HOW GOD PURSUES PRODIGALS
As we examine the first chapter of Jonahs story this morning, I want us to see how God pursues prodigals.
Jonah 1:1-2 “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because their evil has come up before me”
The Lord spoke to His Prophet and commanded him to do two things: Go to Nineveh and rebuke them for their sin, calling them to repentance.
Nineveh was the capital city of the Assyrian Empire and many historians declare that it was the premier city in the world at the time when Jonah was commanded to head there.
The city was the epitome of evil, saints. Nahum 3 – describes it as a city of witchcraft, immorality and plunder who’s passion was bloodthirst. The Lord said of Nineveh, “their evil has come up before Me” – I’m going to judge this city for it’s wickedness…so go warn them that My wrath is on the way…call them to repent before it’s too late
Here we have a Preacher who’s been commanded to take a mission trip to a city filled with lost people and preach.
Jonah 1:3 “Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence.”
BUT WHY? It could be one of several reasons…but most likely a combination.
a. Difficulty – How would bloodthirsty pagans receive his message.
b. Danger – these were stone cold killers. His life could be on the line.
c. Discrimination – He really didn’t want them to escape Gods judgment.
He goes down to Joppa (port city south of Tel-Aviv) and boards a boat bound for Tarshish. The city of Tarshish was in the exact opposite direction of where God had commanded him to go. Nineveh was east of Israel and Tarshish was about as far west as a person in that day could travel.
In fact, in Jonahs's day, Tarshish was thought to be towards the end of the earth.
Jonah was trying to get as far away from Gods plan and His presence as he possible could
Isn’t it interesting that when Jonah got to Joppa, there just “happened to be” a ship in the port that was heading in the opposite direction of where the Lord had commanded him to go? When an individual decides that they want to run from the Lord, they will always find a boat that’s going wherever they want. Satan has ships too, and there’s always room for another passenger.
So, the Prodigal Prophet is on the run.
REMEMBER: God loves prodigals. He knows how to get them back home.
I want to share with you how our Lord pursued this prodigal and still pursues them today.
1.THE LORD WILL DO WHATEVER IS NECESSARY TO GET THE PRODIGALS ATTENTION
Jonah 1:4 “But the Lord threw a great wind onto the sea, and such a great storm arose on the sea that the ship threatened to break apart”
When we think about the Lord, our minds naturally gravitate toward how He has power to calm the seas but we need to remember that it’s the Lord who stirs the sea too.
And here, because He loves prodigals and knows how to get them home, He sends the sea into a frenzy.
Verse 5 mentions the sailors who were on board being terrified and crying out to the pagan gods they worshipped for help. This highlights just how violent this storm was.
These men were mariners. Seasoned sailors. They had seen storms before and were hardened to life at sea…and these men were terrified! They sensed the ship could fail and sink to a watery grave at any moment so as they pray they begin throwing cargo overboard in an effort to lighten the load!
Our Lord, because He loves His prodigal prophet and knows how to bring him home, does what it takes to get his attention.
That’s how He begins His pursuit of prodigals.
It may not be a physical storm today – a storm of circumstances forms. One of trouble. One of heartache. It could be a storm of financial ruin, health crisis, career implosion…we could go on and on.
God loves prodigals too much to leave them in their state of rebellion. He will not allow His straying children to live in sin perpetually.
He wants those prodigals home. In His time, He will do whatever it takes to get their attention.
2.THE LORD WILL SEND SOMEONE TO SHAKE THE PRODIGAL AWAKE
Jonah 1:6 “The captain approached him and said, “What are you doing sound asleep? Get up! Call to your god. Maybe this god will consider us, and we won’t perish.”
At this point in the story, the pagan captain has more faith that Jonah.
He says to Jonah – “What are you doing? Wake up and start praying to your God! Our prayers to our gods aren’t working – if there’s any hope for us, you are going to have to wake up and be who you claim to be!”
The Lord loved the Prodigal Prophet too much to let him rest in his rebellion, so he sent someone to shake him awake
That’s how He pursues prodigals.
For Jonah, it was a pagan ship captain but for modern prodigals it could be a Preacher or a parent. Maybe a friend or even a complete stranger – BUT God will send someone some sense into those who have strayed from Him.
3.THE LORD WILL MAKE THE PRODIGAL FACE THE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR REBELLION
Now that the Prodigal Prophet is awake, the crew get’s involved
In verses 7 and 8, they come up with a plan to cast lots and figure out who is responsible for this storm. When they determine that it’s Jonah, they ask, “Who are you?”
Jonah 1:9 – The shaken up Prodigal Prophet own it: “I’m a Hebrew. I worship the Lord, the God of the heavens, who made the sea and the dry land.”
Their response is the most logical one – “What did you do that would cause your God to send this storm and what can we do to make it go away?”
Look at the reply of the Prodigal Prophet – Jonah 1:12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea so that it will calm down for you, for I know that I’m to blame for this great storm that is against you.”
Just as Jonah would have to face the watery consequences of his sinful choices, and the prodigal son of Luke 15 would find himself wallowing in a pig pen, the prodigal sons and daughters of today will have to face the music at some point.
Often, that’s the only thing that will bring them to their senses.
We Must Trust That God Loves Prodigals And Knows What He’s Doing
I’m afraid that instead of giving the Lord space to work, we step in too soon.
Remember, the father of the Prodigal son didn’t go and bail his son out of his troubles…He simply waited for him to come home.
God Is At Work In Spite Of Prodigals
After Jonah told the sailors to throw him overboard and spare their lives, they refused and just started rowing harder until they realize the futility of their efforts.
Jonah 1:14 “They called out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, don’t let us perish because of this man’s life, and don’t charge us with innocent blood! For you, Lord, have done just as you pleased.”
Verse 16 tells us – “The men were seized by great fear of the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows”
Notice the remarkable spiritual transformation that takes place in the hearts of the sailors. In verse 5, the where crying out to the false gods that they worship but by the end of the story, they are acknowledging, praying to and worshipping Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
God Is Merciful Even In Judgment
We’re all familiar with how this story concludes. The storm stops as the Prodigal Prophet is tossed overboard and a revival is happening on deck
Jonah is bobbing up and down in the water as he watches the ship sail out of sight, his death now imminent and there’s nothing he can do.
Soon, his body will be too exhausted to keep afloat and he’ll sink to the bottom of the sea. He knows it’s coming. He expects it.
Jonah 1:17 “The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights”
Think through this: The Prodigal Prophet had just experienced the most harrowing storm of his life. He was cast into a swirling torrent. He watched the only ship that could possibly pull him from the water drift away as he treaded water, with no dry land in sight, all alone…he began the slow, agonizing process of death by drowning and now three days in the stomach cavity of a fish.
And the Lord had orchestrated it all.
He sent the storm. He commanded the winds. He ensured the lot that was cast would identify Jonah. It was the Lord that ordered the current to take him under, and then deeper, and deeper…it was the Lord who prepared the great fish and gave it the command to open its jaws wide and swallow the Prodigal Prophet.
The Lord had done all of these things, not because he hated Jonah. But because He loved Him.
Hebrews 12:7 “Who the Lord loves, He also disciplines”
It was the darkest night, but also the brightest day. This great act of Gods judgment was at the same time, a great act of mercy.
Because of this moment of darkness that the Prodigal Prophet finally saw the light.