From time to time we enjoy watching USA Police car chase videos on YouTube. There are times when there are serious crashes, rollovers … some caused because of speed, other vehicles crossing an intersection, red traffic lights, running out of petrol … and at times from pit maneuvers or the use of spike strips. It can be rather entertaining, yet frightening because at the high speeds these chases get up to … anything can go wrong. There are times, very few though, where the drivers fleeing the police get away. Mostly this is due to police and media helicopters following every move the fleeing driver makes. This intelligence gets through to the police on the ground, enabling them to apprehend the fleeing driver in some way or the other. For a while we are going to do Daily Notes on the Book of Jonah.
Jnh 1:1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai.
He could be called “the runaway prophet”. As we shall see, he tried to get as far away from God as possible … it was not possible, but he tried.
1) The dating of the Book. Jonah followed prophets like Elijah and then Elisha. Elisha’s ministry ended about 847 BC. Jonah was a younger contemporary of and outlived Elisha. There is no information as to when his prophetic ministry started and ended, though we could safely say that his visit to Nineveh fell into the years 780 to 755 BC.
2) Jonah exposes the Loving, Fatherly, Caring Heart of God. Jonah ran from God, rejecting His call and blocking himself off from God in the most sinful ways. Yet God did not end his life, rather He preserved it … even in the stormy sea and fish’s belly. God did not damn him in the face of his sinful behavior.
3) Jonah exposes how God provoked Israel to consider His Character. Because God’s attributes are Love, Care, Compassion and Forgiving … amongst many others … those reading the prophet’s book will be forced to look inward at their souls to see that even though sinful rebels, God still had a heart for them.
4) Jonah exposes God’s desire to have Israel reflect upon the nature of their relationship with Him. Israel were a people, who from the days of Egypt, rebelled against God, especially by following other so called gods and pagan rituals. Nineveh was a pagan city state, yet God wanted to send Jonah to pagans to preach repentance and faith! His own people whom he chose out of all the nations, Israel, never appreciated their precious state with God … so to force them into jealously reflecting upon this relationship … God sends Jonah to win the Heathen to turn Israel’s hearts back to Him.
5) Jonah exposes the evangelistic heart of God. Never forget that the Heathen were always detested. They were evil in their morals and ethics and the outworking of these impacted upon practical wickedness resulting in God not looking with favor upon them. Remember what He did to the people who lived in Canaan? Most of them were annihilated because of their wicked lifestyle. To start with Nineveh were no different, yet God’s evangelistic heart reached out towards them. Through Jonah He wanted to show His grace as they believed in Him and repented from their wickedness.
6) Jonah is the son of Amittai. Although the name Jonah means “dove” and Amittai is connected to the Hebrew word for “truth” or “truthfulness”, we cannot read any meaning or interpretation into these names other than to say, Jonah, son of Amittai was a real person who lived at a specific period in the history of Israel, as a citizen of the nation.
7) Jonah is a prophet. The “Word of the Lord” came to him. This is the way messages were received from God for His people … yet in this case, it was directly for the prophet, as is the case with Elijah in:
1Ki 17:2 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.”
Also see 1 Kings 21:17.
(1) As we study Jonah, God wants us to see His Character. His attributes are also displayed throughout the Bible. There is nothing more precious than exploring God’s character as one reads through the Bible. An idea would be to have a note pad and pencil in hand … and as you read from Genesis through to Revelation, jot down every one of God’s attributes you come across with its reference … such as love, grace, mercy, kindness, jealousy, etc.
(2) God is loving, caring and forgiving. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. Once we have been saved because of His gracious heart revealed at Calvary, we are able to grasp the Father Heart of God. He loves us, cares for us, disciplines us, provides for us, protects us, forgives us … etc.
(3) God wants us to examine our relationship with Him. We don’t need to be made jealous through God winning souls for His Kingdom that we do not love or care for. We need to look at the contractual covenant God has made with us in Jesus on a regular basis and see how He wants us to live; what should be the thoughts going through our minds; what ought we to be doing for a living; who are our intimate friends; who will we marry; etc.? These are major issues that determine the shape of the relationship we will have with God because they will influence our morals and ethics and shape our world view. A good question to confront yourself with is … “Is my world view Gospel and Biblical or does it follow the ways of our secular world?
(4) God wants to challenge us with His evangelistic heart. Our own salvation ought to result in an evangelistic heart … but as we dig into Jonah and see how God wanted him to preach repentance and faith to Nineveh, we realize that God’s evangelistic heart includes those we would not generally gravitate towards. For us, it is easy to share Jesus with our own type, class, education, language and culture … but evangelism was not intended to be easy! God does not discriminate. He has people that needs to be saved from … every tribe and language and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9). Are you prepared to cross these barriers? Or will you be like Jonah … and run?
(5) God wants us to know that although the Prophetic Books of the Bible are valid and equally important as part of the Word of God, the prophet office has ceased. As discussed previously in the Sermon on the Mount we have seen that because we have the complete Bible we don’t need prophets. When the Bible is taught correctly it is a Prophetic Word from God to people.
Father, thank You for every Book within the Bible. As we work our way through Jonah, speak to our hearts, convict, discipline, correct, teach and love us to conform Biblically. Amen.