Debra Isenbletter – Pastor
Christian Assembly, Springfield, Missouri
Introduction: Many have wondered if the book of Jonah is simply a parable, an allegory or actual history. Jonah is mentioned during the reign of Jeroboam II. He is acknowledged as an actual prophet and one of his prophecies as coming to pass. (2Kings 14:25) Jesus spoke of Jonah as a real prophet and the events in the book of Jonah as actual events. (Matthew 12:39-41). When Jesus spoke of Jonah, He not only spoke of his prophecy concerning Nineveh and their repentance but shows that Jonah’s experience in the belly of the great fish itself was a prophecy that pointed forward to His death and resurrection. Jonah is listed as one of the minor prophets in the Old Testament and all those prophets are acknowledged as real, they lived, they prophesied, they were each given unique messages and ministries. Jonah’s ministry is just as unique and so is his message.
What is truly unique about Jonah is those that he was sent to minister to, the Gentiles and the great city of Nineveh. What is also unique about Jonah is the success of his ministry. They believed what he said, they repented before God and they were spared. No other prophet had that type of success. According to history prior to Jonah’s visit to Nineveh several events happened that could have prepared their hearts to listen to his message. The plague of 765 B.C.; the eclipse of the sun in 763 B.C. And a second plague in 759 B.C. The Lord did not send Jonah before these events, He sent him after these events, it could be that these things occurred for this reason, to reach the hearts of these Gentiles.
Ryrie Bible Note: There are at least seven miracles recorded in Jonah. 1) The calming of the sea before the sailors lost their lives (Jonah 1:15). 2) The provision of the great fish and the preservation of Jonah in the fish (Jonah 1:17). 3) The vomiting of Jonah upon dry land (Jonah 2:10)—Jonah not only survived being swallowed, but survived three days and when vomited up, need up on dry land, not the sea. 4) The preparing of the vine (Jonah 4:6). 5) The worm (Jonah 4:7). 6) The wind (Jonah 4:8). 7) The salvation of the people of Nineveh (Jonah 4:10).
We need to see by faith that it does not matter how impossible things seem to be, what matters is that with God all things are possible and nothing is impossible. What matters is that God is sovereign. What matters is that Jonah was a servant of God. What matters is that we are servants of God and whatever He asks us to do, we are to do it in faith, even though we may not understand why, even though we may not want to. By faith we serve Him. By faith we see He enables us. Jonah was walking by sight, not by faith, he was walking according to his will and not God’s will. He is an example for us. He is an example of Israel’s failure in their calling. He is an example of God’s grace in action.
Warren Wiersbe says this is about Jonah’s attitude, that Jonah had a wrong attitude about the Will of God; the Word of God and the Love of God.
I believe the lesson that Jonah learned is the same lesson that we all need to learn. Whatever our calling or ministry, however the Lord leads us, however impossible the task may seem, we trust the Lord. We can learn to understand, to accept and to surrender to the Will of God, walk in obedience to the Word of God and as we do this, we find that we are able to show the Love of God.
Outlines for Jonah:
(Ryrie) Jonah Fleeing (Ch1)
Jonah Praying (Ch2)
Jonah Preaching (Ch3)
Jonah Learning (Ch4)
(Wiersbe) – 1st Outline
1. Resignation (resigns his office) (Ch1)—The Lesson in God’s Patience.
2. Repentance (Ch2)—The Lesson in God’s Pardon.
3. Revival (Ch3)—The Lesson in God’s Power.
4. Rebellion (Ch4)—The Lesson in God’s Pity.
(Wiersbe) – 2nd Outline
God’s Patience with Jonah (Ch1)
God’s Mercy toward Jonah (Ch2)
God’s Power through Jonah (Ch3)
God’s Ministry to Jonah (Ch4)
The Word of God (1:1-16)
The Word with God (1:17-2:10)
The Word for God (3:1-10)
The Word about God (4:1-11)
Chapter 1:1: Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
We see Jonah’s call as a prophet. he is called to speak “the word”, whatever the Lord tells him. He is called as a prophet to do this, only a prophet can do this. This is his office. This is his responsibility. This is the proof that he is a prophet. When “the word of the Lord came unto” Jonah, the word was clear and understandable and he knew Who it was from. The Hebrew for “word” means “speech, utterance,” a “communication” or “counsel;” a “decree or commandment.” In those meanings we see the different ways and different tones that the Lord uses when He speaks. For Jonah this was not only a “communication” from the Lord, it was a “commandment” from the Lord. When the Lord speaks, the servant listens. Eli told little Samuel how to answer God when He spoke: “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth.” (1Sam.3:9)
It is the word “of the Lord”—The One who speaks is Jehovah, it is the word of the “Lord.” It is the word of the “self-existent one.” It is the word of the “eternal one” who reveals Himself and He is revealing himself to Jonah and to Nineveh through His Word. If Jonah obeys that revelation becomes vocal, it becomes visible, it becomes real to those he speaks to. The next thing we see is that this word “came unto” a specific person, to Jonah. It came to him Personally, it came to him Privately. We don’t know where Jonah was. We don’t know when this was. But the fact that the Lord spoke to Jonah, gave him a message tells us that he was a prophet. There is only one other place in the Old Testament where Jonah is mentioned, (2 Kings 14:25). There he is called a “servant” of God and a “prophet” of God.
“Jonah”—Jonah’s name means “a dove” (JB Jackson, Hitchcock, Easton) —What a wonderful name and description of him. In the “dove” we see the Spirit of God and the Peace of God. We see Jonah’s Anointing by the Spirit in his name, it is the name his father gave him. We see the potential and power of Jonah’s Message in that name, it was to restore peace between God and Israel/Man.
“the son of Amittai”—We see Jonah’s Father, he is “the son of Amittai” which speaks of the Truth. Amittai means: “truthful; faithful” (Jackson); “true” (Easton/Unger); “true, fearing” (Hitchcock). The foundation that everything Jonah says rests on is “truth.”
It is interesting that in 2 Kings 14:25 is an added description of the “word of the Lord.” It is the word of the Lord God of Israel, there we see God’s relationship to Israel. The call of Jonah to preach and the message he gave was specifically for Israel. In Jonah it is: “the word of the Lord” and Israel is not mentioned because the message is for the Gentiles, for the city of Nineveh. In both instances it is the Lord (Jehovah) that speaks and the meaning is still the same whether it is to Israel or the Gentiles. To Nineveh He is the Lord (the “self-existent One who reveals Himself”). He does this through His Prophet but He is the God of Israel not the Gentiles. The Gentiles must learn of God through Israel. This is what God wanted the nation to do, they were to be His light to the Gentiles.
In 2 Kings 14:25 Jonah is called God’s Servant: “his servant” and “the prophet. In “his servant” we see Jonah’s Subjection. In “the prophet” we see Jonah’s Power. Maybe he thought it was easier to be the Lord’s servant when he was speaking to Israel and harder when speaking to the Gentiles. But in each instance, he was still the Lord’s “servant.” Sometime those He calls forget that part of their calling. The Apostle Paul never did. He was always the “servant (bond-slave) of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jonah’s father’s name is given (Amittai) but also Jonah’s birthplace is given (Gath-hepher) which means “wine-press of the well.” There is a double meaning to that name that speaks of opposite experiences in Jonah’s life. A “wine-press” can speak of a Place of Suffering and “well” can speak of a Place of Refreshing. This is a true description of what every “servant” of God will experience when they are obedient. It is a picture of the Valley and the Mountain top experiences in our lives. The place Jonah was born was in Galilee (5 miles from Nazareth).
We see the similarity to Jesus, who was raised in Nazareth and who ministered in Galilee. Nathaniel asked, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (Jon.1:46). Jesus ministered in Galilee and the Pharisees stated that “out of Galilee arise there no prophet.” (John 7:52). They were wrong, they forgot Jonah was from Galilee in their attempt to belittle Jesus and deny His calling and ministry.
To be continued