Run, run, runaway Jonah…..

26 12 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY FIVE : Jonah 1 v. 1 – 4 v. 11; Romans 2 v. 1 – 16; Psalm 85 v. 1 – 7

JONAH
Jonah Flees From the Lord – God calls Jonah to go to Ninevah to preach. Jonah runs away, headed in the opposite direction, boarding a ship at Joppa bound for Tarshish. He pays his way to flee from God’s call.
God sends a violent storm which could easily have destroyed that ship. Everyone on board cried out ‘to his own god’, and cargo was thrown overboard to ease the burden on the ship.
Jonah, meanwhile, is fast asleep below deck. The captain wakens him and urges him to pray to his god. ‘Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish’.
When the sailors cast lots, Jonah is ‘chosen’ as the one responsible for their perilous situation. They ask him to tell them who he is and where he’s from.
‘I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land’.
They know he’s running away from God, so they ask what they should do to make the sea calm down. Jonah suggests they throw him overboard. At first, the sailors ignored him, and tried to sail back to shore. In the end, they throw Jonah overboard, praying that the Lord does not hold them accountable for ‘killing an innocent man’.
As soon as they threw him overboard, the ‘raging sea grew calm’. The sailors are in awe and sacrifice to the Lord.
‘But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.’

There’s a similar story of Jesus asleep on a boat in the middle of a fierce storm – when the disciples wake Him, He commands the wind and the waves to ‘be quiet’, and the storm ceases. Same outcome, in that the storm ceased, but different outcomes for Jonah / Jesus ! 

Jonah’s Prayer – Inside the whale, Jonah prays :
~ God answers the prayer of the distressed
~ Jonah acknowledges that it is God who has ‘hurled me into the deep’
~ although Jonah feels ‘banished from God’s sight’, he knows he will see the holy temple once again (prayer of faith)
~ although Jonah was drowning, wrapped with seaweed, God remembered him, and rescued him (the great fish is the vehicle of God’s rescue)
~ Jonah sees that those who put their faith in ‘worthless idols’ do themselves out of the grace which they could and should know from God
~ ‘But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to You. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.’

I think God had heard enough by now, and commanded the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land. Yeuch !!!

Jonah Goes to Ninevah – Jonah hears God call him a second time to go to Ninevah (the call remains the same – Jonah has a second chance to respond!).
This time, Jonah obeys and goes to Ninevah. It was a significant city to visit – a three day visit might just get you round everything / everyone in Ninevah.
DAY ONE : Jonah went into the city and told them what God had said – forty days and then Ninevah will be destroyed.
‘The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them…put on sackcloth’.
Even the king took off his robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in the dust, and he sent out a proclamation throughout Ninevah, urging a fast, and repentance (sackcloth etc.).
‘Let everyone call urgently upon God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence…God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.’
So, God did show compassion, when the people turned from their wicked ways, and Ninevah was spared the destruction which had been threatened.

Jonah’s Anger at the Lord’s Compassion – Jonah is angry with God, and prays angrily
~ this is just what I feared You would do, God !
~ I fled to Tarshish because I knew You would relent and not send calamity on Ninevah.
~ ‘I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love’.
~ I’d rather die than live to see Ninevah spared….
God questions Jonah’s ‘right to be angry’, but Jonah goes out of the city and has a major sulk, sitting under a shelter he put together.
God provided a vine, which grew up over Jonah, offering him shade.
‘Jonah was very happy about the vine’; however, in the morning God provided a worm which caused the vine to wither, and the sun beat down on Jonah. Jonah repeats his request to God that it would be preferable to die.
God questions Jonah’s ‘right to be angry’ about the vine. Jonah says he absolutely does have the right to be angry enough to die!
God points out that Jonah was upset about a vine which grew up one day and withered the next, whereas Ninevah had more than 120,00 people living in it (not to mention the cattle!); so, then, the book of Jonah ends with God asking him a question,
‘Should I not be concerned about that great city?’

God is keen to teach Jonah compassion…He is keen to do the same for us, too…to see things as God does, to live with His perspective.

ROMANS
God’s Righteous Judgment – Judging others is akin to judging ourselves, since all are guilty of sin, whereas God’s judgement is based on truth. People are stubborn and have unrepentant hearts (v.5), and therefore store up God’s wrath and judgement.
‘To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.’
and God does not show favouritism when it comes to Jew or Gentile – all will get what their life on earth deserves.
‘It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but those who obey the law who will be declared righteous’.
Paul reminds his readers that there will be a judgement day – ‘when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ…‘.

Paul is building up his argument that trying to live by the law is ultimately fruitless, unless we have the righteousness through Jesus Christ.

PSALM
A song by the Sons of Korah

My Lord, my God, You have poured Your blessings on Your land,
bring Jacob’s land back to its former glory.
Forgiving Your people, You have dealt with their sin.

(pause for a while to reflect)

You subdued Your anger, turned from Your wrath.

My Lord, my God, our Saviour, build us up again.
Turn from being displeased with us
to restore all that we have lost.
Enough of Your anger – it can’t go on forever and ever –
revive us, restore us,
so that we may for ever rejoice in You.
Make us aware, once again, of Your unfailing love.
Rescue us, save us, renew us.
AMEN.

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