Reading For Monday Jonah 1:1-17
The word of Lord came to Jonah, who was in the midst of his prophetic career. He was probably the most popular prophet of his day due to his consistently encouraging prophecies regarding the military successes of Jeroboam II. Jonah was told to go to Nineveh. Typically, prophets of Israel did not leave their homeland to pronounce the judgment of the Lord on Gentile nations. Nineveh was one of the main centers of the Assyrian empire. Nineveh was a wicked city whose transgressions included idolatry and pride, cruel oppression, and especially brutal warfare. Nineveh was also a city that found itself under divine condemnation. Jonah would have been the first Israelite prophet to announce divine judgment to a foreign city, but here comes one of the surprising plot twists in the book. Jonah rebelled against the command of the Lord. Instead of going to Nineveh, Jonah fled to Tarshish. Initially, we are not given the reason for Jonah’s reluctance to proceed immediately to Nineveh. Jonah is simply a truant prophet of the Lord. Jonah wanted to flee from God. In essence, Jonah tended his resignation as a prophet. Jonah traveled to Joppa, a seaport on the coast of ancient Israel. There he found a Phoenician cargo ship about to sail for Tarshish. Jonah paid the fare with a stubborn determination to abandon his ministry.
The first of a series of supernatural events that demonstrate God's sovereignty in the book is now related. God hurled a great wind on the sea. The storm was so fierce that the crew was afraid, and the ship was about to break up. Every man cried out to his god as the last resort. The crew jettisoned the cargo to lighten the boat in the hope they would be able to ride out the storm and tried to counter the storm by some rowing of their own. In spite of this violent storm, Jonah was asleep in the hold of the ship. The ship’s captain discovered Jonah and rebuked him for sleeping during the crisis. The crew concluded that the storm must have been sent against them to punish someone on board, and they decided to “cast lots” to determine the guilty party. Once his guilt was exposed, the sailors began to question Jonah. Jonah explained that he was a Hebrew. Jonah described God as the one who made the sea and the dry land. Under the pressure of the moment, Jonah was bearing witness to a group of pagan men. His confession of faith in God is at the same time an admission that God was responsible for the storm. The reluctant missionary told them that he was fleeing from God. When the sea became even more tempestuous, they pled with Jonah to tell them what they could do that might calm the sea. Jonah directed them to throw him into the sea, but the Gentile sailors were reluctant to throw Jonah into the sea, and they rowed desperately to return to land. After every attempt to free themselves of the storm and Jonah's God failed, they prayed that they might not perish in the storm or be held guilty of shedding innocent blood. The sailors picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea. Immediately, the sea stopped its raging. When the sailors witnessed the instantaneous calming of the water, they were even more afraid and worshiped God. They offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows of allegiance to him. God appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah. God's creatures know their maker, and they do his bidding. The great fish is the instrument of God’s grace. The good Lord saved this rebellious prophet from certain destruction in the water of the sea through a fish. Jonah survived three days and nights in the stomach of the fish. The fish event occupies only three verses in the Book of Jonah but gets most of the attention.
Things To Consider:
- What does this teach us about God's justice and the nations?
- What are some ways that you have acted in Jonah fashion by trying to run from God? Are you still running?
- How bad must the storm have been for men that had spent their lives on the water to reach their apparent desperation?
- How does one sleep through such a tremendous storm?
- What do you think was going through Jonah's mind while the sailors cast lots?
- How do the words that Jonah speaks indict him in his hypocrisy?
- Why do you think Jonah's solution was to throw him overboard since it meant certain death?
- What do we see about desperation and the prayers of the crew?
- How is the fish God's grace and salvation?