The book of Jonah is more than a parable, more than an allegory. Much more than just a good story for Sunday School, it deserves to be re-examined because it can tell us much about our own reluctance to yield to God's plan for our lives or to share the story of God's love with those who haven't heard it.
Seven Things That God Loves and That We Should Too
Jonah Runs against God
Jonah Runs with God
Jonah Runs to God
Jonah Runs from God
As I shared with the group this morning, I don't get many opportunities to stand up here. Every time I do I often just feel completely overwhelmed, to be frank with you and to let you know a little bit about what happens in my heart. That is because I happen to believe in a sovereign God who is sovereignly in control and intimately acquainted with all of our ways.
I do not think it is a mistake that all of us are gathered here together tonight, but that each one of us has been prompted by the Lord to walk in this room. I don't understand the mystery of the preaching of God's Word, but somehow through this divine, inspired book, he takes the spoken word and by his Spirit, he touches people's hearts and changes lives. To think that in some way he can take my brokenness and my feeble attempts to try to make sense of all this and communicate in a way that would bring him glory is quite overwhelming.
It's an incredible responsibility because I recognize that some of us are coming in to this church building perhaps for the first time in a long time and have heavy burdens on our hearts. I just believe that God wants to do a work in our hearts tonight. I believe he wants to talk to us. I'm going to pray for our time. Then we're going to jump in this little book called Jonah. Would you join me in prayer?
Lord, I do, I just stop, and I think about the burdens that so many people carry as they walk in this room tonight, the distractions, Lord, that are all around us, Father, the to-do list that waits for us at work and at home tomorrow. Lord, I know you desperately want to speak to our hearts. Father, I pray that you would help us just to have soft hearts, Lord, and open eyes and ears to receive the Word you want to teach to us tonight regardless of where we are, of what we've done, and of where we've been. Help us to hear unhindered. I pray in Christ's name, amen.
Well I spent some good amount of time thinking long and hard about what I wanted to share with you over these next four weeks. I really didn't know what I wanted to share. Then last week, I showed up to the 5:30 service and I saw that Todd brought out a live tiger onto the stage, for those who were here.
I thought, "That's it! If Wagner is going to bring out a tiger, I'm teaching on Jonah." I called Sea World. Boys, come on out. Come on! Come on! Some of y'all looked. I love it, right? You're thinking big fish. I like it, right? You never know what's going to happen. Seriously, no the reason why I thought, "Jonah, that's the book I want to teach," is because I think sadly this is a book that we have all heard about, perhaps it's been a long time since we've studied it.
It's kind of locked away in the Old Testament. It's a short little book. In our minds if we're honest, we kind of tuck it away, and some of the stories like Noah's Ark, right? Jonah and the Whale. Those are stories that we teach little kids. That I mean, "Ah, I don't know. Do we really buy that?" That's kind of what we do. We look at Jonah and we've lost its message.
We don't realize just how fantastic this book is and how relevant it is for today. Let me just tell you. There's more that happens in these 4 little chapters that's miraculous than just a story about this great fish, as the Scripture calls it. There's a whole set of miracles. When we read it we see in chapter 1 there is this great storm that comes about.
Then there's this divine selection of Jonah as he is the one who causes the storm. Then there is the calming of the sea when Jonah is thrust out into the water and the sudden appearance of this great fish. Then you have the preservation of Jonah, how he somehow survives for three days and three nights and on and on. Just the repentance of an entire city called Nineveh. How God divinely appoints a worm, a plant, an east wind.
You read this book and you just go, "Wow, it's just filled with miracles! It seems so fantastic. It seems so unbelievable." So what people have done, perhaps many of us have done, is we just go, "This is a book for kids," and we've lost its message. Many people have explained it away just going, "That's an allegory. It's not really historical. It's an allegory." You know what an allegory is, right? An allegory is that each little piece of the book represents something else, but it's not meant to be taken historically.
That's what critics have done. They've looked at Jonah and they said, "Hey, look, don't be a fool. This is just a story here to represent another story in Jonah. His word literally means dove and doves are associated with the nation of Israel so it's clear that Jonah represents Israel. You have this big old fish that comes and swallows him. Clearly that's a reference to the exile. So it's not really… There's this fish that came…" And on and on. It's just explained away as to not be historical.
Other people don't feel comfortable going to that extreme. It's like, "No, really, it's just a parable. Instead of having multiple meanings, it really has one meaning." What we do is we explain this away, but we never ask, "How does Scripture view Jonah? What's the Bible's take on Jonah?" Man, I'll argue with you tonight that Scripture would argue, "No, it's not an allegory. It's not a parable. In fact, it is historical."
It's a book we need to pause and think about and open up again, not just to read to our kids as a goodnight story, but it's a story we need to take consideration of. Quickly, if you were to turn to 2 Kings, chapter 14… You don't need to turn there, but I just want to point this out. Second Kings is a book that is clearly about the history of Israel. You see in chapter 14 in verses 24 and following it says…
"He did evil in the sight of the LORD; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin. He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet…"
You see Jonah's name mentioned right here in the book of 2 Kings, which all scholars would agree, "It's a historical book." It is pretty interesting if you ask me that you would find this prophet right there interwoven in the historical books of our Bibles. I don't think the Bible presents Jonah as an allegory or a parable\ but as being just that: historical.
We find that he lived here in a time after Elijah and Elisha's ministry. He is a contemporary of Hosea and Amos, two other prophets. The book starts by saying, "The word of the LORD came to Jonah…" just like all the other prophets do. There's no indication that it should be dismissed as being something other than historical.
Even more importantly, what does Jesus have to say about Jonah? Did you know that Jesus has a lot to say about Jonah? If you turn to Matthew, chapter 12, you'll see in verse 38 and following it reads this way. "Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.'"
In other words, you know the people in Jesus' day; they're not unlike us, right? "It's hard to get arms around who you are, Jesus, so why don't you prove it by giving us a miracle. Show us a sign." Jesus' response. "But He answered and said to them, 'An evil and adulterous generation craves for a [miracle] sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.'"
Do you see what Jesus is doing here? "You guys want a miracle? You want to know who I am? I'm going to give you a sign, and that is going to be the sign of Jonah." He bases his death, burial, and resurrection on the miracle of what occurs with Jonah. Now it seems pretty crazy to me to think that Jesus, if this was not historical, that he would take an allegory or a parable and base his whole resurrection, which is the foundation of Christianity, on anything other than historical.
He goes, "Hey, just recognize the sign of Jonah will be shown to you, that just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, I'm going to be buried for three days and three nights and come back to life." Then in verses 41 and following, he says, "The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah…"
What is he saying here? He is saying, "Hey, the fact that you know about from the book of Jonah how the men of Nineveh repented? Guess what? Those very people are going to come back and judge this generation." "…and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here."
He just lists Jonah and all the activities that happen in this book right there with other historical figures from the Old Testament. Jesus clearly seems to have looked at this book as being historical and not an allegory or parable. The message of this book is crucial for today. It's a real simple one. That is that God loves the whole world.
It's John 3:16 years earlier. "For God so loved the world…" Including those who perhaps many of us in this room would feel are perhaps furthest from deserving his grace or his love, including our enemies. God loves our enemies. God loves those who we might think deserve judgment. God loves those who are so far away from him. He loves the world. Every nation, tribe…you name it. He loves the world.
Tragically, like Jonah, we are a people who have refused to share that love. We're a people who look at the world all around us and we know this great love. We stood up and we declared through song his great love, but yet we fail to tell others of this story. We are reluctant prophets. Jonah has so much to say to us today.
I mean, just think about it. Honestly ask yourself, "When was the last time you told somebody else about the love of God? When was the last time you opened up your Bible and just pointed to someone and said, 'Hey, man, can I share something with you? I know this may seem crazy, but I want to tell you about the love of God.' When was the last time you did that?"
See, we're a lot like Jonah. When was the last time we went to our "enemy" and said, "You know what? I know there's conflict between us, but you need to know, man, it grieves my heart that we're in conflict. You need to know that I happen to believe that there is this God in heaven who loves you and loves me, and I want to tell you about the story. I want to tell you about how he changed my life."
Jonah has a lot to say to us today. We can't just dismiss it and go, "Oh, that's an allegory, that's a parable, that's a children's tale." We need to hear the lesson. We're going to spend the next four weeks doing just that. You know, if you were going to outline this book, I've always remembered this book just in four simple little sentences.
In chapter 1, Jonah runs away from God. In Jonah, chapter 2, he runs to God. In chapter 3, he runs with God. In chapter 4, he runs against God. Right? In chapter 1, he runs away from God. In chapter 2, he runs to God. In 3, he runs with God. In chapter 4, he runs against God. All you have to do is just differentiate it by the little prepositions. That makes my English teacher proud. Right?
That's the book of Jonah. If anybody asks you again, you go, "I have it!" Four chapters. Pretty simple. Pretty straightforward. This afternoon, we're looking at just chapter 1. We'll see it's divided into three scenes. There are multiple ways you could do this. I do this for all those type-A personalities out there taking notes. You have to have everything lined up, God bless you. I need to do the same myself.
In verses 1 through 3, we'll see that Jonah is in the city of Joppa. In verses 4 through 14, he heads down and gets into this boat. In 15 and 16, he finds himself cast out into the sea. Let's dig in. All right? Chapter 1, verse 1 reads this way. "The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, 'Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.'"
Now we have to stop and just ask, "Why Nineveh? What's Nineveh? Where is Nineveh? What would make this such a problem for Jonah?" Well Nineveh is the capital of Assyria, which was the superpower of the day. It was a very powerful nation. I'm going to explain more about the people who lived there.
The city of Nineveh was believed to have had 120,000 people just within the city walls and then several thousand people more outside the city gates. It was located along the east bank of the Tigris River about a 4-hour drive north of modern-day Baghdad. Its size? It took Jonah, we know in chapter 3, about 3 days to walk the perimeter of the city.
Archaeologists tell us it had walls 100 feet high. Think about that. Walls 100 feet high. That's a fortress. They were 50 feet deep. The main wall was punctuated by 15 gates and was over seven and a half miles long. That's a big old city. That's an impressive and intimidating city. Scripture refers to it in this book several times. It calls it the great city. That's a massive size.
God says, "Jonah, I want you to load up and go to Nineveh." Pretty clear instruction. "Because their wickedness has come up to me. I want you to go cry out against this city." Let's see what Jonah does in verse 3. "But Jonah…" A little contrast. "…rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD."
I love that. It's repeated three times, "To Tarshish, to Tarshish, to Tarshish." That's a mouthful. Right? It's like he was going to do anything but go to Nineveh. He was headed somewhere else. If you look at the map, you'll see here just really quickly that here's Jonah in Joppa, and Nineveh is way over there to the east. Tarshish actually is off the map. It was believed to be the furthest point west in the Mediterranean world. Okay?
He is not going to even get close to it. He is told, "Hey, you go to Nineveh." He goes, "You know what? I'll just get on a boat, and I'm heading east, in the opposite direction." Now why? Why does he have such an incredible response to go the other way? Well because, as I mentioned to you earlier, Assyria was the superpower of the day. They were a people who were known for their wickedness.
They were the Nazis of the day, if you will. They were the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, a wicked people. Jonah didn't want to go preach God's compassion and his grace and tell them of the love of God and then watch them repent and then be forgiven. Nuh-uh. He wanted God to rain down judgment on these wicked people. He wanted no part of them receiving compassion. They were known for just their incredible brutality as they conquered different people. Let me just read to you what one of their leaders said. It's pretty graphic.
He said, "I flayed [the skin from] as many nobles as had rebelled against me [and] draped their skins over the pile [of corpses.]… I cut off the heads of their fighters [and] built [with them] a tower before their city. I burnt their adolescent boys [and] girls…. I captured many troops alive: I cut off some of their arms [and] hands; I cut off of others their noses, ears, [and] extremities. I gouged out the eyes of many of their troops. I made one pile of the living [and] one of their heads. I hung their heads on trees around the city."
Jonah is told to pick up and go to a people who he despises and to share with those people how they can have a relationship with the Lord. He doesn't want to do it. He wants God to judge these people, not show them compassion, not show them grace. He is the reluctant prophet. He runs the opposite direction.
Before we're too hard on Jonah though, if you stop and you think about it I think all of us have Ninevehs in our lives. There's that place that God is calling us to go to, that place of obedience that we don't want any part of it. We head to Joppa, we get on a boat, and we buy a ticket to go to Tarshish. We run in the opposite direction. It may not be a geographical place in which God is calling you, but he is certainly calling you to full surrender and devotion.
What do we do? We just play it safe. We hedge our bets. We make a lot of excuses as to why that boat to Tarshish makes more sense for us. "A lot of people are heading to Tarshish, Lord. I'd rather just get on that boat. You know? It's the path well-traveled going that way. I'll just join those guys. I see other people who are getting on those boats and going the other way. I see other people making excuses and going the other way. I see few people really just picking up their crosses and going hard after you and going to Nineveh."
Few people are really dealing with the addiction in their lives, really dealing with the pain they're causing other people, really dealing with the conflict in their lives. Man, that's hard work. It's hard work to initiate with our spouse and to deal with just the elephant in the room that, "Hey, you know what? We're not doing well. I have to admit to you that I have a part to play in this."
That's going to Nineveh, gang. It's hard for us just in complete obedience to go, "Lord, I'm going to follow. I'm going to follow. I'm going to reconcile with those who have hurt me. I'm going to trust you. I'm going to step out in authentic community and I'm just going to ask for your help, Lord. I'm going to Nineveh. I'm not going to run anymore."
It was just a few weeks ago that… This is something that's going to sound silly, perhaps, but man, I didn't want to go to Nineveh. I'm heading down 75 on my way to my kid's soccer game. I remember I'm just trying to exit. Really simple. There was this lady on her phone, jibber-jabbering. Apparently had had a bad day.
I put on my blinker. Tried to go in front of her so I could exit. No, no. I'm not going to cut her off, right? She speeds up. I'm going to have to go around her. I slow down because she's now sped up, and then she slows down. You've seen this before. I'm just thinking, "Oh, come on! I just want to get to my boy's soccer game! She's on her phone!"
Yes, I resisted the urge to give her the international sign to get out of here. Right? I'm angry, though. I just sit there, and I'm just thinking to myself, "Just move, lady! It's not a personal offense. I'm just trying to get off the highway to go to a soccer game and you want to speed up, slow down, speed up, and slow down like somehow I've offended you. Next time, I'm not even going to turn on my blinker and I'm going to get in front of you." Right?
She's talking on her phone, and what I do is that when I slow down and she literally just slows down right beside me like, "You're not coming over here." I just stop the car on 75 and she stops the car and I go, "Hang up the phone." Like that. She just totally gives every hand gesture, right? I go around her after all the traffic is blocked and I take off and I go see my boy's game.
Guys, let me tell you something. You know, I thank the Lord I didn't do everything I felt in my heart I wanted to do at that point, but I was angry. I was mad. Really mad. Out of proportion mad. Here I was driving down the street. She has had a bad day, and for whatever reason she just wants to make life difficult for me. Instead of just going along and getting off the highway, I could just feel within my heart the rest of the night rage, anger, and frustration.
I didn't want to deal with that, but I felt like the Lord was saying to me, "Hey, you know what, Blake? You were angry. You were angry. You need to deal with that." It was just humbling to go to my wife and go to guys that I'm living life with and just go, "Guys, I just have to tell you. I think I'm running on high RPMs right now.
There is something in me right now… I'm just dealing with anger. I hate to confess it to you and embarrassed to tell you this stupid story about this woman on the road and where it took my heart. I just have to confess to you, I think I'm leaking in a lot of ways. I'm going to ask for your help and your prayers. I'm going to Nineveh, and I'm going deal with it." Everything in me wanted to just sweep it aside and head to Tarshish, right?
Let's pick it up in verses 4 and following. See the Lord's response. It says this. "The LORD…" He sees that Jonah is on the run, right? He "…hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up." Here is the Lord. He sees Jonah is thinking, "A sailboat is going to get me out of the eyes of the presence of the Lord." What he does… I just picture him like a major league pitcher. He hurls, literally is what the Hebrew says, a wind so strong that it creates this storm that the boat is about to break apart.
We see this storm become so great that the sailors become desperate. Look at this in verses 5 through 14. Look at the sailors' desperation. "Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah…" Now notice the contrast between Jonah and the sailors as well.
"But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep. So the captain approached him and said, 'How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.' Each man said to his mate, 'Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.' So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, 'Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?'"
Do you see what's happening here? The sailors are desperate. They think they're going to die. They're throwing over their cargo, which is their profits, gang. They're throwing over their profits. They're desperate to know who caused this storm. There's an ancient way of discerning what the Lord's will is by this casting of the lots. This lot falls on Jonah.
They're looking at him. They're going, "Man, it's you! You've made the gods upset. All this calamity has struck us because of you! Where do you come from? What's your problem? What have you done?" That's what they're asking. In verse 9, Jonah says to them,
"He said to them, 'I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.' Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, 'How could you do this?' For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.
So they said to him, 'What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?'—for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy. He said to them, 'Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.' However…" Notice this. This is amazing, the compassion the sailors show.
"However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them. Then they called on the LORD and said, 'We earnestly pray, O LORD, do not let us perish on account of this man's life and do not put innocent blood on us; for You, O LORD, have done as You have pleased.'"
I mean, here are these sailors who are showing great compassion to Jonah who has caused all this calamity, and here is Jonah unwilling to show compassion on those who don't know the Lord. There's a great contrast here. But I think what sticks out to me in these verses is here they are trying to figure out what the problem is, and they go to Jonah and they say, "Who are you?" and what does he say? He says, "I'm a Hebrew."
In modern-day vernacular he says, "You know what? I'm a Christian. I'm a child of God. I'm a card-carrying member of Watermark Community Church, a fully-devoted follower of Christ, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land." Really? Really? Jonah, you're on the run, man. You don't fear the Lord right now. Otherwise you'd be on your way to Nineveh. Instead you're about your own plan, and you are on your way to Tarshish.
It just struck me that our running from the Lord undermines the credibility of our testimony, doesn't it? I mean, every time we get on a boat and we head the other way or we walk away from what we know is obedience and we walk in disobedience, our words may be, "Hey, you know what? I'm a fully devoted follower of Christ," but it undermines the credibility of our testimony. Gang, how many of us have seen this?
You ask a nonbeliever, "What is it that keeps you from trusting in Jesus Christ?" and nine out of 10 times they're going to go, "Well, let me tell you. I have a friend who says that he is a Christian, but let me tell you something. His life…" Fill in the blank. All of sudden what they tell you is a story about how his life doesn't match up with his testimony.
What you hear is the church is just full of hypocrites. I just want to go, "Let's talk about that. Let's address that issue." It's tragic that all of us, all of us we don't lead lives and do things that sometimes we wish we did. Gang, it undermines the credibility of our testimony and it dishonors the Lord. A watching world has seen us get on boats and head the other way, and it confuses them.
It confuses them when we don't deal with conflict the way we should. It confuses them when we choose not to date well, as Scripture calls us to, but we have the same standards as anybody else would. It confuses them when we choose to practice business deals that are no different than the non-believers working right beside us.
Our community, our friends, our family, they look at us and they go, "Man, I am confused." Even more tragically, our kids. How many times I've heard people say, "You know, I grew up in church. I knew all the Bible stories. I watched my mom and dad go to church. We'd pray before meals. But their lives were inconsistent with what Scriptures taught, and I'm confused if this whole Jesus thing is real."
Gang, God is not looking for us to be perfect, but he is looking for us to be authentic. Then when we get on that boat to Tarshish, we should just confess. We should just say, "Hey, you know what? I blew it. I don't want to deal with my imperfection. I don't want to deal with my sin. I don't want to talk to you about how I failed to go to Nineveh." Instead of pretending to be one thing when we're not.
Here's Jonah. He is on this boat and he is causing such disaster to all the people around him, scaring them to death. He has his testimony. He is saying all the right things, yet his life is inconsistent with what he claims to be true. Then we see in verses 15 and 16, it picks up and says, "So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. Then the men feared the LORD greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows."
It is here I wish we could just go and interview the sailors and go, "Man, what did you do at that point? Was there a debate amongst you? You threw this guy overboard, he goes into the sea, and then the sea becomes calm. Were there guys who maybe thought, 'Let's turn this thing around and go save this guy. The storm has calmed down. Are we really going to leave this guy to die?' Was there some debate?"
Did they just continue on their voyage and head to Tarshish so they could go, "Man, we threw out all of our cargo, so we have to go back to Joppa now," or what did they do? Where did they go from here? It says here that they prayed to the one true God. Did they investigate who this God of Israel is? Did they perhaps at one point become fully devoted followers of the one true God? What happened to these men?
The contrasts in chapter 1 are great, right? You have Jonah who slept and the sailors who panic. Jonah doesn't pray; the sailors pray. Jonah fails to show compassion; the sailors show compassion. Jonah doesn't fear the Lord; the sailors do fear the Lord. What happened to these guys? It seems as if their hearts are just ripe.
Did they go and when they got into port did they stop and go, "Man, we have to tell you this story. We were so scared. We threw this guy overboard and the sea just stopped. He told us about this God and heaven. No longer do we believe there are multiple gods, but he spoke of this one God. Man, right before us, before we knew it, we threw him overboard, and the sea got calm." What happened to these guys?
You know, if we learn anything from chapter 1 it's that running from the Lord is a futile exercise, isn't it? I mean, here's Jonah. He is out in this dark sea all by himself left to die, isolated and alone. Running from the Lord. If there's anything that chapter 1 teaches us, it's that it's futile. It's futile. It may look like there's life. It may seem like a better way to get on the boat and head to Tarshish, but man, it's futile.
It's interesting, just even preparing for this message. I'm sitting in my office talking to a friend of mine. Sure enough, I hear all these sirens, which isn't unlikely just on Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway, you know? I hear them all the time. I look down, and there's this guy trying to outrun the police. There are about eight police cars chasing after this guy.
Five minutes later, I hear more sirens, and I look out, and now there are about 20 police cars. Instead of going westbound, he is going eastbound on Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway, and now a helicopter. I'm just sitting there thinking, "Hey, man, this is a futile exercise. It's just a matter of time. You may run all you want, but they're going to catch you. I mean, there are 20 of them and a helicopter, and somehow you think you're going to escape." Right?
I think some of us sometimes just think that you know what we do is we just we're kind of like Jonah. We don't really believe that we're going to escape the vision of God, do we? I mean do you think Jonah really thought that somehow he could go so far to the west that God wasn't going to see him anymore? No!
You know what I think he did? He tried to remove himself as far as he could from anything that would remind him of God and God's call on his life. We're just the same way that when we're living in sin or we're making our way to Tarshish, do you know what we do? We try to justify, rationalize, minimize our sin, we start to pull away from community, pull away from studying God's Word, pull away from everything that's going to remind us of our call to obedience.
We run, and what happens? We find ourselves in a big, dark, lonely sea all by ourselves and in need of a lot of help because we're in a world of hurt. We discover that running from the Lord is futile. It's futile. The Scripture says, "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." Isn't that true? God is calling us to go to Nineveh to take steps of obedience, but we think life is found over here and, gang, we're not going to find life. Time and time again, we learn this lesson. It's the lesson that Jonah has to teach us this evening.
Real quickly, just to sum it up, the Lord is calling each one of us to step out in faith one way or the other. To be courageous, to live by faith, to take that next step. Just like Jonah, we all can think of reasons why we don't want to go there. We don't want to forgive. We don't want to deal with that sin. We'd rather cover it up. It just looks so tempting to go the other way.
If you find yourself there tonight, gang, you find yourself in that sea now feeling alone, now feeling far from the presence of God, in worse condition than you were ever before, gang, you need to know that Jonah has a message for you. Next week, we're going to talk about how salvation can be found in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. Let's pray.
Lord, we do tonight just come before you grateful for the reminder that life is found in a relationship with you. Lord, oftentimes we forsake your calling on our lives and we run the other way because it's just so hard. We don't want to uncover the anger in our hearts. We don't want to uncover our enslavement to sin, those habits we don't want other people to know about. We'd just rather leave it in the dark. So, Lord, we're running the other way. Father, I just pray that you would expose our hearts.
I pray, Father, that you would help us Lord to turn the boats around and to begin to live in obedience. Lord, I thank you, Father, that as we'll discover next week, Lord that there's hope even for those who find themselves all alone. There is salvation. There is forgiveness. There is grace that is extended even to the Assyrians, a brutal and wicked people, that your grace is so great that you'd be willing even to forgive them, even to forgive us. Lord, we celebrate your love and your grace and your compassion. In Christ's name, amen.
What breaks God's heart? Do you know? Do you care? In this series, we meet Jonah, an 8<sup>th</sup> century B.C. prophet, who was charged by God to care for one of His great concerns: the city of Nineveh. A barbaric people far from God and immersed in pagan tradition, the Ninevites faced certain judgment and destruction. But when God commands Jonah to go to Nineveh to warn them and plead for their repentance, the battle begins. Jonah's journey of running, rebellion, repentance, resentment and return to God is much more than a children's story about a man and a huge fish. It's a powerful lesson on disobedience, God's great mercy for all people and our willingness to love others as God loves them. How willing are you to follow God and love others at all cost? This series on Jonah is a great opportunity for you to explore, study and find out.