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Lessons from
The Book of Jonah

by Patricia Dailey,
Senior Pastor, Bethel Revival Center

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Lessons from
The Book of Jonah

by Patricia Dailey
Senior Pastor, Bethel Revival Center
43 Norwood St.
Everett, MA 02149


Wherever we may go, we should be a witness unto the Lord Jesus Christ — be it at work, at school, while shopping, or wherever — witnessing with our life as well as our words.

Matthew 5:16
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

If you tell your friends about Jesus and tell them you go to church, trying to convince them that they need Jesus, yet you are smoking with them, dressing like they dress, and talking like they talk, what a bad testimony!

Joel 3:14
Multitudes,multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.

Many people out there are questioning which way they should go, where they can they find the answers to life, which god they should serve. How important it is that we obey the commission the Lord has given: to introduce souls to the answer they are seeking for: Jesus Christ the way, the truth and the life.

Proverbs 24:11,12
If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? and He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? and shall not He render to every man according to his works?

We can't sit around ignoring the lost because we don't know. We do know! We know because we were out there. We were lost and dying without hope. And it is the grace of God if we are saved today.

We're living in the end times, seeing the signs of the times all about us. All things point to the coming of the Lord. And we want to work and labor to reach as many as we can while it is yet day, before it's too late.

What if nobody had cared about us? We could still be out there! But thank God that someone cared, someone prayed, someone spoke up.

Obedience

Jonah 1:1,2
Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before Me.

Some pray and ask God what they can do, yet when He tells them, they pull back because that's not what they really want to do.

Jonah had a commission from God, but instead of rising up to do what he was called to do, he decided to go in the opposite direction.

And that's what many will do when they don't want to do what God has called them to do. They'll take another route in order to avoid God's call.

We see where Jonah didn't want to deal with anyone as wicked as the people of Ninevah were. Ninevah was a wicked Gentile city, and Jonah wasn't about to go there. Instead, he rose up to flee to Tarshish, thinking he could flee from the Lord's presence. Understand, though, you cannot get away from the presence of God, no matter where you may go. Some feel if they could just get out of the church they're attending — running far from it — then all would be well. No, my friend, all would not be well. They think if they could just up and leave, they wouldn't feel any more dealings on their life — but I certainly wouldn't want to be in a place where God couldn't deal with me any longer!

You should never say you want to run from God or from His dealings. Know that He'll be right there to deal, wherever you go. You may run to the other side of the country, or even go to some other country, but God will meet you there to deal with you. You cannot run away from God.

And if you have a calling upon your life, you can't run from that either. You may deny it is there, you may cast it aside, but it will follow you to the grave. Knowing that you disobeyed God will haunt you: "Why didn't I obey You, God! Why didn't I listen to You when You dealt with me? Why did I rebel!"

Flee from God?

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.

Notice, Jonah rose up to flee from the presence of the Lord!

God fills the universe. He is everywhere, and there is no place where you can go to get away from Him. He has an all-seeing eye. He sees when we do evil, and He sees when we do good. We cannot hide from Him.

Remember how Adam and Eve tried to hide from God in the garden? They couldn't hide from God.

Psalm 139:7-10
Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.

So, you can see that God is everywhere. Can you imagine that? When you're all alone, wherever you might be, He's right there.

Psalm 139:12
Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee.

You're not going to hide — even in the dark. Many think they can do their thing in the dark, and nobody will ever know. But God's eyes penetrate right through the darkness. Yes, God has good vision and sees all. He has good ears and hears all.

The enemy tries to deceive children through that impostor named Santa Claus, saying that he sees all you do and hears all you say, but only Jesus Christ can do that! Santa Claus isn't even a real person — actually, he is Satan's Claws, out to cause little children to believe a lie and get them to believe that Jesus is no different than Santa Claus.

Disobedience Brings Storms

Jonah 1:4
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.

Notice where this storm came from: The Lord sent a great wind, a mighty tempest in the sea. Jonah thought he was going to get away from the presence of God. He thought he could just run and everything would be OK. And isn't this the way it is when someone tries to run from the dealings of God? They never think that in their running they're going to run right into God. And when the storm begins to rage and troubles come . . .

This wasn't an easy thing for Jonah to go through. When you disobey God, you can't expect the blessings to fall. Troubles, trials, anxieties, anguish — all these will come like a whirlwind.

Now, Jonah wasn't the only one in that ship. The rest suffered along with him because of his sin of disobedience to God. And others will suffer when we disobey God. Our children may suffer. Our mate may suffer. Our brothers and sisters, moms and dads, friends — all these may suffer, just because of our disobedience to God.

Jonah 1:5
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.

Just because of this one passenger on the ship, they all were going through the storm. Here we find the cargo had to be thrown overboard. These mariners were afraid because of the great tempest. The ship was about to be broken apart.

Remember the ship that Paul was in (see Acts 27)? Thank God that someone on that ship could pray.

We experienced the power of prayer on our flight home from India. The plane stopped at Tehran, and as we were landing, some mechanical failure ripped open a hole in the plane. The jolt of the explosion caused the plane to swerve, and the overhead compartments flew open. Thank God we landed safely and nobody was injured. We had to wait quite a few hours for them to repair the plane, but the inconvenience was nothing compared to the tragedy that could have taken place. It pays to pray.

Even when I go for a ride in a car, I pray and ask for God's protection. I believe God honors that.

But don't bother asking God's protection if you're disobeying Him. If you're trying to run away from Him, He can't send blessings your way. You can't be protected from the results of your disobedience.

We find that Jonah had gone down into the ship and lay fast asleep. And that's the problem with those who are disobeying God: They're fast asleep spiritually. They're not aware that a storm is raging!

Jonah was fast asleep while the mariners threw things overboard to lighten the ship. They were afraid — while Jonah was fast asleep.

Are you spiritually sleeping, not realizing what's going on because of your disobedience? You think everything is just fine, but one day you'll wake up, and then you'll discover the storm. You'll feel the impact of the storm. All because of disobedience to the will of the Lord.

Jonah 1:6-7
So the shipmaster 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.

This evil thing came upon them all because of Jonah's disobedience to God.

Jonah 1:8,9
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.

That's the talk of a person who is spiritually asleep: "Everything is fine! There's nothing out of the ordinary! I love the Lord! I'm praying, and doing everything I'm supposed to do" (everything but being obedient to God).

If Jonah really feared the Lord, he would have done what God had called him to do in the first place!

James 4:17
Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

As we look further at this account, we see that Jonah told the men he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord! He had to confess and let them know that he had fled from the Lord's presence — at least he thought he had. But we know we can't flee from God's presence, for He is everywhere.

Condoning Another's Sin

Jonah 1:10-14
Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hath 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, has done as it pleased Thee.

This is what many do when someone is being dealt with by the Lord: They want to pat him on the head and smooth things over. "We'll get along. Everything will be just fine. Things aren't right, but we'll just ride along."

They don't realize they're going to hurt that person by encouraging him in his disobedience. When you encourage people in something while they're disobeying God, you're just as guilty of disobeying God as they are! You've got to be careful what you say and do.

Do you want the blessings of God on your life? Then you be careful what you condone.

If I had a brother who asked me to go to the store and buy him a pack of cigarettes, does that mean I should do that? If I did, what would I be doing? I'd be condoning his sin.

And you who are disobeying God, if you were praying as you should be praying, you wouldn't be disobeying God! The love for God would be so great, and the fear of God would be so great in your life, you wouldn't want to disobey God for one moment. You'd want to live in obedience to Him because He has done so much for you. He loved you so much that He gave His only begotten Son for you. Why, then, would you want to do something that would be in disobedience to Him?

Now, these mariners didn't want to throw Jonah overboard.

"But I don't want to lose my friends!" Don't you realize it's more important to keep friendship with the Friend of friends? If you go along with someone else's disobedience, you'll lose your Friend Jesus.

It's not worth it! You'll suffer as the result of your condoning their sin. You'll feel convicted down in the depths of your soul. You'll be troubled, dealt with by God. He'll get your attention: "Wake up!"

Jonah 1:15
So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.

You see, when they got rid of the problem, then the storm ceased raging. Do you understand that?

Jonah 1:16
Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.

Now they could see it — after the fact. They couldn't see it before because they were blinded to it. But after the fact, look what happened: Then they feared the Lord. Why not fear the Lord now? Why not be obedient to the Lord now?

Consequences


Jonah Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

A lot of scholars believe that the book of Jonah is only a myth or a legend that's been handed down through the generations. We see where God prepared this great fish, this whale. God had it specially prepared for Jonah, and he was in the belly of that whale for three days and three nights. Jesus refers to the great fish as a whale (see Matthew 12:39-41), a sign of His burial and resurrection.

We find in the Book of Jonah, God prepared four things: the great fish, a gourd, a worm, and a vehement east wind.

Can you imagine being down in the bottom of the sea inside a whale, with seaweed wrapped around your head, three days and three nights! What a fearful experience that would be!!

Jonah 2:1,2
Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly, and said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and He heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and Thou heardest my voice.

If we backslide and turn away from God, there is no guarantee we will ever get back to God. Understand that. God will receive a backslider if they have truly repented, but not every backslider will return.

Now, Jonah is known as the runaway prophet. He had a commission from the Lord to cry against this wicked city, but he didn't want to do what God had called him to do.

By reason of his affliction, he began to cry unto the Lord. And that's what happens when we are afflicted because of our disobedience. We, too, will begin to cry out: "O God! O God! Help me!"

Listen, you can't throw the call of God away, denying that He ever called you. You can't cast the call of God aside because you don't want His call upon your life, and then, when affliction comes, think you can cry out to God to give you a second chance. There is no guarantee you will have a second chance with that call.

When God has called you to do something, heed that call. Care for it, cherish it, and obey Him, doing what He asks you to do. Don't get the idea you can do your own thing now, and then later on take up the call. No, it just does not work that way!

I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord. Yes, when you're afflicted, you're going to do some crying out to God. You'll not only cry out in prayer, but you'll also literally cry and weep because of the troubles and hard trials. You'll shed many tears because of your affliction.

But you got yourself in that mess, and, as the saying goes, when you make your bed, you have to lie in it.

Just one mistake like this can bring on days, weeks, months, even years of affliction because of disobedience. Why put yourself through all that? Spare yourself by obeying in the first place. Anyone who has done this could tell you that they have been afflicted because of their disobedience. They felt it. Many have told me they've had a hard time getting back into their rightful place.

Jonah 2:3, 7-8
For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all Thy billows and Thy waves passed over me . . . When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto Thee, into Thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

Here's where many get into trouble: observing lying vanities. The devil comes along and lies to them, and they believe his lies and forsake their own mercy. That's why people act on these lies. They're convinced God will bless their disobedience, but what they are really doing is forsaking their own mercy!

God is Merciful

Jonah 2:9
But I will sacrifice unto Thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.

Jonah certainly had much to thank God for. He had forsaken God's mercy, but in his affliction he came to his senses, and God was yet merciful.

We make vows to the Lord when we feel His closeness and feel the Spirit of God moving in a service. We'll say: "Lord, I'll go where You want me to go! I'll say what You want me to say! I'll be what you want me to be!" But then, when we're put on the spot and the Lord tells us what He wants, we want to run from it!

Back to Square One

Jonah 2:10 & 3:1-3
And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey.

Sometimes people have to go through something before they get back to square one. And that's where Jonah ended up: square one. How much easier it would have been if he had done this the first time.

Jonah 3:4,5
And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.

Jonah had a hard message for this city, but when the people of Nineveh heard what he had to say, they believed God.

Ninevah was a wicked Gentile city, known in the book of Nahum as the Bloody City; yet, they believed God and took steps towards repentance.

Jonah 3:6-9
For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Ninevah by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:

But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn an repent, and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not?

Jonah's message was a hard message. This city was going to be overthrown. But when the king and the people heard what Jonah had to say, they believed God, and a decree was published that all should fast and cry mightily unto God.

Jonah 3:8-10
But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that He had said that He would do unto them; and He did it not.

That whole city was spared because the people believed God and turned to Him in repentance.

Are We Merciful?

Jonah 4:1,2
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray Thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that Thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest Thee of the evil.

Can you imagine getting angry because someone turns to the Lord? How selfish. And, in this case, it wasn't just one soul, it was the whole city that repented and turned to God!

Are you selfish? Do you think that salvation is just for you and those around about you? Remember, God has said that whosoever will may come! He is not willing that any perish, but that all come to repentance.

I knew that Thou art a gracious God, and merciful . . . Jonah knew God was merciful. Don't you think that God's attributes should have been in his life? He shouldn't have gotten angry because God granted that city repentance. That certainly wasn't being merciful.

Jonah 4:4-8
Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry? So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city. And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief.

So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

We want to receive mercy, but we don't always want to show mercy. We want God to be merciful to us; we want people to be merciful to us, but we don't want to show mercy. God is a merciful God, and, therefore, His people should also be merciful.

A hard heart will not show mercy. We need our hearts softened that we can be merciful to others, instead of wanting to see judgment fall on someone for their disobedience.

Jonah 4:9-11
And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. Then said the LORD, Thou has had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should I not spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

Why would anybody want to see someone reject the Word of the Lord, knowing trouble lies ahead, knowing afflictions are down the road, knowing that one may never get back to God? Why would anybody want to go along with that? If we really have the love of God, we wouldn't want anyone to be afflicted because of their disobedience. It could happen, but we wouldn't wish it on them. Unlike Jonah, we would be mindful of the mercies of God.

Psalm 89:1
I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known Thy faithfulness to all generations.

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