Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 25, Jonah 1

2 Chronicles 25 is a parallel record of events we considered in a prior study of 2 Kings 14. Therefore, today’s devotional will focus exclusively on the Book of Jonah.

Have you ever wanted to run away?

Have you ever wanted to flee from pressures, people, pain, and problems? I am sure many have entertained the notion to run and hide.

The book of Jonah will remind you that our Heavenly Father never takes His eyes off His people. He is omniscient and knows your strengths, weaknesses, fears, and struggles (Psalm 139:1). He knows your every thought (Psalm 139:2-3) and every word (Psalm 139:4). He is omnipresent, and His presence is inescapable (Psalm 139:7-10). The Scriptures impart a comforting and inescapable reality: “You can run, but you cannot hide from God.”

God’s Calling on Jonah’s Life (Jonah 1:3-4)

Jonah 1

Who was Jonah? (Jonah 1:1-2)

Jonah was a preacher and prophet of the LORD to northern Israel and served during the reign of the second Jeroboam (i.e., Jeroboam ben Joash). Passionate and patriotic, his life was dedicated to ministering in Israel until the LORD interrupted his ministry and commanded him, Arise, go to Nineveh (Jonah 1:2).

Nineveh was described in the Scriptures as a “great city” known for its wickedness (Jonah 1:2). It was located on the Tigris River in what we know today as modern Iraq. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, with an estimated population of 120,000 (Jonah 4:11). The Assyrians were known as cruel, heartless people who buried their enemies alive and tortured some by skinning them alive until they died. They were a great enemy of Israel and eventually conquered that nation, taking the Jewish people captive.

God’s Calling on Jonah’s Life (Jonah 1:3-4)

The stink of Nineveh’s wickedness had become so grave that the LORD determined He would destroy the city if the people did not repent. Yet, God revealed His compassion and longsuffering for sinners when He determined to allow that great city an opportunity to repent of its sins.

The prophet Jonah, however, refused to go to Nineveh to call the people of that city to repent (Jonah 1:3). Some might argue the prophet feared the notorious cruelty of the nation. Others might suggest he did not want to aid Israel’s enemy and even feared his people might reject him. (Jonah 4:1-2, however, revealed Jonah did not want to prophesy against Nineveh for he knew the LORD was gracious and feared He would spare the people if they repented of their sins.) Rather than obey the LORD, Jonah resigned his calling, took a boat going to Tarshish (the opposite direction of Nineveh), and attempted the impossible…to escape “the presence of the LORD” (Jonah 1:3).

Jonah’s Spiritual Insensitivity (Jonah 1:4-6)

We read in verse 5 how Jonah “was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep” (Jonah 1:5). What a poignant insight into the character of a disobedient servant of God! While the heathen battled the storm, desperate to save their lives, the prophet slept!

Amid the storm, the ship’s captain assailed the calloused prophet and asked in disbelief, What meanest thou, O sleeper? (Jonah 1:6) How could he be sleeping when so many lives could be lost?

Here, we see the spiritual profile of a backslidden believer who is emotionally detached and distant from the LORD and others.

Jonah’s Counsel and the LORD’s Provision (Jonah 1:12-17)

The Sailor’s Interrogation (Jonah 1:7-11)

We read that the sailors cast lots to determine the one responsible for the storm, and the LORD sovereignly directed the lot to fall on Jonah (Jonah 1:7). With the storm raging, the sailors demanded to know the cause of Jonah’s guilt that the LORD had sent a great storm that threatened all their lives. What evil? “What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?” (Jonah 1:8)

“And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:9). He declared he had “fled from the presence of the Lord,” and God had sent the storm to chasten him (Jonah 1:10). Fearing for their lives, the sailors questioned Jonah, “What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us?” (Jonah 1:11)

Jonah’s Counsel and the LORD’s Provision (Jonah 1:12-17)

Jonah instructed the sailors and said, “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you” (Jonah 1:12).

Given the desperate plight of the ship, you would think the calloused sailors would have cast the disobedient prophet overboard immediately; however, they continued to row hard, hoping to bring the ship to land (Jonah 1:13). When they realized all effort was for naught, the sailors cast Jonah into the sea, “and the sea ceased from her raging” (Jonah 1:15). God mercifully spared the lives of the sailors, and providentially “prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17).

Closing thoughts –

Several lessons come to mind in our study of Jonah 1. We have seen God’s love for sinners and His longsuffering. Despite Nineveh’s wickedness, the LORD sent His prophet to call the people of that city to repent (2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16).

We will also observe that the LORD is a God of second chances. He lovingly pursued Jonah across the sea and saved him from drowning. Lastly, consider how a disobedient believer can peril the lives of the unsaved, leaving me to ask:

Are you periling lost souls by your disobedience?

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith 

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