God Over All - Book of Jonah

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Instead of a focus on Jonah, we will discover our Creator's power and character as we take a look at the book of Jonah. The real story is not in Jonah's running away, nor is it in the fish, but rather, it is the examination of the ability and mind of God. Observing the Almighty in this fascinating story should lift our voice in praise as well as bring us to our knees in humble submission. 

 

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Jonah 2:1-10

I tried to flee from the presence of the Lord,
Rather than proclaim His prediction;
But when they cast me into the deep sea,
I cried out to Him in my affliction.
 
Down in the deep, in the heart of the sea,
The great fish He prepared, found me;
And from his belly I cried out to the Lord,
As the waters of the deep closed 'round me.
 
I went down to the moorings of the mountains;
Seaweeds were wrapped around my head;
Earth, with its bars closed forever around me,
Yet God brought up my life as from the dead.
 
In the depths my soul fainted within me;
To God I cried as I remembered His word,
With a voice of thanksgiving I shall obey,
For I know salvation is of the Lord.
 
-Jennie Flowers 

 

 

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GOD OVER ALL 

If the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea and then brings calm... 

The Lord can calm our storms.

If the LORD prepared a great fish to save Jonah from drowning ...

The Lord can help us to see Him more clearly in His time and in His way.

And he said: "I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, And He answered me. "Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice."

The Lord hears our cries, even in the darkest night.  

If the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land ...

The Lord can deliver us out of our struggles.

If God cared about the evil city of Ninevah and was willing to forgive them after He saw their works of repentance ...

In His great mercy, the Lord will forgive us when we repent.

If the Lord prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah in one night, so that it might be shade to deliver him from his misery...

The Lord can shield us.

If God can use a worm to do His will...

The Lord can use all of us who the world deems as insignificant.

If God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah's head, so that he grew faint...

The Lord can discipline us for our own good - for our instruction.

If the Lord pitied Nineveh and even the animals of "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"?

The Lord can pity us and pour out mercy upon us.

If God is over all His creation and He expected Jonah to obey Him and to care for all nations as the Lord cares for His creation...
He expects it from us, as well. "Be holy for I am holy." 1 Peter 1:16

 

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"The darkness shall not hide from You."
 
Is the following passage a comfort to you or does it produce fear? 
 
Where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me," Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.  (Psalm 139:7-12)
 
It was, most definitely, a comfort to Jonah to know God saw him in the deep darkness of the belly of the fish. 
 
And he said: "I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, And He answered me. "Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice. (Jonah 2:2)
 

 

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 Keep Focus on What is Important 

A whale? A whale shark? An unknown sea creature? No, it can't be a whale because a whale is a mammel or did they even know the difference back then? Which one swallowed Jonah?  It doesn't really matter, does it?

What about gastric juices in the stomach? How could Jonah survive? How could he breathe? 

None of these questions need an answer because God can created or command any creature He desires. Rather than be distracted with the unknowns of the book, let's see what is known - God's power, mercy, justice, and love for all.

 

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While it doesn't matter what kind of fish swallowed Jonah, there are some interesting facts about one of God's creations - the blue whale.

 

-Biggest blue whale ever recorded was ~110 feet (33m). Our whale is pretty big – she’s 85 feet long, which is about 25 m. That’s as long as two school buses parked end to end! 
- A blue whale’s tail is as wide as a soccer net (a professional soccer net, not a school one). That’s about 25 ft (8m). 
- A blue whale’s flipper (which is analagous to a human’s hand) is as long as you are tall. 
- Blowhole (which is like your nose, it’s just on top of their head so it’s easy for them to breathe in water), is large enough for a baby to crawl through. When they exhale, the blow can reach 30 feet tall (and smells terrible).
- Arteries are big enough for a baby to crawl through, at about 9 inches in diameter (approx the same diameter as a dinner plate). 
- Heart is as big as a small car (VW beetle for example). 
- Blue whale mouths are huge, too – they can swallow a volume of water larger than themselves. Their throat stretches down to their navel. Tongue is the size of an elephant. You and 400 of your friends could fit in its mouth. 
- A baby blue whale is about the size of 2 minivans.

 via Blue Whale Project 

Fin whales are found in the Mediterranean Sea. They are the second largest whales measuring 75 feet in the northern hemisphere and 85 feet in the southern.

 

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God's Mercy for All People of All Nations

As we see from the first verse to the last, the book of Jonah is a book about love. We read about God's care for nations and for an angry, disobedient, rebellious, prejudiced man. This book of love reminds me of two passages:

"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1Timothy 2:1-4)

"Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:7-9)

God's mercy is as high as the heavens!

  • God cared for a violent nation.
  • God cared for a small group of ignorant men in a ship. 
  • God cared for one, rebellious man. 
  • God cares for you and me.

 
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Jonah lacked God's compassion and mercy. He was so angry about God saving the wicked, Gentile nation that he prefered death over seeing the salvation of Ninevah. "So he prayed to the LORD, and said, "Ah, 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 lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm." (John 4:2)

Jonah's own nation, the Jews, had been very disobedient but he believed they needed the mercy of God. However, he judged that the disobedient Gentile nation of Ninevah didn't deserve God's compassion and mercy. In his nationalistic self-focus he didn't see the heart of the Gentiles. 

  • The Gentiles believed in their idols; Jonah the One True God. 
  • The Gentiles prayed to their gods during the storm; Jonah didn't pray at all. 
  • The Gentiles cared enough about Jonah to try to save him; Jonah ran away to prevent saving the Gentiles.
  • The Gentiles repented for having to throw Jonah overboard; Jonah was angry the Gentiles in Ninevah were saved.
  • The Gentiles had compassion for Jonah; Jonah knew of God's compassion for the Gentiles and didn't want anything to do about it. 
  • The Gentiles in Ninevah repented of their sins; did Jonah?
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All nations, all people belong to the Creator. Who are we to place ourselves above other nations, other people? Who are we to say God chose us and not others? Who are we to push our ways, our thoughts and our desires over God's? Since the Creator loves His world, who are we to choose not to love? 
 
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 Woe to him who strives with his Maker!
 
Do you ever get angry at God because life doesn't go according to your desire?
Do you obey His word in areas that are reasonable and desireable to you, but refuse to obey commands you don't understand or disagree with?
Do you study and study the Bible and come to conclusions based on what you want God to say? 
Do you love everyone in the world except for a certain race that you have no desire to love?
Do you ever strive with your Maker by placing your ideas, your desires, and your decisions over His? 
 
I am the LORD, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me, That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting That there is none besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things.' "Rain down, you heavens, from above, And let the skies pour down righteousness; Let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation, And let righteousness spring up together. I, the LORD, have created it. "Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?' Or shall your handiwork say, 'He has no hands'? (Isa 45:5-9)

Jonah's Prejudice
 
Down to Tarshish to flee
Down in the ship to sleep
Down to the depths of the sea
Down in the belly of the fish and weep.
 
Up and down the waves tossed 
Up prayers went for salvation
Up out of the fish's belly
Up to warn that great nation.
 
Over the city to walk
Over the vine did grow
Over the worm passed through.
Over the sun beat low. 

Through perilous waters
Through treacherous winds
Through God's compassion
Through mercy, God did send.
 
Stay in his anger and scorn
Stay where he began
Stay in the belly of the fish
Stay in the darkness of man. 
 
-Pat Gates 

 

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God's Loving Discipline
in the book of Jonah 

 
God's care for souls is scattered throughout the book of Jonah - God used His creation to discipline and teach. 
 
God's care for us sometimes may involve discipline, but we know that God's discipline is always in wisdom, love, and care for the good of His people. Let's take a look at God's providence in the book of Jonah and notice some lessons we can learn about God's character. Hopefully, with these things in mind, we can patiently endure our times of discipline knowing it is for our own good. 
 
 
The Lord sent the wind to stop Jonah's foolishness. Notice, no one was killed.
The Lord used the idolatrous sailors on the ship. Notice, they became believers. 
The Lord prepared a fish to discipline and to save Jonah. Notice, three days of great affliction caused Jonah to "again look towards the holy temple."
The Lord caused the fish to throw up Jonah. Notice, God's intent was to save and give Jonah a second chance.
The Lord, through Jonah, warned the violent ungodly people of Ninevah that He would destroy them. Notice, God's mercy and desire for the city to be saved.
The Lord provided a plant to grow over Jonah to protect and comfort him. Notice Jonah's gratitude for the relief from the blistering sun.
The Lord prepared a vehement east wind when the sun arose to open Jonah's eyes to the One who has the right to save and to destroy. Notice, more suffering had to occur for Jonah's good. 
The Lord prepared a worm to destroy the vine in order to teach a lesson. Notice, Jonah's attitude when life doesn't go his way. 
The Lord directs Jonah to truth. Notice, the entire book of Jonah was a series of providential events to help change and save His people.   

 

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 The Critic
By Jean A. Thornton

A little see lay in the ground
And soon began to sprout.
"Now which, of all the flowers around,"
It mused, "Shall I come out?"
"Lily’s face is fair and proud,
But just a trifle cold.
The Rose, I think, is rather loud,
And then, it’s fashion’s old.
The Violet’s all very well,
But not a flower I’d choose.
Nor yet the Canterbury Bell –
I never cared for blues."
And so it criticized each flower,
This supercilious seed,
Until it woke one summer hour,
And found itself a weed.
 
 
 
 

 

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Are Favorable Circumstances Proof that God is With Us in Our Decisions?
 
When Jonah  "fled from the presence of the Lord" his life was going smoothly: 
 
He left Gath-hepher; went down to the coast.
  • No accident stopped him.
  • In Joppa no illness delayed him.
  • The sea was peaceful.
  • He found just the ship he wished, and bound whither he desired.
  • There was room for him on board.
  • He had money enough for the passage; "so he paid the fare."
  • He went aboard. What could be better?
 
In themselves, prosperity is no proof of the Divine favour, nor adversity of the Divine displeasure. We have a "sure word" to guide us. And had Jonah tested his conduct by God's word, he would have known, in spite of all that seemed favourable, that he was going "the way of transgressors."
 
Have you success in wrong? It is none the less wrong. Things are not really, permanently favourable if God is unfavourable. Are we right with him? Then all things, storm as well as shine, shall be right with us. "Even the night shall be light about us."   -Pulpit Commentary

 

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Gratitude
A Second Chance 
 
The fish's belly was not only for discipline but also for salvation. It was God giving Jonah a second chance.
 
In gratitude let's praise God for His mercy and giving us all a second chance through Christ.  
 
"When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple. Those who regard worthless idols Forsake their own Mercy. But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD."  (Jon 2:7-9)




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September/October 2017