Study 5 JONAH: THE GOSPEL OF A SECOND CHANCE
STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS
by Francis Dixon
(Key-verse: Jonah 3:1)
The prophecy of Jonah is a fascinating and dramatic true story, though many people today discredit it. According to 2 Kings 14:25, Jonah was the son of Amittai. His birthplace was Gath Hepher, a town of Galilee near to Nazareth. The significant thing is that our Lord Jesus Christ set His seal upon this account, and used Jonah’s experience in connection with the whale as a type of His own resurrection (Matthew 12:39-41). It is a very solemn story with a solemn warning, but contains much encouragement for every believer. Notice three things about Jonah:-
1. THE DIRECTIONS HE RECEIVED (verses 1-2)
We do not know exactly how God spoke to Jonah and how he became conscious that the Lord was speaking to him, but the fact is made quite clear that God gave several precise directions to him. Notice three things about these directions:-
- 1. How definite they were. Read through verse 2 again. God always gives His instructions clearly. He did to Moses (Exodus 3:10-12), to Joshua (Joshua 1:1-9), Isaiah (Isaiah 6:8-9), to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:4-10), and to Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2). It is the same today. Thousands of God’s servants are serving Him around the world in the place of His choosing, working there because they received a definite commission from Him to go to that particular place in order to do His work. Has God called you to some special service? Have you heard His voice? Are you obeying Him?
- 2. How disturbing they were. Read verse 2 again. Jonah must have been out of touch with the Lord when these instructions came to him, otherwise he would have been ready to obey Him straightaway. When God calls to a special task it inevitably means an upheaval. Think what it meant to the Lord Jesus to leave Heaven, come to earth, and make the greatest missionary journey ever! – look up Psalm 40:7-8; think what it meant to the apostle Paul (Acts 9:15-16); and think what it means to anyone to move out along the line of God’s will.
- 3. How difficult they were. Again read verse 2. To go to Nineveh and denounce the sins of the people was no easy task, because Nineveh was the greatest city in the most powerful monarchy in the world – about 60 miles in circumference and containing streets and avenues 20 miles long. Its walls were 100 feet high, and so wide that three chariots could be drawn abreast on top. The population at this time was about 600,000, and it was a very wicked city. It is the hardest thing in the world to do God’s will, yet the easiest thing because He gives us His enabling to do what is pleasing to Him.
2. THE DISOBEDIENCE HE SHOWED (verse 3)
When God spoke to Jonah and commissioned him to do a job of work, instead of giving the Lord instant obedience Jonah fled to Tarshish, hundreds of miles in the opposite direction! Why? Perhaps he felt inadequate; perhaps he did not like the Ninevites; perhaps he was afraid of losing his reputation; or perhaps he was afraid that God’s character would suffer. Notice three things here:-
- 1. It was deliberate disobedience. It we are quick to say, ‘How dreadful!’, let’s search our hearts and ask if we have not many times deliberately disobeyed the Lord. Have we not fled to Tarshish time and time again?
- 2. It was defiant disobedience. Jonah defied God. Sometimes we disobey through ignorance, but this was not the case. Jonah really said, ‘Yes, I’ve heard what you want me to do, Lord, but I’m not going to do it…’! How solemn that is!
- 3. It was displeasing disobedience. As if disobedience could ever be pleasing to God! Look up 2 Samuel 11:27 and notice the last sentence; then read Jonah 1:3 again to get the full significance of all that is stated there. Jonah (1) rose up and fled; (2) he fled from the presence of the Lord; (3) he went down (twice we read this); (4) he paid money in order to facilitate his escape; and (5) he threw in his lot with unbelievers. How solemn! Is there any hope for a man like this?
3. THE DISCOVERY HE MADE
- 1. It is impossible for a servant of God to get away from the Lord. Of course, any of us can get out of touch with Him, but we cannot get out of His presence. Wherever we go the Lord will be there (Psalm 139:1-7); and then read Jonah 1:4,7,12,15 to see that God was sovereign, watching and present in all that Jonah did. Thank God, He is not only sovereign in the lives of His people, but He loves every one of them too much ever to let them go!
- 2. It is a very costly thing for a servant of God to disobey the Lord and refuse to do His will (verse 3): “After paying the fare…”! Yes, and more than money was involved because he lost his joy, peace, fellowship with God, his testimony and his power. Read verses 8-10 carefully. There are many Ninevehs today who are without a prophet because God’s Jonahs are disobedient! – Ninevehs in towns and cities around our world.
- 3. When God’s servants resign the Lord Himself waits for them and invites them to re-sign! The sweet message of Jonah 3:1 shows us God’s wonderful grace!
Maybe you are on the point of resigning. Get alone with the Lord and His Word will come to you the second time with mercy, forgiveness, re-commissioning and strengthening.