Running from God – Message 2
January 24, 2021
I. Introduction: Continuing our series on Jonah entitled, Running from God.
A. The title of today’s message is Restraint.
- Theme verse: Jonah 1:14 (NLT)—“…O Lord, You have sent this storm upon him for Your own good reasons.” [That reason was restraining the rebellion of Jonah.]
- Background from Jonah 1:1-3: God gave His prophet Jonah a message of judgment to deliver to the enemy Gentile city of Nineveh; Jonah refused and attempted to escape God and His assignment by boarding a ship bound for Tarshish, the end of the world.
- But God had chosen Jonah as His prophet, but also as His child, and given him an important task, so He would not allow Jonah to abandon his faith or his assignment.
- God permitted Jonah to flee, but then restrained his rebellion by sending a great storm to interrupt his retreat, because God won’t allow His children to sin successfully!
- Rebellion against God doesn’t begin by running frantically, furiously, away from Him; it doesn’t begin with outright defiance and extreme disobedience.
- It starts by simply strolling away from God incrementally, subtly, internally, with increasing indifference.
- You pray less and less regularly, until you only speak to God in a crisis.
- You lose your interest in your Bible, until you read it rarely and with little conviction.
- You might serve a little when it is convenient and give only when you have excess.
- Finally, participation in worship has lost its passion, you rarely detect the Presence of God, so attendance occurs only when it doesn’t conflict with family activities.
- ILL.: Affairs don’t start with adultery, they begin with too friendly, flirtatious, then inappropriate comments, too-long looks, and a fantasizing mind. (Flee! 2 Timothy 2:22)
- Jonah’s heart had left God long before he received the assignment to go to Nineveh.
- The resented task didn’t cause or create, it revealed, the state of Jonah’s heart.
- ILL.: What you resist, resent, reject, refuse, reveals the state of your heart.
- If we belong to God, He will draw us back, by gently calling us to return to relationship with Him; but if we ignore Him and pick up the pace of our desertion, God will send a storm to stop us from running away.
II. Storms from God… (Jonah 1:3. C/R: Hebrews 2:1-4)
1. Restrain rebellion. (Jonah 1:4-6. C/R: Isaiah 59:2; John 16:7-8; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Philippians 1:6)
- When Jonah found the ship bound for far away, he paid the fare and climbed aboard, he may have thought he had escaped God and His despised assignment!
- He may have even believed God was allowing him go, facilitating his escape.
- Perhaps, he thought, God understood why he didn’t want to go to Nineveh, until God sent the storm!
- But God never violates His own Word; He doesn’t bless disobedience, though the circumstances of your sin may seem favorable, a storm is coming! (Psalm 106:15)
- Jonah 1:4-5a (NLT)—4But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. 5aFearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.
- Jonah’s sin was the cause of the storm that threatened the lives of innocent sailors.
- When we sin, when we run from God, we threaten the lives of innocent children, parents, friends, family members, and church family.
- Jonah 1:5b (NLT)—But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold.
- Jonah slumbered through the storm wrapped in a blanket of vanity, perhaps due to extreme exhaustion from hurrying to the port of Joppa, or even out of relaxation, because he thought he had successfully escaped God.
- Sin is inherently selfish, narcissistic; it allows us to sleep in our self-pity, not noticing, even unconcerned, with the peril and pain we are causing in other’s lives.
- Jonah 1:6 (NLT)—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 was no longer seeking or hearing God’s Word—he didn’t want to—so God sent an unbelieving sea captain, a Gentile, to arouse him and ask him to pray!
- God will use whatever is necessary to rouse us from our rebellious slumber: unbelievers, circumstances, illness, unemployment, financial reversals, difficult and threatening situations.
- The pagan (unbelieving) sailors were calling on their gods for help while Jonah, the only one onboard who knew the true God, snored in the hold, oblivious, unconcerned.
- The captain did not know what god Jonah worshiped, he just wanted everyone praying to their gods, hoping one of them would rescue them.
- When we are in a crisis, we only have whatever god we have worshiped to rescue us!
- APP.: What or who is your god that you turn to in a storm?
Storms from God…
2. Reveal sin. (Jonah 1:7-12. C/R: Numbers 32:23; Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9)
- The sailors had concluded that the storm was a judgment against someone on the ship.
- Jonah 1:7-8 (NLT)—7Then the crew cast lots [anklebone of a sheep] to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit. [Proverbs 16:33; God uses different methods to reveal truth.] 8“Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”
- Jonah had refused to speak for God to Gentiles, so God compelled him to speak.
- Jonah 1:9 (NLT)—Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea [desperately needed] and the land.” [wanted to be]
- Jonah didn’t deny his faith and spoke truth about God, but he did not say he was a prophet, for he knew he had failed to act as one, so he thought he’d forfeited that role.
- Our disobedience, our immorality, disqualifies us from speaking for God.
- Jonah 1:10a (NLT)—The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the Lord. [being honest and out of guilt]
- These unbelieving Gentiles had heard in their travels of the all-powerful Hebrew God—the Creator who could divide the sea and destroy enemies through natural forces.
- Becoming aware of who, which god, was causing this storm frightened them greatly!
- Jonah 1:10b-11 (NLT)— 10b “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned. [a rebuke, not a question] 11And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?” [“You caused it, help us stop it!”]
- Jonah could have called on them to repent from worshiping idols and repented along with him, then asked to be taken to a port so he could go to Nineveh, but he didn’t.
- He could have said he didn’t know what to do, but instead, he revealed the hardness of his heart and his determination to resist God’s will through his response.
- Jonah 1:12 (NLT)—12“Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”
- Jonah was saying, “I’d rather die than repent and return to doing God’s will.”
Believers, especially when deep in sin through pride, anger, or addiction, can become so hardened that they prefer death to repenting and doing what God wants them to do.
- Sin operates like an addiction: at first it feels wonderful, but becomes harder to stop.
As we live in sin, our self-centered narcissism increases, our self-pity expands, eroding our ability to trust and enjoy relationships, draining happiness from our lives.
Sin hardens the conscience, desensitizes sensitivity to the wrongness of your actions; it locks you into defensiveness, denial, rationalization, self-loathing and self-destruction.
- APP.: Are you stubbornly clinging to some sin that has immersed you into a storm?
Storms from God…
3. Reflect God’s love. (Jonah 1:13-17. C/R: Deuteronomy 8:5; Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:5-6; Revelation 3:19)
- Jonah 1:13 (NLT)—Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it.
These pagan sailors were more compassionate toward Jonah, who put them in danger of losing their lives, than Jonah was of a large city full of people. (120,000; Jonah 4:11)
- Jonah 1:14 (NLT)—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. [drown] O Lord, You have sent this storm upon him for Your own good reasons.”
- These sailors were concerned about Jonah’s life; they didn’t want to cause his death.
- They were used to worshiping idols who were cruel, selfish, and capricious (unpredictable), but they recognized the reasonability of Jonah’s God.
- God’s character was being revealed to them by the Spirit through these circumstances.
- Jonah 1:15-16 (NLT)—15Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! 16The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered Him a sacrifice and vowed to serve Him.
- These sailors were converted to faith through their experience with Jonah and their exposure to Jonah’s great, powerful, God.
- Notice the evidence of true conversion: they sailors offered a sacrifice and vowed service after their deliverance from death, not before. (Not a foxhole conversion.)
- God was accomplishing His purpose of saving unbelievers in spite of this stubborn, resentful prophet’s rebellion. (Romans 8:28)
- God arranging for Jonah to be cast from the ship as an expression of His love for him—stopping his running, putting him in a helpless place, to get his attention, to rescue.
- Jonah 1:17 (NLT)—Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.
- APP.: Is God in the process of rescuing you out of your rebellion?
Memory verse: Hebrews 12:6 (NLT)—“For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child.”