Sunday, February 12, 2017

Jonah Did the Unexpected (Part 1 of 4)

Sermon:     GM17-147

Series:         Jonah: A Gospel of Grace



Subtitle:     Jonah Did the Unexpected

Scripture:   Jonah 1:1-3

Subject:      Jonah’s disobedience

Scope:        Jonah deliberately disobeyed God by traveling the opposite direction from which he had been commanded by God.

Scheme:      To motivate my people to resist the temptation to disobey the revealed will of God.

Scrutiny:    Why did Jonah disobey God?

Solution:    Our passage today provides the reason that Jonah disobeyed God. Jonah disobeyed God because Jonah is a perverse prophet.

Sketch:       1A     Resisting the Grace of God    (1:1-16)     (Part 1)

                             1B     The Defiant Servant (1-3)
1C       …is detected in the indifference of Jonah (1)
                                                2C       …is demonstrated by the instruction of Jehovah (2)
                                                3C       …is documented by the intention of the Journey (3)

[Title of Sermon]

Jonah Did the Unexpected (Part 1 of 4)

[Announce the Text]

Jonah 1:1-3


[Get Attention]

Have you ever heard the story of “Wrong Way Roy”?
If you are even a little bit of a football fan you should appreciate this!
Wrong Way Roy’s full name was Roy Riegels.
 He was playing in the Rose Bowl of 1929. Roy was an All-American center from the University of California, Berkeley. His team, the “Golden Bears,” were facing the Georgia Tech “Yellow Jackets.”
Roy was playing both offense and defense. It was toward the end of the first half when a George Tech player fumbled the ball. Roy picked up the loose ball and started running toward the end zone some 65 yards away. There was only one problem: it was the wrong end zone! The opposing team’s coach, Georgia Tech head coach Bill Alexander, watching this said, “He’s running the wrong way. Let’s see how far he can go.”
Fortunately, one of Roy’s teammates, named Benny Lom, took off in hot pursuit of Wrong Way Roy and tackled him just before he crossed over the wrong goal line!
Half-time came and you can imagine the shame and embarrassment of Roy. He left the field, no doubt with head hanging low to the locker room. He probably thought he was finished in that game and in football in general. Everybody in the stadium was wondering what Nibs Price, the California coach, would do with Roy Riegels.
As the team sat in the locker room, the coach remained quiet. The only sound was that of Roy, sitting in the corner and crying like a baby. Finally, the coach stood and announced to the team, “Men, the same team that started the first half will start the second half.” 
Roy Riegels lifted his head, his eyes red and his cheeks wet with tears, “Coach, I can’t do it. I’ve ruined you. I’ve ruined the University of Southern California. I’ve ruined myself. I couldn’t face that crowd in the stadium to save my life.” Coach Price reached out his hand and said, “Roy, get up and go on back; the game is only half over.”
Wrong Way Roy Riegels got up and went out to play one of the most inspiring individual efforts in Rose Bowl history.

[Raise a Need]

Have you ever pulled a “Wrong Way Roy?” Maybe you feel like Wrong Way Roy right now. Maybe you know what it was to walk with the Lord, or what God wants you do, but you turned your back on Him and “ran the wrong way.”

 Or God called you to do a certain thing and you went in the opposite direction. Satan said, “He’s running the wrong way. Let’s see how far he can go.” While the Lord, like Roy’s coach, is in effect saying, “Get up and go on back!”

Orient Theme

Today we will be looking at the story of Wrong Way Jonah.
Jonah was given a job to do and he got on a boat and went in the opposite direction. He went the wrong way!

You might say Jonah was the original “Chicken of the Sea.” He found out it is impossible to run from God. He also found out that God gives second chances! And the Lord accomplished this through a storm, a large fish, and a worm.

This is the story of a man with a mission; he was given a job to do and he refused. It’s also a story of God’s long-suffering and patience and willingness to forgive those who stop running from His will and plan for their life but instead would embrace it!

 [State the Purpose]

My purpose today is to motivate you to resist the temptation to disobey the
revealed will of God in order to “run the right way for God.” 


[Announce the text under consideration]

The author of Jonah, probably Jonah himself, speaks about the issue of disobedience to the revealed will of God in Jonah 1:1-3. If you haven’t already done so, please turn to it as we answer the question, “Why did Jonah do the unexpected?”

[Review Sermon Series]

We are beginning the first of a four part series on the subject of Jonah resisting the grace of God. Today we are going to look at verses 1-3 of chapter one.

[Background to the Text]

[Historical Background]

Jonah begins in somewhat of an exciting and maybe nail-biting manner. Jonah does not begin with a title. Jonah opens as an account or a narrative of the events in the life of a historical prophet named Jonah.

Jonah who had previously prophesied a very popular prophecy for King Jeroboam II does not like this latest commission by God. During a time of peace and prosperity in Israel and a time of weakened domination of Assyria, Jonah is commissioned by God to cry out against the city of Nineveh.

King Adad-nirari III has died and King Tiglath-pileser III has taken the Assyrian throne and the land is in turmoil. This is around 745 BC.
These events could take place as early as 780 BC and as late as 745 BC.
[Textual Background]

Chapter one contains for divisions that support or tell the story of how Jonah resisted the gospel of grace. Chapter one records the commission by God and the subsequent flight of Jonah from God. This section records Jonah’s call to “cry out” against the city of Nineveh and it records Jonah’s attempt to flee from the presence and commission of God.

[Literary Background]

 This is an historical narrative. As such it is a literal rather than account of the actions and attitude of the main character, Jonah.

[Sermon Series Background

Last week we finished a two part overview and introduction of Jonah called the Man & His Message. We looked at the author, the audience, the age, the aim, and the argument of the book of Jonah. This week we are going to examine Jonah and we will see him as he resists the grace of the gospel of God through his blatant disobedience.

[Preview Body Structure]

Our text, Jonah 1:1-3 divides itself very nicely in to three (3) parts. The first verse contains what I call an interruption of Jonah, verse two tells us the instructions of Jehovah, and verse three tells of the intentions of Jonah’s journey.

[Proposition – Theme]

So, once again our theme is Jonah does the unexpected.

[Analytical Question]

Why did Jonah do the unexpected?

Our passage describes four (4) reasons that tell us why Jonah did the unexpected. We will see that Jonah is the Perverse Prophet, Jonah is the Praying Prophet, Jonah is the Preaching Prophet, and Jonah is the Pouting Prophet.

The first reason why Jonah did the unexpected is seen in the fact…

1A     Jonah resists the grace of the gospel         (Part 1)

Main Idea: Love for God is measured or is revealed by obedience, whereas the perversity of men’s hearts is measured or revealed by their acts of disobedience.

Thomas A. Kempis once wrote, “Instant obedience is the only kind of obedience there is; delayed obedience is disobedience. Whoever strives to withdraw from obedience, withdraws from Grace.”

Jonah resisted the grace of the gospel of God. Jonah chose to withdraw from obedience to God. Jonah was…

          1B     The Defiant Servant (1-3)

Supporting Idea: The genuine believer cannot escape God’s call to obedience.

Jonah tried to escape God’s call on his life to travel to Nineveh and speak God’s word to them. Jonah was defiant! We can see in these three verses at least three (3) aspects of why we can safely say that Jonah was the defiant servant of God.

[The first aspect that where see that Jonah was the defiant servant…]
1C     …is detected in the interruption of Jonah (1)

“Now the word of Jehovah came to Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying…”

The word of the LORD (Jehovah) is used seven (7) times in the book of Jonah. It represents the will or the purpose of God in a given situation.

In the OT God spoke frequently. He conveyed His word, or his will/purpose in many different ways:

·        God often revealed Himself or His word in visions

·        God also revealed His will or purpose in dreams

o   Abraham
o   Isaac
o   Jacob
o   Daniel
o   Nebuchadnezzar
o   Pharaoh in Egypt
o   Prophets

·        God at times sent angels to convey his word or will

·        God spoke at times to convey his word or his will

Because God does not reveal himself or his word today, we can lose sight of the significance of this activity of God.

God no longer reveals himself nor does he speak. Today if we want to “hear” from God we must listen to him as we read the Bible.

There is a meme that has circulated around Face Book from time to time that makes this point very clear:

“I stopped listening to you when you said, “The Lord said to me…”

I believe we know what people mean when they say that, but as you know there is a large segment of people who believe and teach that God continues to speak today through dreams, visions, angels, or literal speech.

But my main thought here is that God has chosen to speak this word, his will or purpose to Jonah.  This is an interruption to Jonah.

We don’t know how much time has elapsed since Jonah prophesied to Jeroboam II and when God spoke to him in verse one. But Jonah was probably involved in his regular routine, working a farm or vineyard or ranching or sheepherding.

God interrupts him and his routines and says in essence, “Hey Jonah, listen up, I have a job for you.”

[So, God interrupts the life and routine of Jonah. We see this interruption magnified and how it…]
                             2C     …is demonstrated by the instruction of Jehovah (2)

“Arise, go…”

The instructions of verse two contain two (2) direct commands from God to Jonah.

Arise – this verb contains and conveys the sense of urgency or immediately. God instructs Jonah to drop what he is doing and arise up right now!

It refers to the actual physical getting up from what you are currently doing and get on the move

Go – the basic idea of this Hebrew verb is “movement.” Picture the moving or flowing of a river.

When used of human movement it usually refers to the act of walking.

God interrupts Jonah by giving him instructions that command him to stop what he is doing, stand up immediately, and beginning walking. In essence God gave Jonah traveling orders. 

Where was Jonah to begin walking immediately to?

                                      “…to Nineveh, that great city…”

                                      [Inform congregation of handout on Nineveh]

We are told in Genesis 10:11 that one of Noah’s great-grandsons founded Nineveh. Noah fathered Ham, Ham fathered Cush and Cush fathered Nimrod. Nimrod built this city around 4500 BC.

It eventually became the capital city of Assyria

Two prophets, who were contemporaries of Jonah, Zephaniah and Nahum prophesied of the coming judgment and fall of Nineveh.

Nahum in particular spoke in very vivid and powerful imagery of the coming doom of this city. Nahum even describes the enemies of Nineveh of being delirious with joy when they heard of its coming destruction.

Interesting enough, God sent Jonah to Nineveh to further pronounce judgment and to give the city an opportunity of repenting.

This devastating judgment and destruction did happen to Nineveh. It came about 120 years after Jonah visited Nineveh.

Nineveh was located very close to the east bank of the Tigress River, one of the rivers that had ran through the Garden of Eden.

Today ruins of the walls can still be seen about 220 miles NW of Baghdad in Iraq. 

The entire history of Assyria is filled with a reign of violence, terror, torture and killing conquered peoples and they pride fully carried home parts of their enemies’ leaders’ bodies as souvenirs of war.

The king of Nineveh would usually bring the severed head of a recently conquered king home, raise it on a pole in the midst of his royal banquet commemorating his victory and finally put it over the gate of Nineveh where it slowly rotted away.

The opposing generals would get even worse treatment. “The Elamite general, Dananu, was flayed alive, then bled like a lamb; his brother had his throat cut, and his body was divided into pieces which were distributed over the country as so.

 The Assyrians were notorious for amputating hands and feet, gouging eyes, and skinning and impaling their captives as souvenirs.

The final verse of Nahum’s book emphasizes the violence of the Assyrians in the form of a rhetorical question: “Who has not felt your endless cruelty?” (Nahum 3:19).

It never occurred to Ashurbanipal (the Assyrian king) that he and his men were brutal; these penalties were surgical necessities in his attempt to remove rebellions and establish discipline among… the turbulent peoples, from Ethiopia to Armenia, and from Syria to Media, whom his predecessors had subjected to Assyrian rule; it was his obligation to maintain this legacy intact.

He boasted of the peace that he established in his empire, and of the good order that prevailed in its cities; and the boast was not without truth.” There seemed to be no act of cruelty which these conquerors had not employed!

Another reason for God’s anger against Nineveh was its extreme pride, implied in Nahum 3:8. The pride of Nineveh may have been due in part to its wealth and power. One account reveals, “In Sennacherib's day the wall around Nineveh was 40 to 50 feet high. It extended for 4 kilometers along the Tigris River and for 13 kilometers around the inner city. The city wall had 15 main gates. . . . Each of the gates was guarded by stone bull statues. Both inside and outside the walls, Sennacherib created parks, a botanical garden, and a zoo. He built a water-system containing the oldest aqueduct in history at Jerwan, across the Gomel River” (Nelson's Bible Dictionary, p. 760).

And so God hated Nineveh’s pride (Isaiah 10:13 and God hated their cruelty (Nahum 3:1, 10, 19)

God told Jonah to go and preach to the cruelest people on earth.

          There are two things to keep in mind

·        First – God instructed Jonah to immediately travel to a city that was an enemy of Israel and had been a tremendous source of pain and suffering to them.

·        Second – God instructed Jonah to go to a Gentile city. Up to this point God had used many prophets to pronounce severe judgments on Gentile cities and peoples, but Jonah is actually being ordered to go to a city and proclaim God’s word to that city.

Why would God give such urgent instructions to Jonah for such a wicked and cruel city?
“…and cry out against it, for their wickedness has come up before me.”

Jonah is to cry out against the city.

This verb, “to cry out,” means to call, to declare. It can also be used to mean “to call” or “to summon.” The context and modifiers in the sentence determine the meaning of this verb.

In context it means to proclaim or announce. Jonah was instructed to pronounce judgment against this city. More specifically, Jonah was instructed to announce God’s word or message in such a way that it reached the hearer’s conscience.

This was to be a convicting, penetrating, and devastating announcement from God upon or against these people.
The word against reveals the threatening nature of Jonah’s instructions

Why? What was the reason behind this immediate, urgent, devastating proclamation?
                             “…for their wickedness has come up before Me.”

God noticed their sin. God took note of their awful sin. God saw and was well aware of the wickedness of the sins of these people.
It doesn’t mean that He hadn’t noticed their sin or had not been aware of it until now. Now God determined to do something about their sin.

This is an interesting verb. The Hebrew gives us the idea of an upward motion or direction.

We are only too well aware of the fact that God knows everything and nothing can be or will be hidden from God.

We have to ask ourselves, what does God see when He when He looks at Vancouver?

God takes note our sin!

On at least four (4) major occasions God makes it known that he is aware of sin:
·        Cain – when he killed Abel

·        Earth – God was aware of the utter sinfulness of man prior to the flood
·        Israel – when they had sinned

·        Nineveh – God took note of their sin

·        Babylon – God took note of their sin (Rev 18:5)

What a shock it must have been to Cain after he killed his brother. He couldn’t hide the fact that he had killed him;

“And He said, ‘What have you done?” [Genesis 4:10, NKJV]

God knew Cain’s sin – He knew that Cain had killed his brother Abel.

But if you do not do this, you have sinned against the LORD; and be sure your sin will find you out.” [Numbers 32:23, NRSV]

“There is no darkness nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.” [Job 34:22, NKJV]

“For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.” [Luke 12:2, NKJV]

“They do not consider in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness; now their own deeds have surrounded them; they are before my face.” [Hosea 7:2, NKJV]

Sin cannot be hidden from God. In God’s own timing He not only takes notice of sin, but He decides to do something about. It was Nineveh’s time. Now God was going to judge the sin of the Ninevites. 

So Jonah has been interrupted by God leading to his defiance and Jonah has been instructed by God to make Nineveh aware of their great sin against God.

[Thirdly, we see that Jonah is the defiant servant because his defiance…]

3C     …is documented by the intention of the Journey (3)

“But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshis. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish away from the presence of the LORD.”

I love how the Expositor’s Bible Commentary began commenting on this verse, it said:

“Jonah wanted to put an ocean between him and God.”

First thing that we see is that Jonah completely ignored the instructions of God. He didn’t even begin to comply with them in any way shape or form.

The verb “arose” means to rise up, get up, and stand up – it signifies the physical act of rising up. Jonah may have been kneeling or laying prone as God was speaking to him.

He might have been in bed and had a dream or vision. However God gave him his instructions, when God was finished Jonah stood up and immediately took off.

He boogied out of town at high speed. Where? Towards Nineveh, no way Jose.

We would say, “He beat feet!” The verb means to run away, quickly. He left fast.

The word was often used to describe couples who had eloped. Eloping couples do not take their time and hang around, they meet up and skedaddle lest they be caught and prevented from eloping.

In Job the verb is used to describe fleeting away or running away like a shadow, shadows can disappear instantly. Jonah disappeared like an eloping couple or a disappearing shadow.

So, where did he run away to as fast as he could run?


Joppa, from the Hebrew word pronounced yaw-foh, meaning beautiful, is located on Israel's

It is located on the seacoast between Caesarea and Gaza, about 35 miles northwest of Jerusalem. It is rendered variously in translations of the Word of God as "Joppa," "Japho," "Jaffe," or "Yafo." Today, the ancient city of Joppa is annexed to the modern city of Tel Aviv, Israel's largest city (see the photograph below).
Joppa has served as a port of sea trade for Israel since ancient times. The Lebanon cedar (see The Temple Cedar) that was used in the original Temple in Jerusalem arrived at Joppa, by sea from Tyre.

The use of "gentile" cedar in the Temple, including in the Most Holy Place where the Ark of the Covenant and the written Ten Commandments were located was itself a prophecy that salvation is open to all people who obey God's Law. From this we learn as well as both Jonah and Peter who later learned that lesson at Joppa.

Tarshish was a great seaport. A huge number of ocean going ships would dock there and bring in goods and take out goods. Tarshish may mean “yellow jasper” but it was also used to indicate the smelting that occurred in the area. It was used “to smelt” or to break down minerals.

At any rate instead of traveling some 500 hundred miles eastward to Nineveh, Jonah ran west to Joppa to catch a ship in order to travel some 2,000 miles west.

Why did he so quickly run away to Tarshish?

                             “…from the presence of the LORD.”

What does it mean to flee from the presence of the LORD? It means to “go away from God’s presence.”

We get an idea in Genesis 4:16 where this idea is used to describe Cain’s broken relationship with God. Cain’s rebellion against God and God’s anger with him is portrayed clearly.

By running away from God’s presence Jonah is making the statement very emphatically that he is unwilling to serve God and to carry out the instructions that God had given to him.

First, we know that God is omnipresent at all times. God is everywhere, at all times, and never has to go anywhere because he has always been there from eternity past.

God’s presence to Jonah was there in Gath-Hepher where God has spoken to Jonah and where he gave him his instructions. I believe it safe to say that Jonah did not believe he was actually running away from God or running to a place where God did not exist or occupy – I think Jonah thought he could run away from this assignment. He thought God would forget him and use someone else.

Thus far, at this point, we don’t know why Jonah decided to defy God. We don’t even know if Jonah took any time at all to think about the consequences of his defying God.    

There are at least three (3) things that we here today must consider:

·        God calls people into service by His sovereign will
·        God sends sinners words of hope, love & grace
·        No one can escape or run from God

What is interesting to me, is this is the first time we have recorded in Scripture of the defiance or disobedience of a prophet called by God.

Another interesting thought here is that Jonah means “Dove.” Doves were thought to be “silly birds” or senseless birds:

Hosea 7:11 (ESV) reads, “Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense.” This is a reference to Israel’s back and forth oscillating between seeking help from Egypt and Assyria at various times.

So it seems that Jonah might be living up to his name.

When we get to chapter four (4) we will learn the reason that Jonah ran away and attempted to ignore and defy God’s instructions. But we will leave that to another time.
Suffice it to say, Jonah got up from the ground or bed or floor and quickly ran away like a couple hurrying to elope and ran in the opposite direction that he was told to go. He did this so he could buy passage on a ship that would be sailing to Tarshish.
Now, we have to ask ourselves, where the heck is Tarshish?
The contrast between Nineveh and Tarshish was vast. Nineveh was located east of the Tigris River in modern-day Iraq. It was more than 500 miles east of Jonah’s hometown. 
Tarshish, in contrast, was west of Gath-hepher. In fact, Tarshish stood more than 2,500 miles from Israel in the opposite direction of Nineveh. It was the most remote destination available to Jonah. Jonah was trying to put as much distance as he could between himself and the Assyrians. Whatever happened to Nineveh, Jonah would not be there to see it.
Tarshish was a Phoenician trading center in the south of Spain. Jonah it seems wanted to go to Spain to get out of preaching against the city of Nineveh.
Jonah ignored the instructions of God. Jonah’s intentions to defy God were made known by his hasty journey to Tarshish. Jonah went to Joppa, bought a ticket on a west bound freighter to the coast of Spain. Twice we are told in verse three (3) that his intentions were to remove himself from the instructions that God had given to him.
So, this morning our theme has been Jonah does the unexpected. What was the unexpected? Jonah showed himself to be a defiant servant. Jonah was defiant when God interrupted his life and plans, Jonah was defiant towards God’s instructions when he ignored them, and Jonah’s defiance was shown in his intentions to not only ignore God’s instructions but to place himself in a place where it was impossible to fulfill them.
My purpose today was to motivate you, to encourage you to resist the temptation to
Disobey, to defy the revealed will and instructions of God. Now, God is not going to give us instructions in a dream, a vision, a trance, verbally, or otherwise. No, we have God’s revealed will, His instructions in the Bible.

You can’t find an airplane, train, ship, car, or truck that can take you to a place where God cannot reach you and bring you to a place where you are willing to be obedient.

 [What do you say we wrap this up?] 


Let me share with you this funny story that actually captures the instant obedience that God desires from His people:

Neil Marten, a member of the British Parliament, was once giving a group of his constituents a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament. During the course of the visit, the group happened to meet Lord Hailsham, then Lord Chancellor, wearing all the regalia of his office. Hailsham recognized Marten among the group and cried, "Neil!" Not daring to question or disobey the "command," the entire band of visitors promptly fell to their knees! 

Let’s pray! J

1 comment:

nashvillecats2 said...

Wonderful to read......I couldn't sleep so came out and read this wonderful post. Being British how well I remember the likes of Lord Hailshame. Thanks Gregg.