Sunday, July 10, 2011

Jonah - Week Two


Listen to this to prepare your heart. Last week we saw Jonah running, oh but this week we will see God's relentless chase. How He loves us and will do whatever it takes to get us back. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Wherever you are He will pursue you. He wants you on His path.

This week we will look at Jonah 1:4-16. I have linked to it if you want to pull it up online to read. I linked the NLT version. I like to read through this one but study in ESV or NIV or NASB mostly. It is quite a bit of info so just take it all in.

This portion of Scripture opens this way, "But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart" (Jonah 1:4). Last week we saw how Jonah ran from the task God gave him. He was planning on going the furthest place away from God that was possible. This is how God responds. I am just in awe of God's pursuit. Luke 15:4-5, NLT, says it best, "If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders." Because of one gone astray He throws this violent storm on them. God has the power to stop a ship. God will get back His man, Jonah, and pick up a few others on the way.

Now I want you to consider this, the ship was about to break up. This issue of Jonah's disobedience did not just affect Jonah, it also affected those around him. Just with our sin, it is never personal. It always effects those around us. That is enough to make me rethink poor choices.

The culture of the time was polytheistic. The people believed in many different gods. The response to this disaster was calling out to those gods to try to stop this storm. This even cost them precious cargo because they had to start throwing it overboard to save the ship. But how did Jonah respond?

 "But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.”" ~Jonah 1:5b-6.

It is interesting to me that Jonah could sleep so soundly through this. It just shows you how being steeped in sin can exhaust us. It overwhelms us. Separation from God is not what we were made for.  Just for a second I want to contrast this with Jesus in a familiar scene. Just as being steeped in sin can exhaust us, so can serving others. Read Mark 4:35-41. We see another storm situation and another panicky crew. This time Jesus is sleeping I believe because He rests securely in His Father's care. It is a great examination of our faith when storms arise. Do we panic or can we also rest securely in our Father's care despite the circumstance?

I find this very interesting because prophets were Christ-like characters for the people. They point to the One to come. Hebrews 1:1-2 states it like this, "Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe."

We will see another interesting comparison of Jonah and Christ coming up next week. I love that all Scripture will continually point us to Christ. As we study the Old Testament we need to keep our Jesus glasses on. We need to always be looking for clues of Him. It makes Scripture more meaningful and Christ centered.

Now the crew practices an ancient tradition of casting lots. It was a type of drawing straws. Proverbs 16:33 states, "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD" (NIV). The lot of course fell to Jonah it was his fault and he knew it.

Now the crew quizzes Jonah. They want to know who he is and what his business is. Jonah the prophet now shares his testimony with them. He says, "I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:9). Again here is the name of the Triune God. Yahweh (which I think last week I said Jehovah...but really the name God is using is Yahweh, I will correct that.) The covenant keeping God. I also find it comical that Jonah is running away from the Maker of the sea by the sea. Ironic, huh?

After hearing this testimony the crew is struck with fear. This word for fear is the proper word used for fearing the Lord in the Hebrew. They are now exceedingly afraid by knowing that the Lord can crush them. It is a healthy respectful fear. Their natural question is what can we do then? They were upset to be put in this situation.

Jonah says to throw him in the sea and it will stop the storm. He is afterall the one running from God. Jonah knows it will stop the storm. But the crew is afraid to do this to a man. This storm is the most outrageous storm you can imagine. It just keeps getting worse.

The response of the crew is to row. They appear to care more about the lives of others than Jonah did. They want to reach land they cannot imagine throwing Jonah into this mess. However when they see they cannot get past this storm they listen and throw him in. This is their prayer, "Then they cried out to the Lord, Jonah’s God. “O Lord,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons" (Jonah 1:14, NLT).

Interestingly the word used for the crew "throwing" Jonah over is the same word used when God "hurled" the storm on the sea. I find that interesting. Just as the first week how God said "arise" and go to Ninevah but Jonah "rose" and went the opposite direction.

The instant Jonah was in the sea the storm stopped. Just like when Jesus said to the storm, "quiet, be still." At the sight of this this crew became real believers of Yahweh. This is their response, "The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him" (Jonah 1:16, NLT).

Now I really do love this because if Jonah was not here in this situation would these men have come to know the Lord? Even in our sin God still uses it for His purposes. There are new believers because of it. This goes to show that absolutely nothing we do will thwart God's purposes. Nothing. We may find ourselves in a very bad and uncomfortable place for a time but God never gives up on us. Never.

1- Are you surprised by God's relentless pursuit of Jonah? Why or why not? If God is the same as yesterday, they wouldn't He pursue you in this same way? Do you see this happening in your life? Give an example.

2- Our personal sin will always affect those around us in some way. Have you considered this? Share an example in your life where you saw this. Or let us pray for you if there is a way right now you need to turn back.

3- Have you ever been utterly exhausted spiritually because of your sin? Explain.

4- Even the weakest of testimonies, like Jonah's above, can cause change in people's hearts. It never depends on us. God is the mover of hearts. He just allows us to take part in His greater work. Share how God wooed you to Himself with the group. Also I keep thinking of Naomi and Ruth. Naomi was in the middle of a pity party when Ruth decided to follow her and God's people this is just another example of this, God's power drawing us.

5- God uses this situation to bring great glory to Himself. He brought new believers into the kingdom. There is nothing that can stop God's ultimate plan. Nothing. Does this thought help you any?

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