Category Archives: Jonah

Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 26)

In our study of this “minor” prophet Jonah (minor in the sense of the shortness of the book, not a reference to its importance), we saw that chapter one could be entitled “Jonah’s Predicament.”  Chapter two (his prayer) could be labeled “Jonah’s Prayer.”  Our chapter three could be titled “Jonah’s Preaching.”

I preach for a living.  Yes, I’m part-time and semi-retired, but for right now the Lord has me serving a wonderful congregation in Georgia, preaching for them on Sunday mornings.

Preaching is an interesting — and challenging — activity.  I have the luxury of spending most of the week working on my one sermon.  I thoroughly enjoy studying God’s Word and asking the Lord to guide me so that what I say in those 40 minutes or so will be what the congregation needs to hear.

In chapter three we read that “the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time . . .”  God is patient with His servant and repeats His orders: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”  Those three elements — a calling, an audience, and a message — comprise the preacher’s challenge.  Some preach that maybe are not called; sometimes audiences don’t listen; and the message might be compromised by the preacher himself!

There is a great need for great preaching today.  If you are a preacher, do your very best!  If you are not, your very life is a message which is preached to an audience that isn’t sitting in pews on Sunday morning.  Do your best as well!   (to be continued)




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Posted by on August 26, 2017 in Jonah


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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 25)

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis has Screwtape, an arch demon, instruct his nephew understudy Wormwood on “the painful subject of prayer.”  Samuel Chadwick, a Methodist minister, said, “Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”

There is, indeed, an eloquence to Jonah’s prayer in chapter 2.  His prayer is honest, passionate, thankful, personal.  His prayer is not mere words, but expresses his determination to do what God wanted him to do: to make good his vows to the Lord.

How is Jonah’s prayer received by the Lord?  God shows He accepts Jonah’s prayer by the act of regurgitation!  The Lord has the specially-prepared sea creature get close enough to land to spit out its human clump onto a dry beach.

But has Jonah’s heart really changed?  Or was his life (like ours) a collection of rebellions and capitulations, sometimes doing God’s will and sometimes running from it?

After a hot bath with lots of soap, Jonah has homework to do.  He must learn just enough Assyrian to speak the message God gave him to speak.  And no more.  (to be continued)




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Posted by on August 25, 2017 in Jonah


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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 24)

God is not above using FORCE to get His point across.  Just as a loving parent might harshly grab a child who is wandering out onto a busy road, God does not hesitate to use nature and unbelievers (!) to stop His stubborn child in his rebellion.

We come now to Jonah’s orthodox statement here in chapter two.  He concludes his prayer with the words “Salvation comes from the Lord.”

It appears from what we read later that Jonah suspected that God would save the Ninevites.  Even though his message was a message against their wickedness and one announcing their judgment, Jonah knew his God and believed that “judgment was His strange work” (Is. 28:21).

Salvation or judgment — That is man’s choice.  But first man must realize that he needs saving.  And that need becomes apparent when God’s holiness and wrath against sin is articulated — hopefully by His willing messengers.

But such a simple message — man is a sinner and God is holy and man needs salvation — is being edited, repackaged, and revised today.  There’s even a group of people who call themselves “Evangelical universalists” who say that all without exception will be saved (whether they want to be or not).

There are many who are on that broad road to destruction (the King James Bible puts Matthew 7:13 so elegantly: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat”).  And God sends Jonahs today to say just that.  (to be continued)




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Posted by on August 24, 2017 in Jonah


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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 23)

Let’s recap just a little.  Jonah was commissioned by God to go preach against the wickedness of the Ninevites — and he wordlessly fled in the other direction from God.  God tracks him down, sends a massive storm, and forces the pagan sailors to dump their cargo and their disobedient Jewish missionary.

The sea becomes calm and Jonah is saved from drowning by a large sea creature.  He gets swallowed but not eaten.  In that fish’s belly Jonah finally decides to talk to the Lord.

In his somewhat elegant prayer, Jonah leaves no doubt that he was certain his life was OVER.  But God spared him and rescued him from his idolatry.   What was Jonah’s idolatry?  He wasn’t tempted to join those pagan sailors in worshiping their gods, was he?

It seems to me that Jonah’s idolatry was, in a sense, much more subtle.  He worshiped his own perspective, his own evaluation of the situation.  He placed more value in his running away from God than his willingly submitting to the “God who made the sea and the dry land.”

This kind of idolatry comes much more naturally to us — and there are no large, hand-crafted statues to carry around!  Internal idolatry is the most lethal.  It may be difficult to recognize and even more difficult to abandon.  Especially if we don’t have any terrified sailors threatening to toss us overboard! (to be continued)



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Posted by on August 23, 2017 in Jonah


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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 22)

Analyzing another person’s prayers is always a dangerous thing.  But Jonah 2 was given so that we might learn some valuable lessons.  And his prayer meeting inside the sea creature’s gullet assures us that wherever we are, we can pray!

I pray when my distress meter is starting to max out.  How about you?

I know that I need to see my circumstances in life as actions of God in drawing me to Himself.  True, I’ve not been tossed overboard by newly-converted formerly pagan sailors to calm an angry sea, but I am living in the world God made — and He wants me to serve Him with all the energy I can muster.

Often, however, I resort to IDOLATRY!  Yes!  A veteran, 67-year-old theologian who ought to know better!  I value other things more than the Lord and make decisions based on what I think are my best interests!  You don’t think you lapse (or dive) into idolatry from time to time?  Check out Tim Keller’s book and read it with an open mind.

Clinging to any idols today?  Some of my more dangerous ones are: self-sufficiency, autonomy, respect, pride, etc.  Got any that you dare to list in the Comment section below?  (to be continued)



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Posted by on August 22, 2017 in Jonah


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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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