Consumed by Affliction: Jonah’s Disobedience
The book of Jonah was written in approximately 800 BC by the prophet bearing its name. During this time frame, Israel was under the leadership of King Jeroboam II.
2 Kings 14:23-24 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel began to reign in Samaria, and reigned forty and one years. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord:he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.
When reading passages of scripture, it's always helpful to have some understanding of the underlying context surrounding the movement of the story or teachings taking place. I specifically used the word story because Jonah is considered narrative literature. We have discussed the concept of literary genre on multiple occasions, describing the differences between narrative, which tells a story, apocalyptic, which foretells future events, and epistles, which are letters in the New Testament containing deeper revelations of biblical instruction.
While Jonah is narrative literature, it's also prophetic literature. Specifically, the book of Jonah is considered one of 12 Minor Prophets. Essentially, in the Old Testament Jewish Bible, the Major and Minor Prophets were used as a method of dividing the books. In addition, the length of these books was the main determining factor on why some were called minor vs. some being called major. The three Major Prophets were: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.
God always used His prophets of old as a mouthpiece or vessel from which He would speak forth His word. Specifically, the prophet's ministry was to bring a word of correction to Israel, which was God's own special people He had created from amongst the heathen world. Anytime the modern Christian reads the happenings of ancient Israel, there should be some element of viewing the text from the perspective that these are God's people, from there, the reader should also be able to see the text speaking to himself; for he or she is also "God's people."
Previously, we pointed out that Jeroboam II was king during Jonah's prophetic tenure. The 2 Kings passage connected Jeroboam II to Jeroboam. The reign of the original Jeroboam chronicles significant changes to the nation of Israel. Oftentimes, Christians are unaware of the intricate details surrounding Israel's history.
King Jeroboam represents a very disturbing time in Israel's history. When Solomon, King David's son sinned (1 Kings 11), the result was a split to the kingdom of Israel. God's judgement upon the nation that He had created was that they would be split into a place of disunity, resulting in the upper 10 tribes, known as Israel, and the lower two tribes, which consisted of Judah and Benjamin.
Interestingly, Judah was the tribe of King David and his son Solomon, which housed the prophetic promise of Messiah's descent (II Samuel 7:12,13); and Benjamin was the tribe from which the house of Saul came. If you will remember, there was a covenant between King David and Jonathan, Saul's son, which bound these two "houses"/tribes together.
Israel represented the Northern Kingdom; whereas, Judah, reigning from Jerusalem (South), where we get the word Jew from, was the Southern portion of the nation.
Rehoboam, Solomon's son was the king of Judah; whereas, Jeroboam, who was an officer in the King's court before the nation was split, ruled Northern Israel. Jeroboam followed the latter path of Solomon and worshiped false gods; furthermore, he built a temple for their idol worship in Samaria, which is where all the contention between the Jews and the Samaritans started that we read about in the New Testament.
Jeroboam purposefully did this to prevent the people from going down to Jerusalem to worship God. This false leadership, which produced error in Israel's understanding of God incited God to anger resulting in Him using His prophets as mouthpieces to prophesy against His leaders and His people who were living in opposition to His word. Sadly, the apostasy worsened rather than improving and, with time, Judah went the way of Israel. The explicit narratives of these happenings can be found in 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, and 1-2 Chronicles.
So here we are in the time frame of the prophet Jonah who was from a town in Northern Israel from the tribe of Zebulun. To give you a mental picture, the tribe of Zebulon settled the area West of the Sea of Galilee.
Jonah 1:1, 2 Chapter 1 Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, v2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.
There is so much to consider with these two initial verses. First, we must remember the underlying context regarding the condition of God's people. Israel has been disobedient towards God since the rebellion of Solomon, a succession of wicked leaders: kings, prophets, and priests has taken place, resulting in apathy and failure on the part of God's people.
There is a living principle here to observe: God desires to reach a lost and dying world with His plan of salvation to turn the heathen (those who are unconverted and don't know Him) towards Him. The way God chooses to do that is through the use of His people. But in this time frame, God's people Israel are apathetic towards His ways because Satan has successfully infiltrated their camp and changed the object of their faith. Specifically, they have entered into a form of syncretistic (mixed) worship.
What are you talking about preacher? At this time in Israel's history idol worship was so bad that they had brought them (idols) into the temple and called them YHWH. What does that have to do with me preacher? It saddens me that more often than not preachers behind pulpits cannot recognize the current condition the church is in today.
Between the mixtures of a works based message and a charismatic move void of sound theology, the condition of the modern church is synonymous with ancient Israel. We won't even get into my personal beliefs of an occult agenda influencing the church through the Word of Faith movement, Emergent Church (Jesus Culture), and the current seeker sensitive debacle. There are probably Christians who will read this and think to themselves what is this guy talking about? Google and watch: The Real Roots of the Emergent Church.
And that's my point. I don't believe we can see because for so long we've been moved away from a proper understanding of God's word. I know that I have attempted, through Facebook, to pound the concept of true righteousness and justification, which will set the captive free, but I fear that when most people read those words, they think in their hearts, where is the "prophet?" I need a service or a church somewhere where the "Spirit" is moving, so I can get in a line, have hands laid upon me, get a word, fall down, and do a shake rattle and roll.
Before you tune me out charismatic Christian, let me ask you a couple questions: (1) how many times have you gone to the front for prayer to receive deliverance from your bondage? (2) how many times have you fallen out in the Spirit when you went up there for that prayer? (3) how many times has that resulted in freedom from your bondage?
That can't work because that's not the way to victory. If a believer doesn't have a revelation of who he is in Christ, how Jesus defeated the forces of evil through the atonement, and how proper faith in Jesus' finished work is the only thing that will give access to grace, which is the only way that people can have deliverance from bondage of any sort, through accessing the power of God, then that believer can't be delivered. Some may say, "Where does this guy get this from? Why does he think the cross is the answer to power over sin?"
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
BECAUSE THE WORD OF GOD SAYS SO!!!
So in the midst of a time when God's people have such a mixture of false doctrine influencing their understanding of God and His ways, how will His people function properly? How will His prophets hearken (listen with obedience)?
The word of the Lord came to Jonah with clear instructions. Essentially, he let Jonah know Ninevah (the world) is full of sin and wickedness, and I need you Jonah, Christian, man of God, I need you to go tell them to repent.
Now, before we get going good, many may say, "Hold up! Jonah was a prophet; it was his job to go speak to them. I'm not a prophet; you're making me feel uncomfortable, because you're trying to make me do the preacher's job! Isn't that what we pay him for?" I have to tell you that it was always God's plan that the people called by His name would bring light into darkness:
Matthew 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
The word workmanship has the idea of something that is produced or made, but notice that the creation of this workmanship takes place within a certain locale, sphere, or place. In other words, the factory where this creation is produced is in a place called in Christ.
We have pointed this out many times: that the prepositional phrase in Christ describes a precognition (prior knowledge) where the believer understands the transaction and translation, which occurred at the cross. Once again, when faith is placed in Christ, the sinner is translated and placed in Christ. Within this realm, as faith remains in Christ for right standing with God, grace (the operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer's life) changes him and creates anew in Christ, making him (the believer) the person he was always intended to be, preparing him for his true purpose upon this earth to engage in the good works of God, witnessing to the truth that Messiah has come, offering eternal life and changed lives to those who will repent.
By the way, it was always God's intent that His people would would be prophets:
Numbers 11:29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord 's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!
God desires to use all His people as prophets, not always for foretelling but forth telling. In other words, accomplishing what God is asking Jonah to do, let the wicked world know it's time to repent and turn to God.
It's interesting to note that Jonah's name means dove and his father's name Amittai means my truth.
There is so much symbolism here, and while I would never want to over spiritualize, I can't help but point out that the dove is used to symbolize the Holy Spirit. But also the dove symbolizes peace with God, as when the dove brought an olive branch back to Noah in the Ark; from that point forward, the olive branch has been viewed as an extension of peace.
In this sense, God is sending peace (Jonah) to Ninevah (the world) through his truth (Amittai). This principle holds true today. God is calling sinners to come home, to a place where there is peace. This can only be done when the servant of God is obedient to the call of God, bringing God's truth to a lost and dying world. Once the sinner repents:
Repentance: a state where a person changes their thinking, realizing they were wrong and all along God was right; furthermore, this change of mind is associated with a strong, even emotional distaste for the previous way of thinking,
The presence of the Holy Spirit produces peace between God and the man:
Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
So remember Christian whether we like it or not, God has called us to live a separated life in the midst of this fallen world; furthermore, just as he called Jonah to cry against Ninevah and her sin, He is asking His church to take a stand against ungodliness in the world today.
Jonah 1:3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish:so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
How much woe and sorry has been produced from this one conjunction- But?
In the English language, the conjunction but is known as an adversative, meaning it denotes conflict or adverse conditions. Jonah is in conflict with God; he's choosing to move in a direction completely opposite of God's request. How many times have we all as God's people written a "but" into the script when God was looking for an "and"? ...and Jonah went to Ninevah... and Matt obeyed...and the Christian said, "Yes, Lord I will...."
But Jonah fled instead to Tarshish. What is Tarshish for you child of God? I've certainly had to ask myself the same. I can tell you that Tarshish is any place of disobedience that pulls you in the opposite direction of God's will for your life.
God's work isn't getting accomplished in Ninevah when His prophet is on a boat headed to Tarshish. If there are any Christians willing to listen, I have to ask some questions: what isn't being done, who isn't being reached when we pay our fare and settle down in the belly of that ship headed to Tarshish?
He paid a fare. He was now invested in this trip of disobedience... I couldn't help but think how this represents a connection point, even a devotion, or maybe a feeling that it's too late to turn back. How many times does our slide towards disobedience start with just a little step at a time?
I can remember when I was a young Christian engaged to be married. I was working for an oilfield company and had gone to Holland for survival training in order to work in the North Sea. On the flight up there, we sat in the business class and all the alcohol you could drink was paid for-- I didn't touch a drop, but the first night in Holland about 40 minutes away from a city called Rotterdam, the men I was with were going into town to go drinking. My personal contention was that, as they drank, I would go sight-seeing and take pictures-- it was a set up from Satan, and it should be pointed out that more often than not this is how the enemy hooks us; we make small decisions that are contrary to God's will, starting us in the direction of Tarshish, and before you know it, we've paid the fare and somehow feel committed to the trip.
When I first got on the bus, the Holy Spirit spoke very vividly saying, "Get off the bus!" But like a scared, defeated puppy, I put my tail between my legs and shuffled to the back of the bus, sitting down, preparing for the unknown journey, I heard His voice again, "Get off the bus!" For some reason, I ignored the warning, choosing rather to venture into the place of the unknown, certainly not unlike Jonah, who will soon find himself in the belly of this ship.
As the bus rolled to its stop in front of an obvious barroom, they look the same in Europe, I noticed everything else seemed closed on that Sunday night, so I asked the driver, "Aren't there any stores open? Aren’t there any scenes to see, or other choices in places to go?" His response was a simple shaking of his head in the motion of a negative.
When I think about how suddenly everything happened, I still get spun around, within minutes, I was in line with the world, had bought a ticket for $5 that would purchase five drinks, and from the purchase of the ticket to the walk through the door, I somehow had changed my mind from drinking Coca Cola to deciding on Jack Daniels and coke. It was almost as though that thought was placed in my head from somewhere else. I didn't even drink Jack Daniels nor did I know whether they even sold it in Holland, but lo and behold, there it was on the menu when we sat down at the table.
Unfortunately, things worsened from that point, because women began to walk up and sit down at our table; in addition, a woman came out on the stage dancing completely naked.
How could have this happened so quickly? How could a person on the plane, who had determined in his heart not to go the way of the world fallen so rapidly? Things could have been worse that night, but they were certainly bad enough-- I drank things I had no business drinking and smoked things I had no business smoking.
When I woke the next day, the conviction of the Holy Spirit overwhelmed me. Everyone began to plan that night's party, and they were including me in their plans. I can remember so vividly the shame I felt. I felt as though I had personally betrayed Jesus. Then, suddenly one of them said, "Dude, I don't get you. You fly all the way over here and don't drink when it's free, but then you come and do all that last night-- that's stupid-- I don't get it."
My response, "I agree it was stupid, and I don't expect you to understand, but I'm supposed to be a Christian. I'm supposed to be living my life different, but I failed God last night. I can tell you this though; I won't be going back tonight."
I wish I could tell you that I never failed God again, but that would be a lie. The truth is that until God gave me a supernatural revelation of the power of the cross, I failed God repeatedly over the next 12 years, but I will tell you this, if you feel as though that is you and sounds something like your walk with God that isn't normal Christianity. I don't care what any preacher tells you or how bad the church looks today. Christians are supposed to walk in victory over sin because Jesus destroyed its power on the cross.
As we will see moving forward, Jonah also cried out in the midst of his misery, but in the meantime, his disobedient choices have sent him in a direction opposite of the presence of God, a storm is brewing on the horizon Christian! I don't say this to make you feel guilty. I say this out of love. You better bow your knee and let God deal with your sin on the front end before disaster strikes.
So Jonah had paid his fare. The point I was really trying to make is that many times there are things in our lives, whether they be certain addictions or personality traits like control issues, we all have trouble letting go and letting God have His way in our lives, and with time these "things," hang around so long, we become connected to them. It's as though we've paid the fare and taken ownership of them: "Oh, I'm just an alcoholic. I'll always be this way. I can't let go of this area of my life because I've never navigated those uncharted waters."
No, Christian you can live life free from those bondages. Tarshish doesn't have to be your destination. Jesus died to set you free. When you placed your faith in Him, you were baptized, immersed, or placed in Him, and in the mind of God, the "old man" that had paid the fare and was headed to Tarshish died, was buried and a "new man" has resurrected to newness of life. This man I speak of "In Christ" isn't bound by a fare to Tarshish, because Jesus redeemed him from the former life. In order to give him a new life, a new destination, and a new purpose.
But when the journey towards disobedience ensues, the storm begins to brew.
But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep. So the ship-master came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not. And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou? And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land. Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.
I suppose we should take the time to realize that not every trial is related to gross disobedience in our lives; nevertheless, every trial provides an opportunity for God to test our response. In this situation even the world (the mariners) knew this occurrence was from God. They didn't know who God was, but they knew that whoever he was, He was the one who sent the storm.
Also, notice how they all call upon their different gods with the same respect or reverence: Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god.... O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not..
This is interesting to me because today we're seeing a similar occurrence take place called pluralism- more than one substance. In this case, "There is more than one god, and everyone's god deserves the same amount of reverence and respect; furthermore, it's inconsiderate to intrude into other people's lives in an attempt to turn them from their God." Quotes represent what the world would say today, and even many elements of the Emergent Church.
This whole line of thinking is fine if you're not convinced that Jesus is the only way. But once you become convinced by the presence of God that Jesus must be embraced, the gospel is the inspired word of God, and those that reject His message, will suffer the fate of hell with the devil and his angels, then intrusion may be an inconvenience, and it may seem inconsiderate, but there is no alternative; the masses must be warned.
Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou? And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land. Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them
Ultimately, they will find out that the reason they're in the midst of this storm is because of Jonah's disobedience. Previously, several weeks back, we discussed the story of Jonah. Ultimately, the point made then is that if there is a "Jonah" in your boat, you should throw it out, that "Jonah" being anything or anyone that stands in the way of your relationship with God.
While there is certainly some truth to this thought, a more accurate representation of the context would be to say, "Hey Christian, there is a storm raging, and your disobedience is not only affecting your life, but it's also affecting the lives of those around you who need to see a valid witness, so they can know the truth, throw down their false gods, and embrace the one true God; but as you continue to navigate your storm, they continue to panic and scurry around looking for answers-- the whole while you secretly hold the (answers) in because you have your own agenda.
On Resurrection Sunday, Sean and I walked with the cross at Lake End Park. There was one specific occurrence that I believe illustrates this point well. There were 4 guys drinking beer, and they made a comment to us. So I responded, "Man, were here to remind people about Jesus. I personally think the world is beginning to shake."
One of the four said, with a smirk, as he took a drag on what was left on his finished cigarette, "Yeah, I can't wait until Jesus comes back to take us out. Then we won't have to deal with all this."
Wait! What? Did he say that? I quickly responded, "Dude, do you honestly think if we're not ready now, we'll be ready then. Are any of y'all born again?"
Both him and another one, who was sitting down on the grass, eyes hidden by his shades said, "Yes." Whereas, the first one was full of pride in his retort, the one sitting lowered his head and whispered with a sense of shame. From that moment forward, he was reverent and appreciative. I could tell the other two guys were clueless about what was going on. Nevertheless, this is the breakdown. Mr. Cocky thinks his sin is perfectly fine. He's bound in a lie of sin and self righteousness; however, the other guy knows he's wrong. He knows God isn't pleased with his sin. I believe He's going to be OK because God sent us there that day just for him. I'm praying he will get right, but until he does, he's Jonah. He's living his life in the midst of the world, their all in the storm of life, and he's sitting in the bottom of the ship, heading to Tarshish with the world, the whole while not warning them of the judgement up ahead.
Jonah 1:10-16 Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you:for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not:for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them. Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood:for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee. So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea:and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows.
While there is a lot that could be said regarding this passage of scripture, some main elements are: (1) there is a storm raging and it's affecting everyone involved; (2) the storm is a trial produced by God in response to Jonah's disobedience; (3) Jonah's disobedience in the presence of sinner's prevents the storm from calming in their lives; (4) once a move towards obedience is made, the storm is calmed, giving the world a sign that Jonah's God is real, and they begin to worship Him.
I. There is a storm raging and it's affecting everyone involved.
By now, we should all be aware that we live upon a fallen earth that is in the midst of chaos and disarray. The chaos affects everyone of us. Our relationships, jobs, everything we hold dear.
This storm affects both believers and unbelievers alike. The difference between the believer and unbeliever is that we (believers) have access to grace, which gives us strength through these storms, our understanding of God is increased as we maintain faith through the storm, and we also learn to cast our cares on Him through it all:
Romans 5:1-3 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also:knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
2. The storm is a trial produced by God in response to Jonah's disobedience.
We should always be reminded that God will never leave those that belong to Him to themselves without correction. The storm in this instance is purposefully sent to put Jonah back on track. God will use trials in our lives for correction and to produce the character in us He's looking for, not the character we think we need:
Romans 5:3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also:knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
James 1:3-4 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Hebrews 12:5-10 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence:shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
3. Jonah's disobedience in the presence of sinners prevents the storm from calming in their lives.
A while back we preached on Jonah a little when we did the Weathering the Storms series. One of the main questions we asked was, "Who or what is the Jonah in your boat?" Furthermore, it was pointed out that who or whatever it was you needed to throw it/them out-- now, don't say the preacher told you to get rid of your spouse. Those situations are a lot more complicated than that.
Afterwards, Robert, and I talked a lot about these concepts, and truthfully, the real context is that disobedient Christians living their lives of sin as they journey to Tarshish are the problem. How will the world ever have a chance to know God or have a relationship with God, even have the storms in their lives calmed when the believer is in rebellion?
4. Once a move towards obedience is made, the storm is calmed, giving the world a sign that Jonah's God is real, and they begin to worship Him.
1 Peter 5:6-7 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you:and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.