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Jonah 2-3

Sunday Morning Bible Study

March 30, 2014


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision Is the church loved? Regular:  2900 words    Communion: 2500 words

Thursday Night:  Movie Night – Video:  The Passion of the Christ

Jonah’s ministry began around the year 786 BC

Jonah was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel, and the message of his early ministry was “conquer”, to encourage King Jeroboam II to enlarge the kingdom of Israel. (2Ki. 14:25)

(2 Kings 14:25 NKJV) He restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher.

The events in our book won’t take place until 759 BC.

Last week we saw Jonah charged by God to go and preach to the city of Nineveh, the ancient city of the Assyrians, but instead of going to Nineveh, he ran the opposite way. When a storm threatens his boat, the sailors toss him overboard when he tells them that it's his fault for running from God. He finds himself in the belly of a huge fish.

Video:  Assyrian Empire map clip

In Jonah’s day, the Assyrians were the big dogs on the block.  They controlled most of the land of Mesopotamia, though they had not yet reached their peak.  They would one day be twice the size they were in Jonah’s day.
The city of Nineveh lay on an important crossroads between trade routes going north-south and those going east-west.

Nineveh was also an important religious center for the worship of the goddess Ishtar, also known as Inanna, Astarte, Aphrodite, or Venus.  She was the “goddess of love”.

2:1-10 Jonah’s Prayer

:1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly.

:2 And he said: “I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, And He answered me. “Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice.

:3 For You cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the floods surrounded me; All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.

:3 You cast me into the deep

If I understand the book correctly, Jonah has been inside this fish for a while before he prayed.

(Jonah 1:17 NKJV) Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
If that’s so, then what took him so long?


Hitting bottom

They say that for a person to change their behavior, they have to hit some sort of “bottom”.
You can determine just where “bottom” is for you.
I imagine that Jonah could have decided to “pray” after he told his fellow passengers that he was running from Yahweh.

Shouldn’t a statement like that have caused some level of conviction in his soul?

He could have decided to “pray” while the ship was leaving the port of Joppa, heading in the opposite direction from Nineveh.
He could have prayed when the captain woke him up in the middle of the storm.
He could have prayed when he first got tossed overboard.
He could have prayed the moment that the fish swallowed him.
But Jonah took three days and nights in the belly of that fish before he finally gave in.

I have to give him this much – he at least finally figured it out before it was too late.

Some people are so stubborn in their rebellion against God that they never turn around.

Jonah was being disobedient to the Lord and running from what God wanted him to do.
The sailors actually did Jonah a favor when they reluctantly threw him overboard.
We talked last week that sometimes the best thing we can do for a friend who is stubbornly rebelling against the Lord is to toss them overboard.
Sometimes when we keep them on board with us, the whole ship might sink.
What is driving your disobedience?
Is it anger at a loved one for something they’ve done that has hurt your feelings?
Is it a sense of shame at something that has happened in your life, a pain that you are trying desperately to cover up?
Is it just a burning lust inside you to be “bad” and you don’t have a clue what is really driving you?
On Jonah’s part – Maturity in the believer isn’t about achieving some sort of “sinless” perfection.
You’re not going to become “sinless” until you get a resurrected body.
Maturity is knowing that your sin will be discovered, so you better deal with it now.

(Numbers 32:23b NKJV) … be sure your sin will find you out.

Maturity is learning to hit “bottom” a little quicker.

:4 Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’

:4 I will look again toward Your holy temple

Making a turn.

Turning back to God.

Solomon’s prayer, praying towards the temple

:5 The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head.

:6 I went down to the moorings of the mountains; The earth with its bars closed behind me forever; Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord, my God.

:7 “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple.

:8 “Those who regard worthless idols Forsake their own Mercy.

:8 worthless idols

The folks in recovery programs talk about the importance of having a “higher power”.

There are lots of “higher powers” that people turn to.  Some sponsors will tell you it doesn’t matter what your higher power is, as long as you have one.  I’d disagree.

There is only One who is true, real, strong enough to save.  He’s the one with mercy.

(Isaiah 45:5–6 NKJV) —5 I am the Lord, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me, 6 That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting That there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other;
(Isaiah 45:18–19 NKJV) —18 For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the Lord, and there is no other. 19 I have not spoken in secret, In a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘Seek Me in vain’; I, the Lord, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.
(Isaiah 45:22 NKJV) “Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

:9 But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.”

:9 Salvation is of the Lord


Ultimate Truth

I think this is the statement that God has been waiting to hear from Jonah.
Jonah’s salvation from the fish will come from the Lord
But there’s more.
Nineveh’s salvation from destruction will also come from the Lord
Your salvation from hell comes from the Lord
It is interesting to note the Hebrew word for “salvation” here:

salvationyeshuw’ah – salvation, deliverance

The word sounds very similar (and is related) to Jesus’ name in Hebrew – Yehowshuwa

Peter told the Jewish leaders:

(Acts 4:12 NKJV) Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Joel wrote,

(Joel 2:32 NKJV) …whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

:10 So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

:10 onto dry land

We aren’t told where Jonah was deposited, but only that it was on dry land.

Note:  It was NOT on the “shores of Nineveh”.

For years I remember thinking that Jonah ended his fish ride by being taken directly to Nineveh, where he went out and preached with his head covered in seaweed and his skin, hair, and clothes bleached from the whale’s stomach acids.
Not quite.
It would be quite a miracle if Jonah was deposited at Nineveh since Nineveh is almost four hundred miles from the Mediterranean Sea.  Talk about projectile vomit!  Nineveh is closer to the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea than it is to the Mediterranean Sea.
Of course the other possibility would be if the fish swam around Africa, then up the Tigris River to Nineveh … all in three days…

When Jonah reaches dry land, he will still have a ways to travel to Nineveh.

3:1-4 Preaching at Nineveh

:1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying,

:1 came to Jonah the second time

We aren’t told how long after Jonah hit dry land that this happened, just that it did.


Second Chances

I’d like to tell you that God will always give you a second chance at something if you blow it the first time, but I don’t think that’s true.
If you are watching a house on fire and you hear a child inside screaming, you are faced with a choice.  If you don’t do anything, I don’t think God is going to give you another chance tomorrow.

Sometimes the opportunities we pass are just momentary and there isn’t an opportunity for a second chance.

Yet sometimes God is gracious to give us a second chance at something.
On the night before Jesus was betrayed, He had warned Peter that he was going to deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed.
And that’s exactly what Peter did.

After the resurrection, Jesus showed up on the shore of Galilee while the disciples had been out fishing all night.

(John 21:15–17 NKJV) —15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

What was Jesus doing asking Peter if he loved Him three times?  He was sort of “undoing” Peter’s three denials of Jesus.

Jesus told Peter each time that He had things for him to do. 

He didn’t just “forgive” Peter and never use him again.  Peter needed to give up his fishing because Jesus had sheep that needed feeding.

Have you said “no” to something the Lord has asked you to do?
God may be prompting you today to get up and do what He asked you before.

:2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.”

:3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent.

:3 exceeding great city

When Jonah arrived at Nineveh, I wonder if he checked out the “information channel” in his hotel room …

Video: BADD: In the Know: Ninevah

Nineveh was about 6 square miles in size. (I’ve read it was 30 miles long, but not when you lay the ancient map on top of Google Maps)

Video: Nineveh and Fullerton map clip

Nineveh was located where the Tigris and Khosr Rivers flowed together.  Today, the modern Iraqi city of Mosul surrounds the ancient city.
To get an idea of the size of the city in Fullerton, it would be the area from the 57 fwy to Harbor, and from Chapman Avenue up to Skyline Drive.
The “three-day journey” would be going up and down each of the city streets, not just walking from one end to the other.

:4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

:4 Yet forty days…

Jesus compared His own death and resurrection to Jonah getting out of the fish after three days and nights.  He tied this to the repentance of Nineveh.

(Matthew 12:41 NKJV) The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.
It’s possible that people knew who Jonah was.
It seems they might have even heard about the fish story.


Simple message

But to be honest, Jonah didn’t give an elaborate forty minute sermon.
He didn’t tell the people to specifically turn to Yahweh.
He didn’t even tell the people to “repent”.
He just warned them of judgment to come.
Your message doesn’t have to be fancy.
You may even forget some of the parts of the story.
But God’s word is powerful.

Spurgeon said,

The Word of God can take care of itself, and will do so if we preach it, and cease defending it. See you that lion. They have caged him for his preservation; shut him up behind iron bars to secure him from his foes! See how a band of armed men have gathered together to protect the lion. What a clatter they make with their swords and spears! These mighty men are intent upon defending a lion. O fools, and slow of heart! Open that door! Let the lord of the forest come forth free. Who will dare to encounter him? What does he want with your guardian care? Let the pure gospel go forth in all its lion-like majesty, and it will soon clear its own way and ease itself of its adversaries.

The Bible says,

(Hebrews 4:12 NKJV) For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Here’s a simple message:  Jesus saves!

3:5-10 Repentance and salvation

:5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.

:5 proclaimed a fast

Fasting is when you make a conscious decision to withhold something from yourself, and usually we think of not eating as a “fast”.



The problem is that not eating by itself doesn’t do anything, other than make you hungry.
It can even do spiritual damage to yourself if you do it for the wrong reasons.
Jesus said,

(Matthew 6:16–18 NKJV) —16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

If you fast for the sake of getting people to think you’re something special, then there is no value for you.

Video:  Skinny on Fasting

If you do fasting for the right reasons (and hopefully with your doctor’s okay if appropriate), then there can be great value.
We’ll see with Nineveh that it was part of how God could see that these people were serious about turning from their sin.
In Isaiah’s day, the people took part in fasts, but their hearts weren’t in it, and their lives showed it.

They didn’t eat a meal or two, yet the businessmen still exploited their employees and their lives didn’t look like they were following God.

(Isaiah 58:6–9 NKJV) —6 Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ “If you take away the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

Fasting will strengthen the effect of your prayers if it is accompanied by an effort to also turn away from sin as much as you turn away from food.

:6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes.

:6 the king of Nineveh

We believe the king of Nineveh at the time was named Ashur-Dan III (772-754 BC).

Jonah would have shown up toward the last five years of his reign.
Ashur-Dan III’s reign had been marred with problems. 
The kingdom had already experienced a plague in 765 BC.
There had been an ominous solar eclipse on June 15, 762 BC.
The year that Jonah arrived (759 BC), another plague had hit the kingdom
You could say that Nineveh had been “shook up” and was open to God.

:7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water.

:8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.

:9 Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?

:8 let every one turn from his evil way

There was a huge thing happening in Nineveh.

It started with the common people as they heard Jonah’s message.

It was reinforced by the king when he heard about Jonah’s message.

Jonah vs. Jeremiah

Jonah preached for a couple of days.
Jeremiah preached for many years
Jonah had a short message of judgment.
Jeremiah had long messages from God.
Jonah hated the people he preached to.
Jeremiah wept over the people he preached to.
Jonah’s ministry resulted in an entire city turning around.
Jeremiah’s ministry saw no conversions.

Be careful about comparing yourself to others.

:9 Who can tell if God will turn and relent

Sometimes the people have simply gone too far.

Sometimes it is too late for repentance in the sense that repentance isn’t going to stop the coming judgment.

There comes a time when men push the limits too far, and God will bring judgment.

:10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

:10 God relented from the disaster

God held back judgment because the people believed Jonah and they turned from their sin.


Repent and be saved

Not everyone gets this.
Sometimes people fool themselves because they are “religious”.
They think that all God wants is for them to go to church, dress up on Sundays, and learn to talk churchy talk like saying “amen, brother” a lot.

They don’t want to get too serious about God. 

Perhaps they don’t think that their rebellion against God isn’t that serious.

Perhaps they think they don’t think they need to take Jesus too seriously.

That’s what some of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day thought.

(Matthew 12:38–41 NKJV) —38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For 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. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.

The people of Nineveh got it.

They had a guy with a fish story and a simple message warning them.

They showed God that they got the message warning of them of judgment seriously.

They “turned from their evil way”, and they were saved.

Jesus wasn’t swallowed by a fish.  He actually died for real.

And He rose again.

I had a friend tell me the other day about some church people he knew who were starting to study Buddhism.

His comment was, “Why would you study a dead guy when you have a risen Savior?”

Isn’t that enough for you to get serious about God?