Series: Jonah: A Gospel of Grace
Subtitle: Jonah: The Man & His Message (Part 2)
Scripture: Jonah 1:1
Subject: An overview & introduction of the prophecy & prophet
Scope: Jonah is a record of responsibility, rebellion, and repentance which accentuates the majestic good news of God’s grace towards sinners.
Scheme: To provide strategic information which enables you to appreciate, assimilate, and actuate the principles of this historical narrative.
Scrutiny: What strategic information do you need to possess in order to fully appreciate and apply this historical record?
Solution: Today’s message provides five (5) aspects of strategic information that enables you to fully appreciate this historical record of God’s grace.
Theme: Jonah writes a book
We see that Jonah wrote a book when we examine…
Sketch: 1A The Adoption of Jonah
2A The Author of Jonah
3A The Audience of Jonah
4A The Age of Jonah
5A The Aim of Jonah
6A The Argument of Jonah
[Title of Sermon]
Jonah: The Man & The Message (Part 2)
[Announce the Text]
The book of Jonah is one of the Minor Prophets in the Bible. Jonah contains the fantastic true story of one man’s absolute reluctance to trust and obey the call and commission of God.
Jonah tells of a Hebrew prophet named Jonah, who was the son of Amittai who is sent by God to prophesy of the destruction of Nineveh but tries to escape the divine mission. What makes this amazing is that God has been, now is, and always will be committed to the fulfillment of His eternal purpose and to His people.
Jonah was sent by God to a remarkable and historical city in order to preach to God’s enemies. The reader is immediately confronted with the rebellion and the self-righteousness of Jonah as he attempts to avoid fulfilling God’s plan to proclaim the good news of God’s grace to the citizens of Nineveh.
As we begin to think of the book of Jonah let me remind you of a quote I came across from The Expositors Bible Commentary…)
“And this is the tragedy of the Book of Jonah, that a Book which is made the means of one of the most sublime revelations of truth in the Old Testament should be known to most only for its connection with a whale.” (The Expositors Bible, edited by W. Robertson Nicoll, Vol. 4, p. 679)
[Raise a Need]
It is often very difficult to accurately interpret a book of the bible or even a specific passage in a particular book of the bible. We don’t have the luxury of calling up the author and asking him questions that will help us determine the right interpretation.
This introduction is provide to help give you as much information as possible in order to gain some context and insight on this particular book of our bible. Today’s message will provide a foundation for the overall interpretation and application of its message.
[State the Purpose]
My purpose continues to be to provide you will specific and strategic information which will enable you to appreciate, assimilate, and even actuate the principles of this historical narrative.
[Announce the Text]
As I stated last week, Jonah speaks about the fact that God does the unexpected in this marvelous, little historical narrative called Jonah. If you have not already done so, please turn to Jonah, chapter one, and verse one (1) and we will re-read this to set the stage for this morning.
[Prayer for Illumination]
But before we do, let’s ask God for his blessing on our text.
Heavenly Father, thank you for giving to us your living Word. You have told us that your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Father, open our eyes and give us the grace that we need in order to receive the truth of your Word in faith in order to follow you faithfully on the path that you have set before us; through Jesus Christ and by the light of your Word. Amen.
[Read the Text]
“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amitttai, saying…”
[Background to the Text]
The book of Jonah is different from all of the other Minor Prophets. What makes this book so different is the fact that even though it is included with the Minor Prophets it doesn’t contain any prophecy. It actually contains the events and experiences that happen to Jonah when he is called by God to preach to Nineveh.
Jonah is written as a historical narrative. It focuses on supernatural events. These two facts almost makes Jonah more of an autobiographical story rather than a prophecy.
There are a number of leading scholars who debate the authenticity and the value of the message or they outright denounce the book as a mere allegory or a parable, or even a myth. But the truth of the matter is that Jonah is an accurate historical account of an actual individual named Jonah.
Why is the authenticity and actuality of this book questioned.
There are a number of reasons for the questioning the authenticity of this book…
· The primary reason that the book is denounced or relegated to a mere allegorical story are the miraculous events that are recorded
The story of Jonah being swallowed alive by a great fish, not to mention the fact that Jonah survives having been swallowed alive.
· There is the mention of the King of Nineveh (3:6). This King actually ruled over an entire empire not just a single city in Assyria.
At this time the north-west Semitic word for ‘king’ (mlk), especially when associated with a city, often meant ‘governor’ of a province rather than king over a nation. This is clearly displayed on a bilingual statue from Gozan, a western Assyrian province. This is the only text of any size so far discovered in both Aramaic and Assyrian. The Aramaic word mlk is regularly translated with the Assyrian šakin which means ‘governor.
· Critics challenge whether Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria at the time Jonah fulfilled his mission
IIt didn’t become the capital of Assyria until around 705-702 BC. Some 40 to 45 years after Jonah went to Nineveh. But nowhere in our text does it say that Nineveh was the capital during Jonah’s mission.
· Critics also attack the description, particularly the size that is recorded for Nineveh (3:3; 4:11)
Nineveh was founded in 6000 BCE and was already large by 3000 BCE. So having 120,000 people in 760 BCE is not any type of difficulty
· Jonah is spoken of primarily in the third person. This really isn’t an uncommon Old Testament practice by the way.
· Finally, critics also reject the repentance of the entire city as improbable
Each of these objections are easily explained or dealt with and we will address them as we come to them in the text. But there is no reason to doubt the authenticity, historicity, validity, and accuracy of the book of Jonah.
[Proposition – Theme]
Jonah writes a book
This truth leads us to ask the question, “What strategic information do we need to know to properly understand, interpret, and benefit from Jonah’s book?” Today’s message provides five (5) answers to this question; these answers include – the author of Jonah, the audience of Jonah, the age of Jonah, the aim of Jonah, and the argument of Jonah.
[Before we dig in and start look at the answer to our question, let’s take a minute and be reminded of what we learned last week. Last week we began this two part introduction by first examining…]
1A The Adoption of Jonah
I wanted you to know why I adopted the idea or the desire to teach through the book of Jonah. Allow me to remind you of the reasons that prompted me to adopt or choose this book to teach.
1B Jonah is a concrete example of sin and grace
One of the greatest challenges that we face is becoming overly familiar with a portion of Scripture. We can become numb to the idea of sin and God’s grace. It is good to periodically look at great examples of sin and God’s amazing and wonderful grace to refresh our memories and make them vital to us.
2B Jonah is someone that we all can relate to
We are all affected by our culture and our environment. It is too easy to forget people or worse to come to despise them. Sometimes Christians can develop the idea that they know a little better than God. Of course we don’t voice it that way, but we sometimes think that way. No one is beyond the gospel.
3B Jonah shows us the love that God has for a city
God had pity on this great city of Nineveh. He had compassion for the people. God saw them as people who didn’t even know their right hand from their left. Nineveh contained men, women, children, toddlers, and infants who were the objects of God’s special creation. The Ninevites needed God and they needed Jonah – they had no one else to show them any moral direction. Longview/Kelso is no different.
4A Jonah is a picture of authentic repentance
The Ninevites accepted Jonah’s message as being from God and they became very alarmed about their condition. They proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth and ashes demonstrating their humility and dependence upon God.
Repentance is a missing element in much of today’s evangelism. Jonah is a great reminder of what true repentance looks like.
The message today is part two (2) of a two (2) part introduction and overview of the book of Jonah.
[So, let’s move to our…]
TRUTH FOR TODAY
And so, the second aspect of strategic information that helps you to fully appreciate this historical record of God’s grace is…]
2A THE AUTHOR OF JONAH
“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai…”
Don’t worry, we won’t spend very much time here at all. We have almost no information about Jonah.
We do have some information, regardless of how limited it is to the problem, person, parent, period, and privilege of Jonah
[So, let’s look first at…]
1B The Problem of Jonah
When you read this little but fascinating book you discover that there is no direct reference to Jonah as the author of this book.
You also discover as you read this book, that other than his prayer in chapter two (2) Jonah is spoken of in the third person. This causes a good number of scholars to conclude that Jonah is not the author and that some unknown person recorded Jonah’s experience.
As we mentioned before, this is not really an isolated or a unique thing. Other Old Testament prophets wrote in the third person. This was actually a common practice. I think primarily for the reason that the emphasis is to be on what God said and not the prophet himself.
Much of the biographical information revealed in this book points to Jonah. Not to mention that since the actual events actually happened to Jonah, who better to write them down?
The prayer in the second chapter points to Jonah as the one in trouble and in need of miraculous deliverance.
Tradition, both Jewish and Christian holds to the fact that Jonah is the actual author.
There is no reason to deny the fact that Jonah actually wrote this particular book. And so, there really isn’t a problem with Jonah being considered as its actual writer.
[Secondly, we see…]
2B The Person of Jonah
The Hebrew name for Jonah is actually “Yonah.” This word means “Dove.” We have no information why or how the word dove is to be applied to Jonah. BTW, the Hebrew word dove means foolish.
The Greek translation of the Hebrew name is “Iona.”
So where do we get the name “Jonah.” It is from the Latin translation that we end up with the name of “Jonah.”
Jonah was born and raised in at town called Gath-Hepner. This town was in the land of Zebulun. It was actually a short distance from Nazareth where Jesus grew up as a carpenter’s son.
The territory Zebulun was allocated was at the southern end of the Galilee, with its eastern border being the Sea of Galilee, the western border being the Mediterranean Sea, the south being bordered by the Tribe of Issachar, and the north by Asher on the western side and Naphtali on the eastern (Joshua 19:10-16).
If you remember the Pharisees when they were trying to deny the authenticity of Jesus they said, “…search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee.” [John 7:52, NKJV]
But they were wrong – Jonah “arose” out of Galilee.
So, we do have a little bit of information about the person of Jonah.
[Thirdly, we see…]
3B The Parent of Jonah
“…Jonah the son of Amittai…”
This is the only mention and reference to the parents of Jonah. His father’s name was Amittai, which means loyal or true. We know nothing more about his dad and we know nothing at all about his mother or any other member of his family.
[The fourth little bit of information we have, I call…]
4B The Privilege of Jonah
We aren’t a complete stranger to Jonah. This isn’t the first mention of this guy. We find that he had a distinct privilege recorded in 2 Kings 14:25
Shortly before Jeroboam II became King of Israel (the 10 tribes) Jonah prophesied that Jeroboam would be successful in a campaign to recapture cities that had been lost to Assyria when Jehoahaz had been king because of his wickedness and disobedience. He lost cities and land as a punishment for his sinful actions and behavior.
“He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant, Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath-hepher.” [2 Kings 14:25, ESV]
Jonah was chosen by God to deliver the good news that Israel would experience a time of safety and prosperity and that the King’s campaign would be successful.
So, there is no problem in accepting Jonah as the author of this book, Jonah was a real person, his father’s name was Amittai, he was from a town in Galilee, just north of Nazareth, and he had already prophesied to Israel
[So, let’s move to the third aspect of information and that is…]
3A The Audience of Jonah
Who did Jonah write this prophecy for? Who were the intended recipients?
First thing we note is that it was Nineveh who heard Jonah’s message and they were the ones who responded to it.
Second the book never states to whom it was written to or for.
Thirdly, it clear that Jonah was written for the benefit of the people of Israel.
It was probably written for the people of the northern kingdom, the 10 tribes of Israel who lived in or around the area or territory of Samaria.
Fourth, Even though we are not sure who this historical narrative was intended for, it is certain that we are to be considered as an audience or recipient of this book. Why do I say this? Well, we are told…
“Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God's promises to be fulfilled.” [Romans 15:4, NLT]
“These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.” [1 Corinthians 10:11, NLT]
Regardless of who Jonah had in mind to read his book, the things that happened to Jonah, Nineveh, and the sailors and such were written down to teach us
something and to give us hope while we wait on the return of Jesus Christ.
So, as you read this book on your own and as we work through it together, I hope that you do find comfort and encouragement and that it is used by God to enable you to patiently wait for the coming of Jesus Christ.
[The fourth aspect that we need to examine is the…]
4A THE AGE OF JONAH
When did this event happen to Jonah? When did he write this book?
Many people who want to distract from the message and the meaning of this book want to assign it a very late date. They want to make it out to be a mythological story and remove Jonah as a real person from the story.
Let me say in all fairness that it is very hard to date this book. As a matter of fact, some good and trustworthy scholars say we can’t date it. Or, if we do assign it a date we have to very broad and not to get very specific.
First of all, why is dating a book important to studying it? Does it really matter if we know when a particular book was written?
Actually it does matter to some degree. Dating a book helps us in determining if the author is really the author. If someone can establish that a book was written long after a particular person who claimed to have written lived and died, then much of the integrity and authority of that book can be destroyed. So, it is actually very helpful in interpreting, authenticating, and verifying the material in a book if we know when it was written.
So, when was Jonah written?
Well, we know he prophesied at some point during the reign of Jeroboam II. Jeroboam II ruled the northern kingdom of Israel around 793 to 753 B.C.
Jonah predicted that Jeroboam would be successful in capturing lost cities and expanding Israel’s borders as we have already mentioned. Therefore Jonah must have made his prediction just prior to 793 B. C. Jeroboam would have had time to conduct his campaign and time was needed for the dust to settle.
So some scholars place the time of the writing around 760 B. C. Israel was enjoying a period of peace and some prosperity at that time.
Spiritually however, it was a time of real spiritual drought. The Jews religion was mere ritualistic, you know, action without attitude. They were very idolatrous at this time. Justice was perverted and Israel was morally and spiritually bankrupt around this period.
There is one thing to note – from time to time archeologists have discovered plagues, documents, inscriptions, and records from various countries, peoples, and locations that have documentation which substantiates events, persons, and activity of God’s people. Now, we don’t need those things and they don’t prove the bible to be true, because the bible is true because it says it is true. But it is nice to occasionally discover a document that records an event that the bible records.
Well, we don’t have any record that there was a widespread “revival” or repentance in Nineveh. But when Queen Semiramis was a co-ruler with her son, Adad-Nirari III (810-782 B.C.) there is a record of a “swing” towards monotheism – or the belief in one God.
Whether this was a result of Jonah’s ministry and the Ninevites repentance we cannot tell. We don’t know.
But suffice it say, if Jonah was the author, this book needs to be written during his life time, and it was probably written between 800 and 750 B.C. and possibly around 760 B.C.
[Well, that leads us to our fifth aspect of strategic information, which is…]
5A The Aim of Jonah
What was Jonah’s purpose in writing this book? What did he want to accomplish? What was his goal?
The primary purpose or aim of Jonah is to enable you to see the compassionate character of God. To understand God’s compassion enables us to truly appreciate it.
There are at least three (3) reasons why this it is so important that you see this compassionate character of God.
· So that you can enlarge, magnify, and clarify God’s compassion for his creatures (which He created)
· So that as you get a picture of this attribute of God you can see how much of it is reflected by your life. God is compassionate towards you and me.
· So that you can be an effective vehicle of this compassion to other people. We have to regularly ask ourselves and take our temperature as to how compassionate are we towards other people, particularly the unsaved?
Jonah is not just about God’s commission for Jonah to go to Nineveh, and Jonah’s refusal to go. It is not just about being thrown overboard in the middle of a huge storm or being swallowed by some great fish.
So, what is Jonah all about?
It is a revelation of the character and nature of God!
There may be a secondary aim or purpose of Jonah. It might have been that God wanted to shame Israel. Jonah shows how a paganistic Gentile city repented at the preaching of a stranger and Israel would not repent at the preaching of God through many of His prophets.
[We have some illustrations of this problem:]
“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But 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.”
29 And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.31 The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.
Jonah learned that God’s love and mercy extends to all of His creatures. God’s love and mercy is not limited simply to His covenant people.
This leads us to the sixth (6) and final aspect of information that we need to know and what is Jonah proposing, in other words, what is…
6A THE ARGUMENT OF JONAH
Let me share at least six (6) lessons that we can discern from the argument put forth by Jonah. These six (6) lessons are good for us today:
· God is angry at the wicked, but He does have compassion on them
· It is not uncommon for God’s people to avoid responsibility
· God is sovereignly in control of nature and uses it for His purposes
· God will punish disobedience but still desires to show mercy
· The most unpromising mission field can be the most responsive
· God will be merciful to those whom He chooses to be merciful
I think these lessons are crucial lessons. I hope that you will remember them as we work our way through this fascinating and remarkable record of God’s compassion. These lessons are just as valid today for you and me as they were in Jonah’s day for both Israel and Nineveh.
Our theme has been, Jonah writes a book!
Well, the last two weeks we have tried to provide you with an overview & introduction of the prophecy & prophet found in the book that Jonah wrote.
What did Jonah write? Jonah is a record of the responsibility, the rebellion, and repentance which activates the good news of God toward sinners.
My purpose today was to provide you with strategic information which would enable you to grasp the principles in this historical narrative.
[What do you say we wrap this up?]
Let me say in conclusion that…
Jonah reveals God as the Sovereign creator over storms and fish of the sea, as well as plants and worms of the land. Jonah reveals the fact that God is compassionate toward his creatures.
Jonah reveals that each human life is valuable in God’s eyes. Although Jonah cared more about his idea of who should receive God’s mercy and who shouldn’t, God still used Jonah, a reluctant and rebellious man to accomplish His eternal plans.
Jonah demonstrates the principle that those whom God saves find their deliverance in responding to God’s word in repentance. The Word must be preached and the only acceptable response is humility and repentance.
Let’s pray! J
Father, once again we want to thank you for this familiar but marvelous story that we find in the book of Jonah. This book reminds of us not only of Nineveh’s great sin and your grace which you extended to them, but it reminds us of our great sin against you and your wonderful and amazing grace to us.
Thank you Father for your HS who inspired Jonah to record these events in order for us to learn more of what sin is, and how compassionate you are towards sinners. Once again we see that you are the God who extends grace toward those who desperately need it.
And so Father, we ask you to give us a deep and wide vision of your grace and compassion for those we encounter this week just as you bestow your compassion and grace on us. Help us to remember that Jonah wrote a book as a means of comfort, hope, and encouragement as we patiently wait for your return. Amen!