Friday, May 1, 2009

The Story of Jonah: God's Sovereignty Part 1

The Book of Jonah has really been on my heart and mind for quite awhile. Jonah and the "whale" has become a nice little story we reserve for children's church. I believe that is as profound as anything to be found in the Scriptures. What is this prophecy all about?
I would like to present a chapter by chapter study of Jonah.
I would suggest reading the entire book. It is only four, very short, chapters long.
You can read them online here, here, here, and here.

Jonah 1:
1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
2 "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me."

3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish.

Notice that first of all, God commands Jonah to cry out against the city of Nineveh. The message is, judgment upon the city is at hand. (Jonah 3:4)
Jonah immediately flees from the Lord proposing to go to Tarshish, which would represent the farthest point known in that day, that he could go. (Tarshish was situated in the area now known as southern Spain.)
He goes to Joppa, the only seaport in Palestine at that time, and finds a ship that could take him to Tarshish.
It is interesting that Jonah was about to prove King David's experiential theology, which was written in Psalm 139:
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,"
12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.

It is also interesting that Jonah had to depart from Joppa. As Joppa would figure in a very similar episode far into the future.
Now it must be understood that Nineveh, the capitol of the Assyrian empire, would be the last place Jonah would want to go and preach. The Assyrians were enemies of Israel, and were incredibly cruel. They eventually carried off the ten "lost tribes" of Israel, (the northern kingdom), before they themselves were taken over by the Babylonian empire. They were a gentile (heathen) nation, and for any Israelite to go and preach the Word of God to them would have been unthinkable to Jonah.

So here is Jonah in Joppa, "kicking against the goads". Now fast forward to a certain rooftop in the same port city;

Acts 10:
1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort,
2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.
3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, "Cornelius."
4 And he stared at him in terror and said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.
5 And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter.
6 He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea."
7 When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him,
8 and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.
10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance
11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth.
12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him: "Rise, Peter; kill and eat."
14 But Peter said, "By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean."
15 And the voice came to him again a second time, "What God has made clean, do not call common."
16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.
17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood at the gate........

First and foremost, the story of Jonah is the foretelling of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, going to the Jew first and then to the "Greek". Peter like Jonah, found anyone or anything outside of the Law to be unclean. The Lord had always intended for the believing gentiles to be included in the kingdom. It is no accident that these events happened at Joppa, though they were centuries apart.

It is also no accident that Peter went to the rooftop to pray at the sixth hour.

John 4:
5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
6 Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well.
It was about the sixth hour.
7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink."
8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

John 19:
14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, "Behold your King!"

Matthew 20:
1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
4 and to them he said, 'You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.'
5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same.
6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?'
7 They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.' 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.'
9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius.
10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius.
11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house,
12 saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.'

Luke 23:
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour,
(See also Matthew 27:45 and Mark 15:33
Also note that Matthew, Mark, and Luke are using the Hebrew/Jewish timekeeping method which is sundown to sundown, and John is using the Roman/gentile system, midnight to midnight.)
I believe that the events recorded in Jonah 1 correspond to the 6th through 9th hour of Jesus' death struggle at Golgotha.

Jonah's rebellious flight to Joppa, is found to be entirely in the sphere of God's sovereign will.
The Lord's plan of inclusion of the gentiles begins at Joppa.
Joppa in the Hebrew means beautiful. Beautiful indeed.

So now we have the fleeing Jonah boarding the ship at Joppa:

Jonah 1:
3b So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.
4 But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.
5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.
6 So the captain came and said to him, "What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish."
7 And they said to one another, "Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us." So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.
8 Then they said to him, "Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?"
9 And he said to them, "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land."
10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, "What is this that you have done!" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. 11 Then they said to him, "What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?" For the sea grew more and more tempestuous.
12 He said to them, "Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you."

13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.
14 Therefore they called out to the LORD, "O LORD, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you."
15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.
16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.

The similarities of this episode to other scripture are too startling to ignore.

Matthew 8: 23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.
24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.
25 And they went and woke him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing."

26 And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
27 And the men marveled, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?"

Psalm 107:
23 Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in 27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits' end.
28 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. 31 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

The ship's crew questioned Jonah;who are you? The disciples asked questions re: Jesus; what manner of man is this?
Both Jonah and Jesus were asleep in the boat and seemingly oblivious to the storm. Jonah was in the safety of the inner part of the ship. Jesus was "topside" sleeping in the very midst of the storm
Jonah's apparent demise stilled the storm. Jesus commanded the storm to be still.
Jonah became the sacrifice which saved the ship and it's crew. Jesus became the propitiation for the world.
Where Jonah was the shadow of things to come, Jesus is the greater fulfillment.

Verse 14 in Jonah 1 is beyond profound: 14 Therefore they called out to the LORD, "O LORD, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you."

This is the prayer of faith which the redeemed pray. It is not the shout of the crowd at Jesus' trial.

Matthew27: 24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves."
25 And all the people answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!"

Compare it also to this prayer:

Acts 4:
27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,
28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

The sailors (like the disciples) recognized God's hand in all that happened.They offered sacrifice and vows, They worshipped the Lord.

The conclusion of this chapter is:

Jonah 1: 17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Matthew12: 39 But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jonah in the belly of the great fish, three days and three nights, prophecies of Jesus in the tomb. Jesus gave the interpretation of this, which obviously leaves no other meaning.

If the fish had not swallowed Jonah he would have eventually drowned. The fish's belly, i.e. the tomb, proved to be the place where life was preserved.

It is quite apparent that the story of the prophet Jonah goes deeper than could be imagined. Not only does it contain the foretelling of Jesus and His ministry to mankind, it is also the revelation of the birth of the church and its' mission to mankind. It is the revelation of God's complete and sovereign plan concerning the redemption of all things. The scriptures from Genesis to revelation are one complete and seamless Word.

John 5: 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen,
38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.
39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

Matthew 12: 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

In the next part of this study I will look at Jonah's prayer while he was in the fish's belly. I will also look at the difference between the Jonah of chapter 1 and the Jonah of chapter 3.

Sola scriptura
Chris P.

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