Lessons From An Ancient Prophet
Please Read: Jonah 3:1-10
I- The historical background of our lesson:
Jonah was from Galilee, city of
The city of
The message he was to preach as stated in Chapter 3:4
forty days, and
Although the prophet’s brief
“2So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Oh, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, One who relents from doing harm. “
Hence, it was certain that if the inhabitants of that great city were responsive to his message, God would certainly spare them. And Jonah did not want that. Accordingly, Jonah went to Joppa where he boarded a ship bound for Tarshish, the express design of his trip was to flee from the presence of Jehovah Jonah 1:3.
But, as every Bible student knows, his plans
were soon thwarted. Where men propose, God can dispose! When a great storm arose, and the
inmates of the vessel feared for their very lives, Jonah confessed that he, as
a refugee from the Lord, was the cause of the calamity. Though the
prophet’s sailing companions did not like the idea, they ultimately were
forced to accept Jonah's suggestion that he be thrown overboard. Down he went into the dark depths
5The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head. 6I went down to the moorings of the mountains; The earth with its bars closed behind me forever;
Presently, Jonah was devoured by a great
creature of the deep. We might almost say that the Lord sent Jonah to school
for three days, and the classroom was the belly of a great sea-monster. The
prophet graduated with a diploma in “mission responsibility!” Thus making his way to
But Jonah was quite distraught at this turn of events, he despaired, even to the point of wanting to die. He perches himself on a hilltop nearby, eagerly watching the city in hopes the Lord would yet destroy it. As he sat in the scorching sun, God caused a shady vine to grow up for his refreshment and the prophet was glad. On the following day, however, God sent a worm to smite Jonah’s vine, and as the blistering sun beat upon his head, he again lapsed into a state of abject depression.
Then came Heaven’s stinging rebuke.
why is it that you are so concerned with this vine— a mere plant which is
temporal, and for which you did not labor; and yet, you evidence utterly no
concern for the hapless inhabitants of Nineveh?” The penetrating inquiry threw a divine
floodlight upon the pathetic values of the prophet from
The Book of Jonah is filled with valuable and timeless lessons. We reflect upon a few of these matters. First, we could note that this narrative has suffered from critics for a long time. Because of the incident of Jonah being swallowed by the great fish. Many modern scholars contend that the document is pure fiction.
Jesus Christ, however, did not view it so. He appealed to the narrative as genuine history on one occasion when the Jews asked for a sign ¾ "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." Matthew 12:39-41
39But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given it but the sign of Jonah the prophet: 40for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41The men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, a greater than Jonah is here...
And so Jesus settles the issue for all who have any regard for His Words. I like the words of Marshall Keeble, may God give us more men with this kind of faith.
2nd- The book demonstrates the sovereignty of God, as He employs creation to accomplish His divine plan. The LORD controlled the elements of weather in Jonah 1:4 we read ¾
4But the LORD sent out a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken...” Verses 11-15 show also the sea also was used by God in this matter. God prepared a great sea-creature, a vine, a worm to do his bidding. Jesus often demonstrated ability to control the elements of nature during His earthly ministry.
Notice with me an account Matthew 8:23-27
23And when he was entered into a boat, his disciples followed him. 24And behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the boat was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. 25And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Save, Lord; we perish. 26And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27And the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?
3rd- This book reveals the interest of God in the nations , even in the Mosaic era. Though Jehovah was working primarily through the Hebrew nation as an instrument for the sending of the promised Seed Genesis 22:18 nevertheless, His compassion for all the people of the earth was abundantly manifested. And the sending of Jonah, to these Gentile Ninevites was a clear demonstration of this. We read in Acts 10:34 “34And Peter opened his mouth and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons” And again in 2 Peter 3:9 “9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
4th- This narrative illustrates a truth so frequently suggested in the Old Testament, namely: That God, not man, is in control of the destiny of nations. God rules in the kingdoms of men and disposes of them according to His Divine Will.: Daniel 2:20-21
20Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. 21And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; (and again Daniel 4:17) “….that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the lowest of men.”
Proverbs 14:34 teaches: “34Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people”.
Those who think that nations stand or fall
because of a “strong national defense” are woefully ignorant of the
Sovereignty of God the Creator and Sustainer.
5th- The book of Jonah
demonstrates that ancient peoples who were outside the Mosaic covenant were
nonetheless accountable to Heaven’s for what they knew and had been
taught. Jehovah looked down upon
This powerful truth is in direct conflict with the modern theory which contends that those who are “outside of the church” are not subject to the marriage law of God (the design of which is to regulate human morality) The whole purpose of this novel concept, of course, is to justify adulterous relationships within the Church!
6th- This account reveals the power inherent within the word of God when it comes into contact with honest and good hearts Luke 8:11-15.
11Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God ¾ 15“But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience..
Though Jonah’s message was very brief,
it produced the desired effect.
Again, some critics have faulted the divine account at this point,
claiming that so trifling a sermon could hardly have produced the results
described. But Christ's testimony
is thus ¾ “the men of
Someway the citizens of
29And when the multitudes were gathering together unto him, he began to say, This generation is an evil generation: it seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of Jonah. 30For even as Jonah became a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.
The gospel is God power (Romans 1:16-27) How do we know when it will penetrate and convert some soul ? Listen to Inspiration's testimony concerning the word of God. Psalm 19:7 ff.
7The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether..
A most potentate passage revealing the power of God's word to change the lives of men is found in 1 Cor. 6:9-11
“9Or know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the
Through the power of the gospel, these had
been able to cast aside their garments of filth, and become "the church of the Living God" 1 Corinthians 1:1 the body of Christ, 1 Corinthians. 12:13 the
"temple" the beautiful
7th- This instructive account,
with the inspired New Testament commentary which discusses it, underscores an
important dimension to repentance.
Jesus declared that “the men of
While the book of Jonah itself informs us
that God “saw their [the people of
8th- The book of Jonah presents a beautiful type of the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Though some modernists argue that the concept of a bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead was unknown in Old Testament times, Jesus demonstrated otherwise. He declared:
40“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:40.
Clearly, the Lord viewed Jonah’s three-day entombment as a foreshadowing of His resurrection from the grave, by which, of course, Christ was declared to by the Son of God with power Romans 1:4.
9th-This narrative reveals God' s message never changes. Such an important message for men today ¾ Jonah 3:1
the word of the Lord
came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2“Arise, go to
Preaching is urgent as well…. 1 Peter 4:11
11if any man speaketh, speaking as it were oracles of God; if any man ministereth, ministering as of the strength which God supplieth: that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, whose is the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen
10th- And last the book reveals the love of God for humanity ¾ God sends Jonah to Nineveh, Recall the parables of our Lord, concerning going out and seeking for that which is lost. But notice the chapter 4:10-11
10But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11“And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”
One has to be amazed at the love and mercy God shows to a fallen and recreant people in the scriptures. God's nature?
9The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 10But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
3- Two beloved passages ¾ John 3:16
16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. …. Romans 5:8 8But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Conclusion — In his epistle to the Romans, Paul quotes the Psalms Then states: Romans 15:4
4For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
If it is not your custom to study the Old Testament along with the New Testament, I recommend it to you. Surely the foregoing points of truth, as gleaned from the delightful book of Jonah, are illustrative of the truth of this rich passage. Why not take some time and refresh yourself with a review of the edifying material in the book of Jonah?
Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ