One Whale Of An Attitude - Jonah 1-4 NIV
Jonah definitely has “One Whale Of An Attitude!”
Six Lessons Learned From Jonah
#1: When God gives us a purpose, there is ____________ .
“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.” Jonah 1:1-3 NIV
God had given Jonah the gift of preaching. He was good with words. He knew what God expected and could communicate. When God provides a gift (and we know He does for every Christian), God also provides a purpose. Every Christian is needed to fulfill God’s purpose & calling. Sometimes we have different plans in mind for ourselves than God’s…
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21 ESV
Jonah had a different plan for himself. “Sure, I can preach. But I DON’T want to preach to the Ninevites!" And so Jonah heads the opposite way. But there is no where to hide, no where to run from God’s purpose. Everywhere you go, there you are! And there is God!
#2: God ______________ even in our rebellion.
Jonah gets on a boat and then a great storm threatens. Jonah knows & admits.
“Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Jonah 1:17 NIV
We often get this wrong. Great fish, not a whale. The whale could not physically do what a great fish could do. What could the “great fish” do? Whatever God created it to do! In this case swallowed Jonah whole. Most importantly allowed Jonah not to drown. And gave Jonah a space to think about his gifting, his purpose, his direction, and his obedience.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” 2 Cor. 9:8 ESV
Before moving on, it’s important to take note that God provides for us - even in our rebellion. Who among us can not look back at our lives and see the hand of God protecting us, even & especially in those moments when we were least deserving of God’s protection and grace?
#3: One reason for trials is so we will ______________ .
So Jonah is in the belly of the fish. What does he do? Same thing we would.
“In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.” Jonah 2:1 NIV
Two things to note in distressing times:
(1) Call to the Lord! Don’t be stubborn. Don’t stand on your pride and independence and claim “at least I’m not a hypocrite - I didn’t rely on God before so I won’t claim to now.” Foolish! You may be in this spot exactly because God wants to wake you up so you will turn to Him.
(2) God answers. The truth is that God has never left us. He’s always near to us. We just forget.
“Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8 NIV
God has never left us or forsaken us. But when we feel far away from God, it’s because we have left Him. When we “come near to God” we always find “He will come near to us.” That’s more a statement of our awareness than it is of God’s movement. James calls this the double minded attitude. Again, not so much just that we live a hypocritical lifestyle as much as we allow our minds to be in two places simultaneously - in the world’s philosophy and way of living AND God’s philosophy and way of living. Anyone who has ever had their mind distracted knows that doesn’t work well. Trials focus our attention!
#4: Our obedience to God’s calling allows us to see __________ .
So Jonah confesses and commits and goes to preach at Ninevah...
“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” Jonah 3:10 NIV
Before we talk about Jonah’s reaction, we need to stop and appreciate this mind-blowing statement: God relented! We serve a God that is all-powerful and all-knowing, Who lives outside of time and space - indeed He is the Creator of time and space. So He knows. It’s all laid out before Him. And yet, within this moment we call “NOW,” God says the Ninevites’ wickedness has “come up before Him.” He calls Jonah to preach. The Ninevites respond by turning from their wicked ways. We have a word for that: Repentance. They changed their mind and turned their direction! And then we read this remarkable statement: “God relented.” In other words God was going to bring destruction on them, but now has relented. That means He changed His mind! To get this completely, grasp hold of the fact that the Ninevites changed their mind, attitude and direction and this was the direct link to God’s “relenting!” Now we can argue that God knew all along what would come about, that God provided Jonah to cause God’s intended purpose - which is all true. But still, God relented. That is a powerful work! Amazing! What would have happened, didn’t!
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12 ESV
To fully appreciate the application of this lesson to our daily lives, Jesus tells His disciples (and us) that we too will do the same powerful works - even greater works! Think of it. This all is fueled by
(1) our belief in Jesus and
(2) Jesus going to God the Father and interceding on our behalf!
Back to Jonah’s response…
#5: God’s amazing grace can seem ________________ .
“But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry… I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” Jonah 4:1-2 NIV
I’m glad this is part of the Bible, aren’t you? Here we have a prophet of God, who just preached for life change, and life change happened and God provided GRACE - God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense - and mercy - the Ninevites didn’t receive what they had coming. But was Jonah happy? NOOOO! He didn’t love the Ninevites! He wanted them to receive the full blow of God’s judgment. Before we too harshly judge Jonah, let’s just admit that there are times when we can be the same way. Either out of prejudice or out of a demand for justice. We are always ready to accept God’s grace when applied to our own sins, but we can be offended when that same grace is applied to others. Be careful of how you play God in your judgment of others. Ask God for grace in your mind!
#6: Even God, with all His power, does not force us __________ .
So Jonah has this stinking attitude toward the whole situation. He is so angry at God’s relenting, he just wants to die.
“But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’ … ‘It is. I’m so angry I wish I were dead.’” Jonah 4:9 NIV
And that’s it. That’s how the story of Jonah ends. God points out that He loves the Ninevites and that He is concerned for them - all 120,000 of them as well as even their animals! (For you pet owners - God loves even your animals!!!) But no where do we see Jonah change his attitude, or find joy at what God has accomplished through him. Important! Even God does not force Jonah to have be joyful. That is Jonah’s choice. Joy always is a choice! God cannot make that choice for Jonah or you or me:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3 ESV
Application: You also cannot force joy upon someone else either!