THE PROPHET JONAH Print E-mail

JONAH 

Sunday, May 3, 2020, the Year of Our Lord 

Pastor Carolyn Sissom 

 

May 1, 2020, was a day set aside for national and international repentance. With the pandemic behind us, and now facing worldwide economic challenges, the message of Jonah is that God’s judgments, even if prophesied, can be averted by genuine repentance. 

 

Just as God forgave the heathen sailors;  forgave Jonah; and forgave Nineveh; how much more His own people?  And for the Church of Jesus Christ, how much more will he forgive the United States and the wickedness of New York City?  

 

Nineveh was the largest city in the world until 612 B.C.  It was destroyed by the Babylonians and Medes whose armies toppled the Assyrian Empire.  The ruins of the city are across the Tigris River from Mosul, Iraq.  The ancient city was built by Ashur, one of the twelve tribes of Israel.  

 

Gen. 10:11 - Out of that land went forth Asshur, and built Nineveh. 

 

Deut. 33:24 - And of Asher he (Moses) said, Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil. 

 

The Lord Jesus Christ honored and confirmed the prophet Jonah in the New Covenant.  Jonah is the only prophet with whom he compares himself.  Both came from Galilee.   

 

Mat.12:38-41: Some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”  He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed, a greater than Jonah is here. 

 

The Lord Jesus used the events surrounding the prophet Jonah in his preaching to emphasize God’s mercy upon repentant people. He is also emphasizing the seriousness of their sins of rejecting their Messiah.  Jesus considered the repentance of the people of Nineveh to have been accomplished through the preaching of Jonah. Because Jesus confirms the three days and three nights in the belly of the fish to be factual, it is not even a consideration that the story is fictional.  

 

Nor do I consider the story an allegory.  Although symbolism is always prophetic and the Word of God has not only dualistic interpretation, but many layers:   

  1.  Jonah’s name means “dove”. The dove had for long been a symbol for Israel (Psa. 74:19, Hos. 11:11).  

  1. The flight of Jonah symbolizes Israel’s failure to fulfil its spiritual mission before the exile. 

  1. Many nations (typified by the mariners) were threated by the judgment of God. 

  1. Jonah (Israel) was sleeping in their midst and was unconcerned about their fate. 

  1. Jonah’s disappearance in the sea into the great fish and his ejection upon the land symbolizes the exile of the Jews and their restoration to Palestine. 

  1. The swallowing up of Jonah be the sea-monster reflects Israel being swallowed by the Babylonian dragon (Russian Bear, British Lion, etc.). 

Like a serpent he has swallowed me (Jer. 51:34)) .  Jer. 51:44: I will punish Bel in Babylon,and take out of his mouth what he has swallowed. 
The nations shall no longer flow to him; 
the wall of Babylon has fallen. 

 

The LORD Himself is the chief character in this amazing  who speaks first and last; and acts in between.  While his dealings with the sailors, with the Ninevites and the plant are all significant.  It is the Lord’s dealings with Jonah which are the chief subject of the book.  The book is unique in that it records a true prophetic message from God which was not fulfilled until a later period (612 B.C.).  Unlike all other books of the prophetic canon, it delivers its message through a narrative story and not through a series of oracles. 

 

Jonah had a reputation of being a prophet prior to his commission to preach to Nineveh. 

 

In 2 Ki. 14: 21-27, Jeroboam II restored the boundaries of Israel according to the Word of the Lord, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant, Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath-Hepher.   

 

Jonah’s remarkable prophecy of the restoration of Israel to its dimensions at the time of Solomon was fulfilled during the reign of Jeroboam II.  The scripture makes plain that Jeroboam was not a godly ruler (vs. 24).     

 

Jonah must have enjoyed great popular respect as a true prophet when Syrian border-raids against his native Galilee came to an end.  This would explain his reluctance to accept a less popular commission, which might fail and cause him to lose substantial face.  

 

 Jonah 1:1-2: The word of the LORD came to Jonah (Dove), the son of Amittai (truth), saying,  “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” 

 

Jonah was required by God to prophesy an event that did not take places.  Other O.T. prophets denounced foreign nations from a safe distance.  Jonah had to go into the actual situation to Nineveh and announce the overthrow of the inhabitants. 

Jonah, the prophet of successful reputation for his wonderful fulfilled prophecy of restoration of the borders of Israel, tries to abandon his call and resign his commission.  He is trying to evade the Lord.  He is running away from the dramatic stage where God is working out His purposes and judgments. 

   

The pathway of disobedience is uncomfortable through the storm and the fish’s belly. 

 

The sailors cried to the Lord to not have innocent blood on their hands (1:14).  They were not heartless men.  But at Jonah’s insistence,  they took up Jonah and threw him into the sea. The sea is miraculously still.  Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. Previously they had been crying out to their gods.  Jonah has saved them.  They will not be drowned because of his fault.  He also saves them spiritually.  They feared the Lord.  They sacrificed to the Lord.  This repetition of God’s covenant name makes it clear that the sacrifices were not to the god of the sea or to Bel, but to Jonah’s God.  

 

Whether God send a whale, a sea monster, or some other marine creature, there are ample theories.  It is my faith fact that God sent the creature at the exact time when the prophet would otherwise have drowned. 

 

Why was Jonah swallowed by the great fish? 

  1.  To save him from drowning. 

  1. To disciple the rebellious prophet. 

  1. To provide the sign of the prophet Jonah of the death and resurrection of the greater than Jonah who came from Galilee. 

  1. A parable of the prophecy of Babylon swallowing up Israel by the serpent, Nebuchadnezzar. (Jer. 51:34; Jer. 51:44).  

  1.  

The word for serpent in Jeremiah 51 is translated as dragon. (I mention that since we have been doing warfare against the head of the dragon called Coronavirus.) 

 

 

Jonah 2:2:  Jonah cried...He heard…I cried…You heard.  

 

 

The Psalm of Jonah – chapter 2: 3-8: 

You cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about; all Your billows and Your waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of Your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.  The waters compassed me about, even to the soul; the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.  I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me forever; yet have You brought up my life from corruption, O LORD MY GOD.  When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer came in to You, into Your holy temple.  They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.  But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed.  Salvation is of the Lord. 

 

 

2:10: The Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.  

Jonah 3:   As Jonah began to enter into the exceeding great city of Nineveh, a three-day journey from where the great fish vomited him out on dry land.  It was a day’s journey just to enter the city.  He cried and said, in forty days Nineveh will be overthrown.”  The people of o Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast. They put on sackcloth from the greatest of them even to the least of them.  Word came to the king of Nineveh.  He arose form his throne.  He took his kingly robe off and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes 

 

  

Jonah 3:7-10: The King caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles saying, “Let neither man nor beast, her nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, nor drink water.  But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God.  Yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.  Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from His fierce anger, that we will not perish?  God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that He had said that He would do to them; and He did it not. 

 

 

Jonah was bound to suffer extreme loss of face, as a false prophet.   

 

 

He would rather 120,000 Ninevites were destroyed than lose-face. 

 

  

Even this finds a contrast in the atonement accomplished for all mankind by Jesus which involved his face being marred more than any man’s.  Jesus had claimed power and glory, but his enemies deliberately destroyed his face, and took away his credibility by the humiliating disgrace of crucifixion.  Jesus is truly greater than Jonah in his willingness to lose face and to be misunderstood as a deceiver. 

Nothing less than the sign of the prophet Jonah of Christ’s resurrection from death was necessary to crown him King, Prince, High Priest, and Savior. 

 

 

Jonah appeared after the death of Elisha and before the prophesying of Amos.  Nearly 40 years must have elapsed during which the only recorded prophetic voice is Jonah’s.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

In fulfillment of his prophecy, the eighth century saw a dramatic reversal of fortunes which brought Israel and Judah great prosperity.  This prosperity was unknown since the days of David and Solomon.  This was partly because both Judah and Israel were blessed with able and long-lived rulers, Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel.  Also, Assyria had weakened Syria and was herself in difficulty.  

 

 

However, one result of Jonah’s successful mission to Nineveh is to undo all the blessing brought to Israel through Jonah’s earlier prophecy.  All the extended borders of Israel under Jeroboam II will be lost to the Assyrians.   

 

  

God had compassion and did not bring upon Nineveh the destruction he had threatened.  The O.T. has no embarrassment in God changing His mind.  God Himself never changes in His essential nature, but His nature is such that when men repent and change, then He has mercy. 

 

 

Even after Jonah’s miraculous recovery from the belly of the fish, he forgets the grace lavished upon himself and seems unconscious that it should be shared with others.  Jonah behaves rather like the unforgiving servant or the older prodigal.  This does not exhaust God’s love and patience and he again takes this rebellious servant in hand.  

 

 

Like Elijah (1 Kg. 19:4), Jonah doesn’t want to live any longer.  Both men apparently felt they had risked their lives for nothing.  In spite of their prophecies, Israel’s enemies were still powerful.  Both men seem close to a nervous breakdown. 

 

 

When we are called, it is not for ourselves, but for others.  We must have the conviction that grace is conferred on us for others.  The Christian is not just the man who is saved by Christ, he is the man whom God uses for the salvation of others by Christ.  

 

 

It is easier to repent of an open sin as the Ninevites had done, than to repent of a grudge in the heart as Jonah must.  Such men are best treated with caustic gentleness, a little humor, and a little rallying.  All these, even the humor are present in God’s treatment of Jonah.  Twice the Divine Voice speaks with soft sarcasm.  “are you very angry?”  Jonah would not answer. 

 

The Lord’s preparing of a gourd, the worm and the east wind to bless Jonah one day and blight him the next is surely a demonstration of His sovereignty over creation, nations and the affairs of men.  This is good for us to remember during this time, when we are faced with a plague, government corruption, economic challenges, and now the threat of a hornet pestilence.   

 

Jonah 4:9 11:- Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” 

But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 

“And should I not pity Nineveh, 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? 

 

Carolyn Sissom, Pastor 

Eastgate Ministries Church 

Scripture from K.J.V. and N.K.J.V. I entered into the labors of F. F. Bruce Bible Commentary, Michael C. Griffiths.  Comments and conclusions are my own and not meant to reflect the views of those who I entered into their labors.

 
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