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to know Christ
and to make Christ known
for the glory of God

8 January 2020

Jonah 1-2

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, ‘How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.’

Then the sailors said to each other, ‘Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.’ They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, ‘Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?’

He answered, ‘I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’

10 This terrified them and they asked, ‘What have you done?’ (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, ‘What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?’

12 ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea,’ he replied, ‘and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.’

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, ‘Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.’ 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

Jonah’s prayer

17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:

‘In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
    and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
    into the very heart of the seas,
    and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
    swept over me.
I said, “I have been banished
    from your sight;
yet I will look again
    towards your holy temple.”
The engulfing waters threatened me,
    the deep surrounded me;
    seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
    the earth beneath barred me in for ever.
But you, Lord my God,
    brought my life up from the pit.

‘When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
    to your holy temple.

‘Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, “Salvation comes from the Lord.”’

10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

The Sign of Jonah

God sent Jonah to Israel’s enemies in Nineveh with a message of warning and repentance. Although the prophet’s short message to Nineveh was one of judgment, nonetheless Jonah was aware of the fact that Jehovah is a ‘gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness’ (Jonah 4:2). Hence, it was certain that if the inhabitants of that great city were responsive to his message, Heaven would certainly spare them. Jonah did not want God’s mercy to come to Israel’s enemies, that is why he travelled far in the opposite direction from where God had sent him. Did he really think that he could get away from God? God is sovereign and brought Jonah back to humble obedience through a storm and a huge fish. 

In the end God was very merciful to the people of Nineveh and spared them when they humbled themselves before Him. This also gives us a picture of how we should humble ourselves before Jesus, the Son of God. He is the second Jonah.

Jesus said, ‘For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.’ Matthew 12:40-41

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your precious warnings to us and the way that Your Spirit convicts us of sin and draws us towards faith in Christ, who is the second Jonah. Thank You for Your mercy and grace which we never deserve. Please help us to live for your honour every day.

Amen.