paul did and not be like Jonah!