Jonah 1:1 Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.
3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
4 But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.
5 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.
6 So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.
The Bible reminds us often of the importance of God’s Word. Prior to the completion of the Scriptures, God would speak to individuals with an audible voice. Jonah was a prophet of God. He had been chosen by God for a specific task. God’s prophets were to speak His Word to the people. God’s prophets were Jews who were trained by God and by other prophets for the work that He had for them.
In our text, God had a unique message for Jonah. As we will see, Jonah did not agree with God’s message for him. He needed to learn the importance of listening to what the LORD has to say.
In verse 2 Jonah was commanded by the LORD to go to Nineveh. Nineveh was a pagan city. The people of Nineveh were Gentiles. Jonah was a Jew. He did not like the people of Nineveh. Jonah’s call to go to Nineveh was an unusual call. We do not read of any other prophet in the Old Testament being called to go specifically to a Gentile people to preach the Word of the LORD. God’s command to Jonah was for the benefit of the people of Nineveh. It was also a way for Him to shame Israel. Why was God sending this man of God to a Gentile people? We know that God wants all people to know Him. We also know that in the Old Testament times, He raised up the nation of Israel to be a witness to the rest of the world of His grace and mercy and justice, etc. Israel was to live under the blessings of God so that the rest of the world would take note and desire to know this true God as well. We know that in the early days of king Solomon that was the case. The queen of Sheba travelled to Israel with her entourage to hear the wisdom of Solomon. She was quite impressed with how the people of Israel lived and the respect and honour they had toward king Solomon.
By the time of Jonah, Israel was not a God fearing nation. They had looked to the heathen for direction. They had adopted idolatry and were suffering greatly as a nation due to their rebellion against God. The nations around her did not look upon her as a particularly blessed nation. They despised her and just wanted to plunder her and destroy her as a nation.
God chose Jonah to be an evangelist to a foreign people. He wanted Jonah and Israel to be reminded that His Word was important and it was necessary for all people. As we noted, Jonah disagreed with God’s command. He had no intention of going to Nineveh with God’s message. He would go in a different direction. He would discover that God would not allow him to succeed with his plan.
God told Jonah that the wickedness of the people of Nineveh had reached up to heaven. He wanted those people to be given further truth that would help them to see the importance of turning to the true God.
In verse 3 we see that Jonah was not going to listen to God. He thought he could flee from God and get away with disobeying the LORD. We see here that God will use the freewill of man to teach him important lessons. Man does not always appreciate His lessons, but they are always important and needed.
Jonah found a ship that would take him away from where God wanted him to go. Jonah had some money. He paid the price of the ticket. He entered the ship and went down into the ship to relax. He deceived himself into thinking that he could run away from God without any consequences.
In verse 4 we are reminded that God was fully aware of what Jonah was doing. A person can believe they are hiding from God, but they are simply deceiving themselves. Adam and Eve thought they could hide from God after they sinned, but God knew where they were. God showed them that their efforts to cover for their sin did not work. The same is true for all people.
Jonah would learn that even if he paid money to buy a ticket to go in a different direction than where God wanted him to go, he could never run from God. The Bible teaches us that those who are saved belong to God. He has a calling for each saved person. His way is right. When a child of God chooses to disobey God, he or she is always the loser. God is the Almighty God. He is omniscient and He is all-powerful. He is perfect in all things and His way is always right. Jonah could have chosen to know the blessing of God in obeying Him. He would discover that his way was not the way of blessing.
God sent a great wind to trouble the waters. The people of that time did not have diesel engines that were spewing out fumes to move the ships. They were moved by the wind. The people did not drive cars that would give off pollution. God showed that He was in charge of the wind then and He is still in charge of the wind today. He caused a strong wind to blow that would put the entire ship and the crew in danger all because one man was trying to run away from God. We see the negative impact that one disobedient saved person can have on others around them. It is expected that lost people would go their own way. It is not expected that God’s people would go their own way.
We read in verse 4 that the wind was so strong that the ship was in danger of being broken up with the wind. God is more concerned about people than He is about earthly possessions. In verse 5 the mariners were afraid and they called out to their false gods. They did not know the truth. They could have known it, but they were following their own imaginations. They were following the false religion that they had learned from their homes and from society.
We see here as well that even though Jonah was trying to run away from God, God would use him to teach an important lesson to these mariners. In verse 5 we see that the mariners emptied the ship of its cargo just to try to save the ship and their own lives. Their profits were gone. They did not want to lose their lives.
The Bible tells us that Jonah had gone down below and was laying down and was asleep. We see here as well that the saved person does not determine truth by his feelings or by his circumstances. Even though Jonah appeared to be at ease, he was not pleasing God. The men that were in charge of this ship were frantic. They were without hope and desperate to find a way to get out of this storm. Jonah was a prophet of God and he knew better but he went down into the ship and was asleep. Many people would look at this and think that if they are at “peace” then God must be happy with them.
The shipmaster came to Jonah and rebuked him for being asleep while they were working frantically to save the ship and themselves. They knew that Jonah was not part of their false religions. They expected him to call upon his God. They were throwing out prayers to any god they could imagine. Theirs was a futile effort. They had used circumstantial evidence in the past to assume their gods could hear and could help them. In true ecumenical fashion, they wanted Jonah to call upon his God, just in case He might answer them.
What a shame that Jonah had such a poor testimony. He knew the true God. He knew that God had the power to cause a wind and the power to stop the wind. He knew that God was able to give safe passage. He knew that God had the power to convince lost people to repent and be saved. Jonah knew so much about the true God, and yet he assumed that he could run and hide from this true God. We see again how powerful our minds are. We can convince ourselves that wrong is right. As we noted in Psalm 19, we need God to show us the truth at all times. We need Him to help us to see the evil of deception and self-will.
God wanted the people of Nineveh to hear the truth and be saved. He also wanted these mariners to hear the Word of God and be saved. At this point Jonah was of no value to either group of people. The mercy of God would change this situation for His glory. It is so important to know the true God and submit to Him. Don’t fight against the will and way of God. Submit to Him. If you are reading this but not saved, stop fighting against God and get saved. Begin to be blessed by trusting in Him. If you are saved but trying to run away from the LORD, that is a foolish choice. Listen to God’s Word. You know what you are doing is wrong. You may be trying to convince yourself that what you are doing is good and right. However, the Word of God will show you the facts. Submit to Him and serve Him faithfully. It is a great privilege to be a true servant of God that can be used to help others to know His forgiveness and blessings.