Running from God – Message 3
January 31, 2021
Introduction: We return again to Jonah series entitled, Running from God.
- Jonah 1:15,17; Matthew 12:39-40.
A. The title of today’s message is Rescue.
- Theme: Jonah 2:1 (NLT)—Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish.
- Background: Jonah 1:15 (NLT)—Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once!
- Did you notice that? The storm stopped! That should have ended Jonah’s ordeal.
- The sailors could have rescued him from the now-calm sea and continued to Tarshish.
- But God was not finished shaping the character of his petulant, rebellious, prophet, so…
- Jonah 1:17a (NLT)—…the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah.
- Jonah was focused on escaping his crisis, but God wanted him to reflect on his attitude toward God, to reconsider his rebellion and his running away, so He sent to fish.
- Do you believe Jonah was truly swallowed by a fish—either one directed by God or specifically prepared by God for this purpose? [Hebrew – can mean to appoint or to prepare]
- It is not necessary to believe that the ocean contains fish that could swallow a man or that the man could live inside such fish for three days!
- The more important question is whether God is real and is He all-powerful?
- If God could resurrect His Son, after having Him die for the collective sins of us all, then preparing a fish to swallow Jonah was not difficult.
- But how could a man remain alive in a fish for three days? I’m not sure he did.
- Jonah might have died in the fish and been restored to life; remember Jesus referred to the sign of Jonah, comparing Jonah’s three days in the fish’s belly, with the three days He would be dead, buried in the earth before His resurrection. (Matthew 12:39-40)
- The point I want to focus on is that God sent the storm, then the fish, to rescue Jonah.
- APP.: Do you need to be rescued by God out of difficult circumstances?
II. Rescue includes… (Jonah 2:1-10)
B #1 - Return to God’s Presence. (Jonah 2:1-2. C/R: Psalm 34:18; 40:1-2; 120:1; Luke 15:20)
- Jonah 2:1-2 (NLT)—1Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. 2He said, “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and He answered me. I called to You from the land of the dead [Sheol], and Lord, You heard me!
- Either as he was swallowed, sliding down the fish’s throat, or when he landed in the fish’s belly, Jonah cried out to God—and God answered him!
- Jonah knew he would soon be dead and he turned to the Lord, the same Lord he had desperately wanted to get away from. (Jonah1:3)
- Was this cry from the fish’s belly sincere? Had his attitude toward God changed, or had he just decided he didn’t want to die?
- Remember, he was so angry toward God that, in his self-loathing anger, he decided he would rather drown than repent, or even to exert the effort to row! (“I don’t care!”)
- He told the sailors to throw him into the sea, again revealing his stubborn selfishness, because he could have jumped overboard himself! (Tracy Beckner’s insight)
- When people are wrapped up in narcissistic self-pity, they won’t try, they refuse to move, thereby forcing someone else to push them (spouse, parents, friends); then, if their situation doesn’t improve or worsens, they blame you. (Jonah 1:11-12)
- ILL.: Like a child who is unhappy with life, angry over circumstances, but won’t study, won’t work, won’t be counseled; he/she is forcing you to pitch him/her out of the ship (basement), so they can blame you for whatever happens.
- Would God accept Jonah back if he was only trying to have his life spared?
- God always hears the prayers of His children; He welcomes them back, even the most rebellion ones. (God ran to His prodigal son filled with love and compassion; Luke 15:20)
- God arranged Jonah’s circumstances: He sent the storm, then the fish, to stop Jonah’s flight and force him to think about where he was, how he got here, so he would return.
- If he had remained in the ship, he could have busied himself with rowing or bailing, distracted himself from thinking about how he had damaged his relationship with God.
- APP.: Has God interrupted your life with this virus, through illness, loss of employment, or business decline, so you would focus on the spiritual state of your life?
- Jonah didn’t just scream, “Help, save me,” he spoke to God, he returned to God’s Presence, and he heard God’s response to him.
- APP.: When you are upset, angry, fearful, anxious, depressed, or despondent, do you seek the Presence of God or do you seek some distraction?
B. #2 - Recognition of responsibility. (Jonah 2:3-6a. C/R: Psalm 32:3-5; 118:18; Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:5-11)
- Jonah 2:3 (NLT)—You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves. [Jonah was drowning.]
- Jonah knew that God was disciplining him for his rebellion. (Two responsible parties.)
- He didn’t blame the sailors who actually threw him overboard, they were only doing what they had to do to survive the storm God sent to apprehend Jonah.
- Jonah had spent years faithfully serving God, speaking for God with authority.
- People recognized him as spiritually important, even powerful; but Jonah forgot that he was no more than a mere messenger, a servant called to do what he was told to do.
- Jonah determined that he had the right to reject God’s assignment if it didn’t please him.
- This independent spirit was sinful pride that had to be exposed and repented of.
- Jonah had to be brought back into close, intimate, obedient, relationship with God.
- Jonah 2:4 (NLT)—4Then I said, ‘O Lord, You have driven me from Your presence.
Yet I will look once more toward Your holy Temple.’
- Jonah knew God was disciplining him, but rather than resenting the death he would soon encounter and blaming God, he reflected fondly on God and His temple.
- Jonah 2:5-6a (NLT)—5“I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me.
Seaweed wrapped itself around my head. 6aI sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth [the pit], whose gates lock shut forever.
- Jonah described his downward plunge into the deep, until he hit the bottom, illustrating the hopelessness of his situation. (AA calls it “hitting rock bottom.”)
- He was beyond human help, sure of his imminent death by drowning!
- He had to decide how he would die, at odds with God or at peace with Him?
- APP.: Are you in a hopeless situation, sinking toward the bottom, or on the bottom?
- APP.: Where will you look? At someone you blame for your situation, at God who caused, or allowed, your catastrophe, or yourself, because you created your calamity?
C. #3 - Realization of God’s rescue. (Jonah 2:6b-10. C/R: Psalm 34:18; 51:17; 2 Corinthians 7:10; Ephesians 2:8-9)
- Jonah remembered his hopeless situation, sure to die, unless God intervened.
Jonah 2:6b-7 (NLT)—6b But You, O Lord my God, snatched me from the jaws of death! [The fish saved Jonah from drowning.] 7As my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord. And my earnest prayer went out to You in Your holy Temple.
- Just as he was giving up, resigned to die, he remembered His Lord and he cried out to God in His temple, then the fish swallowed him.
- Do you think Jonah was praying for rescue? I think he sought reconciliation with God.
- Jonah prayed to God in His temple because His name was there; He heard from heaven the prayers His people asked toward the temple and forgave their sins. (Solomon’s prayer of dedication; 1 Kings 8:28-30)
- People who have sinned, like Jonah and us, approach God by having their sins forgiven.
- Jonah’s next words are a bit surprising, but also very revealing.
- Jonah 2:8-9a (NLT)—8Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies. [including these desperate sailors] 9aBut I will offer sacrifices to You with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. …”
- What do you hear in this statement? Appreciation to God? Yes. Pride? I think so.
- Prejudice toward unbelieving Gentiles? Yes. Sailors? Certainly. Ninevites?
- Was Jonah, even in what he thought were his final moments of life, justifying his rejection of God’s evangelistic assignment? It seems so.
- Jonah 2:9b (NLT)—For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.” [Hebrew – deliverance in a physical or spiritual sense]
- Jonah reaffirmed his steadfast faith in Yahweh, who alone can save.
- I think he was speaking of eternal rescue, spiritual deliverance, into God’s Presence following his death, but God had a different plan.
- Jonah 2:10 (NLT)—Then the Lord ordered [Hebrew – literally, spoke to] the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach. [All of God’s creation, except humans, obey God’s Word.]
- We don’t know where Jonah landed or what shape he was in.
- Mucus probably covered his body and gastric acids likely burnt and bleached his exposed skin, leaving him disfigured for life, but he was alive!
- I think God sent the storm, followed by the fish, and finally the rescue, to force Jonah to experience the grace of God’s rescue so he might become more gracious to others who were headed for destruction, notably, the Ninevites. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
- We will soon see whether God’s rescue changed Jonah’s attitude.
- APP.: Have you experience the saving, delivering, graced of God? Has it caused you to become more gracious toward others?
Memory verse: Psalm 51:17 (NLT)—The sacrifice You desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.