We have come to the end of our series in Jonah.
It’s been quite a journey through this small, but profound OT book.
Today is going to be simple, but intentional. As we remove ourselves from the story, what important themes can we draw from the whole story of Jonah?
But first…a recap of the story…
Jonah gets a word from God.
Go to the great city of Nineveh
Jonah says…nope…goes the other way
Boards a ship
A storm brews and erupts on the see
The sailors start to pray (to multiple pagan gods)
Jonah ducks down to the lower deck, not to pray, but to sleep
The captain wakes him up, asks him to pray
The sailors draw straws to see who to blame the storm on
Jonah admits this is his fault
They reluctantly throw Jonah overboard
Enter into the story – big fish
It swallows Jonah, he’s there for 3 days, Jonah Prays, Fish spits him out
God calls on Jonah a second time
Jonah obliges this time
Jonah shares his message (8 words)
At the surface, it wasn’t good news
But Nineveh responded well
They turned around, repented, recognized their wrongs, and took steps towards God
God sees their heart, changes his mind on their judgement, and embraces the Ninevites.
Jonah is angry and resentful
Why? Because he knew God would be gracious and give them a chance to repent.
He complains, says he would rather die
God asks him 2 important questions: Why are you angry? Shouldn’t I be concerned for Nineveh?
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Here are a few final take a ways I’d like to point out.
WHY I LOVE THIS STORY?
It’s comical, strange, unpredictable…
- I love that the Bible includes stories like this
- I believe the Bible to be true, because stories like this made the cut
The story can be true without every part being true!
On the other hand, why not believe the unbelievable parts?
- “Take note of the strange parts of the story, because they’re usually there for a reason.” (Rob Bell)
- A few questions we can ask are: How does a story like this survive? Do we only affirm things that can be proven in labs?
- “If we reject all inexplicable elements of all stories because we have made up our mind ahead of time that such things simply aren’t possible, we run the risk of shrinking the world down to what we can comprehend.
- What fun is that?
- How many good things we will miss?
I can live with the fish, but it’s about so much more than the fish.
- God & People
- People finding God
- God pursuing people
- This is almost always the case in biblical stories
WHO IS YAHWEH/GOD?
The writer’s desire is that we get to know GOD; especially in comparison to pagan gods.
- the boat/storm (ch. 1)
- sailors polytheism vs Jonah’s monotheism
- try your God Jonah…
- jonah’s response (creator, land & sea)
- Genesis 1, God created Heaven & Earth (hebrew = top to bottom) basically, EVERYTHING
- the 1st prayer (ch. 2)
- God listens, responds, saves, etc.
- jonah’s 2nd prayer (ch. 4)
- God is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love (a character reference on God)
- Compared to pagan gods who got angry and stayed angry
Jonah’s story teaches us about a God…
– who is patient
– who weeps
– who is generous
– who is complex, because he’s both good and just
(Every time we read the Bible, we should ask ourselves, what did I learn about God in this text/story, what did I learn about Jesus today?)
WHAT IS REPENTANCE?
There’s a strong contrast between Jonah, who doesn’t change, and Nineveh, who does change.
Reading this story should lead someone to repentance.
Paul’s words in Romans 2 ring so true here:
Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?
God’s kindness leads to repentance. (NIV)
The thing that Jonah finds so upsetting is the thing that compels us to repent and turn around – It’s God’s compassion and mercy and grace.
Some commentators compare Jonah’s story to the prodigal son. In the same way the son ran away, so to did Jonah run away, in the way the son returned, so to do did Jonah return.
– We see the prodigal son physically turn around and go back home – repent and go back to his loving father.
– Jonah after praying in the fish, reconsiders God’s call and says yes to him.
– Of course there’s Nineveh too…who repented and turned around.
Turning around is a big theme in this story. It should lead us to our own repentance story.
(Every time we read the Bible, we should ask ourselves, ‘how does this text or story lead me to repentance or change of heart or life or action or character?)
WHAT’s WITH THE ENDING QUESTION?
This story ends with a question. What do we make of this?
It’s Fascinating; the only biblical book to end with a question.
We see lots of questions in the scripture directed at us from God.
- Where are you? (Genesis)
- Who told you were naked? (Genesis)
- Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? (Job)
- Whom shall I send? Who will go? (Isaiah)
- Do you have a reason to be angry? (Jonah)
- Should I not be concerned about Nineveh? (Jonah)
Jesus asked a lot of them too….
- Who do you say I am?
- Do you believe?
- Do you want to be well?
- Why are you afraid?
- Are you going to leave too?
- Who touched me?
- Do you love me?
People don’t ask enough questions anymore?
Perhaps Jonah ends with a question to tell us that what we need more than clarity is curiosity. Curiosity is what moves us forward. If this book is about anything, it’s about God moving Israel & Jonah forward in their thinking towards others. Ending with a question, a rhetorical one, could be Jonah & Israel’s best chance to change.
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(Q&A portion of this talk was not recorded. It was very engaging.)
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DO WE LOVE WHO GOD LOVES?
DO WE CARE ABOUT WHAT GOD CARES ABOUT?
DO WE THINK&DREAM AS BIG AS GOD DOES?
The final question in this story leads us to this conclusion: God’s love is boundless. Grace is scandalous. Mercy is mind blowing. Forgiveness is for all people.
Back to the prodigal son comparison, it’s likely that Jonah may be more like the older brother, who has a difficult time with forgiveness being extended to the rebel kid/brother in the family.
- The Father’s response to the eldest son is, “You’ve always had all you want, but my son has come home, shouldn’t we throw a party?
- God tells Jonah, “You’ve always known my love and kindness, but these Ninevites have turned from evil, shouldn’t I (we) forgive them?”
After reading and hanging out in this story the last few weeks, how is God pulling you forward? How is God leading you?? Are you turning around from some places that you’ve been stuck to for far too long?
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small(er) group discussion:
All we’ll do tonight is talk through the final take-a-ways from Jonah.
Why do you like or not like this story?
What did you learn about God? How are these GOD traits compelling or attractive? What do you make of the comparison in Jonah between GOD & gods?
What can or has become a ‘g’od in our lives today?
Talk about Repentance? What is beautiful about it? What is hard about it?
Do you see why Jonah would’ve had a hard time with this in regards to Nineveh?
How can God’s message of love and mercy and forgiveness help us today in such a polarized and divided world? In our personal lives and community life?
What does it mean to love like God loves, care about what he cares about, dream like he dreams?