Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 21)

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with prayer.  I guess I see it as a passive, last-chance option.  But prayer is never portrayed that way in the Bible.  I really need to train my mind and heart to see prayer as one of the believer’s greatest weapons — a tool to be used against discouragement, confusion, and uncertainty.

Jonah was pretty certain he was going to drown.  But then God saved him!  Prayer gave Jonah the opportunity to reflect on his distress and his banishment from God.  [I’m not sure Jonah’s heart ever really changes as we’ll see in chapter 4.]

What difference would it make if I looked at my life as one which had been “brought up from the pit” (v. 6)?  Do you feel that your life is “ebbing away”?  Not a one of us is going to escape death (unless the Lord returns).  Aren’t you glad you’re reading this blog this morning?

What is crystal clear to Jonah is that IDOLATRY is foolish!  He says, “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” (v. 8).  IDOLATRY or GOD’S LOVE — your choice.  And mine.

G.K. Chesterton said it best: “He who does not believe in God will believe in anything.”  But we’re not in danger of idolatry, are we? (to be continued)



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Posted by on August 21, 2017 in Jonah


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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 20)

Let’s begin our examination of Jonah’s prayer in chapter two this morning.  He is in an unusual place, to be sure, but his prayer is sincere, heartfelt, and, most likely, smelly!  He is somewhere safe — and he is grateful that God has spared his life from drowning.

Jonah prays “to the Lord his God.”  This was a deeper prayer than the sincere one offered by the pagan sailors in chapter one.  Jonah knew “the Lord his God” and he speaks with the One who rescued him.

Several truths jump out at me as I look at this prayer:

(1)  Jonah prayed when he was distressed (v. 2).  That’s a great time to pray!

(2)  Jonah recognized that GOD was behind the sailors’ action in tossing him overboard:  “You hurled me into the depths”; “all your waves and breakers swept over me” (v. 3).

(3)  Jonah sensed that he was “banished” from the Lord’s sight, but he found hope in looking towards God’s holy temple (v. 4).

(4)  Jonah realized (as he sailed through the air and plunged into the ocean’s depths) that his life was over.  Engulfing waters and straggling seaweed were certain to bring an end to his renegade days (v. 5).  (to be continued)

My prayer:  “Lord of the sea and the ocean depths — Remind me that YOU are the Creator and that creation listens to You and does Your will.  Help me, as a creature made in Your image, to do the same!   In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”



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Posted by on August 20, 2017 in Jonah


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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 19)

As we move on to chapter two, we notice that Jonah has become a man of prayer.  A man of one prayer, at least!  Let’s first discuss the location of his prayer meeting:  “inside the fish”!  Scholars and scientists have long debated the “issue” of Jonah being swallowed by a “whale.”  Several items must be kept in mind:  (1)  The Bible doesn’t say “whale.”

The Hebrew term here is dag and is simply translated “fish.”  (2)  When Jesus compares His burial to Jonah, the term used in Matthew 12:40 is κήτους, meaning a large fish, sea monster, whale (Mounce). It is translated as follows in several English versions: “the whale” (ASV), “sea monster” (AMP & NRSV), “big fish” (WHALE IS NOT A FISH!) (CEV), “great fish” (DARBY), “whale’s belly” (KJV).

(3) As to what kind of fish this was, there is utterly no way of knowing (a whale is not a fish). A commentator says, “Many scholars have needlessly exercised themselves in trying to help God out (!) by finding a record of some great fish that could actually swallow a man; but such “findings” have no value at all. The event here described is clearly beyond nature and above it. The supernatural is written on every word of this narrative.”

One writer says, “All Jonah probably knew was that he was somewhere safe where he could breathe and pray. It would only be later that he discovered that he was in the innards of a large fish. And knowing that he had been saved from certain death he was no doubt confident that God would sort everything out.”

Our challenge for today?  God is able to rescue His servant to get His work done!  And prayer ought to be our first response to the Lord.  Get somewhere safe — and pray!  (to be continued)



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Posted by on August 19, 2017 in Jonah


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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 18)

A SUMMARY OF SOME LESSONS FROM JONAH CHAPTER ONE:  Romans 15 says, For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”  What are we learning from this minor prophet?

God calls all believers to participate in the Great Commission, to get the gospel out about Jesus Christ.  Am I, are you, running away from that assignment?

How much do we rely on our own resources (he bought his own ticket away from God’s will) to live life, instead of trusting Him to provide what we need?

Who are the innocent ones who have been hurt by my rebellion?  Who have I sacrificed on my altar of self-determination?

Where is my conscience not bothering me, keeping me awake (when it should)?

Am I aware that I can be quite orthodox in my words but very heterodox in my actions?  Is my belief more a matter of ethnic pride than humble trust in the living God?

Where is the place of genuine repentance in my life?  Or am I so stubborn that I would rather die than confess my sin and bow before my Lord?

Do I see the Lord as sovereign, even over my poor witness?  Am I careful not to rely on His sovereignty to overcome my disobedience?

Do I recognize the many things, circumstances, and people that God provides in my life to get His work done?

My prayer:  “Lord, this is an amazing book, almost a bit of an autobiography of my life!  Help me to submit, repent, and do what You have called me to do.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”


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Posted by on August 18, 2017 in Jonah


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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 17)

God is in the saving business.  And these pagan sailors have now become members of God’s family.  Not because of, but despite, Jonah’s poor witness.  His orthodox statement was exactly on point.  His life stood in stark contrast to the truth he said he believed.

But what has happened to this runaway missionary?  Surely Jonah thought his life was over as he sailed over the side of the ship into the raging sea.

But Jonah’s God is bigger than the finite rebellion of his misguided missionary.  God’s plans have only been temporarily inconvenienced.  And He is not done with Jonah yet.

The text tells us that the God who provides (known in other Scriptures as “Jehovah Jireh”) is able not only to send calamity, but rescue.  Both a raging storm and a saving sea creature are acts of Jonah’s God.  God provides.  The word “prepared” as used here actually means “commissioned” or appointed, or “ordered.”

What must it have felt like to be sinking into the depths, certain of one’s imminent drowning, only to then sense a mouth opening up for a slimy trip down a salt-water gullet?  Jonah describes in detail his descent into the sea in chapter two, but let us not miss the fact that Jehovah Jireh provided, appointed, this huge sea creature to capture Jonah and save him from drowning.  Jonah’s three-day hotel reservation foreshadows the most critical event in the Bible (which we will discuss in a subsequent post).  (to be continued)


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Posted by on August 17, 2017 in Jonah


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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 16)

Self-redemption is a myth.  These experienced, strong sailors could not defeat God’s winds and sea, and finally succumbed to Jonah’s suicidal suggestion.  They pick him up and toss him overboard — and the raging sea becomes calm.

They understand cause-and-effect, but life does not go back to normal for these pagan men.  The circumstances could not have been more obvious — Jonah’s God was indeed the God of the sea and the dry land!  And He had spared their lives when they had excised the object of God’s wrath.

We read:  “At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.”  These polytheists now became monotheists and, apparently, became converted to Jonah’s God, despite his poor testimony.  Notice:

(1)  They “greatly feared the Lord” (something that Jonah never does in his book, it seems).

(2)  They offered a sacrifice to the Lord (tossing Jonah overboard didn’t count as their sacrifice, apparently).

(3)  They made vows to Him.  They made promises to Jonah’s God even as Jonah is drowning as his punishment for blatantly ignoring the Lord.  Whereas Jonah did not have the courtesy even to respond verbally to God’s call on his life, these men put into words their gratitude for God sparing them.  Perhaps Jonah, as he descended into the depths of the sea, thought he was finally free of his God and His demands.  He could not have been more wrong.  (to be continued)

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Posted by on August 16, 2017 in Jonah


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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 15)

Don’t you hate it when you are only one who thinks your idea is a great one?  Jonah volunteers to be tossed overboard and is sure that the sea will calm down when it claims his life.  But Jonah did not count on the consciences of pagan sailors who stood with dropped jaws as they heard of Jonah’s heresy.  Words are cheap and Jonah’s orthodox declaration (“I am a Hebrew and I worship  the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land”) was clearly contradicted by his silly attempt to escape this God!

The sailors do not immediately grab Jonah and hurl him over the side.  They once more grab their oars and try to row back to land.  But in vain.  They needed to play their part in this drama of sacrifice and redemption.

Their failure to rescue themselves drives them to cry out to Jonah’s God!  And what an elegant prayer!  “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life.  Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.”  What a prayer!

Their prayer was much more orthodox than Jonah’s life!  Notice several aspects of their prayer:

(1)  They pray to Jonah’s God!

(2)  They recognize that He is a righteous Judge who will hold sinners accountable.

(3)  They acknowledge that He, Jonah’s God, had done as He pleased.

With a modicum of words, Jonah had unwittingly led these men to his God.  And all he wants to do is go drown.  Sad.  (to be continued)

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Posted by on August 15, 2017 in Jonah


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