Friday, October 14, 2005

Jonah Jonah Jonah Jonah Jonah in the belly of a whale

this is the "lesson" I am giving this week at church... feedback would be nice... is it too boring or confussin... its for highschoolers... so let me know...

Many people discredit the book of Jonah because it describes a man surviving inside a fish for 3 days. To many, this simply seems impossible. So they raise all kinds of questions that have little to do with the central theme of the story. Was Jonah swallowed by a fish or a whale? Isn’t this story more of an allegory than a historical narrative? If Jonah wasn’t swallowed by a fish isn’t Gods word discredited? Many people would rather debate the story then learn from it; critique is rather than study it.

I happen to believe this story is historical fact. First, Jesus made reference to Jonah’s big adventure as an example of his own death and resurrection in Matthew 12:40. Second, there is documentation of someone else surviving a whale swallowing.

1891. A man named David Barltey was a crewman on board a English waling ship called, Star of the East. He was thrown overboard during a struggle to reel in a 70-foot sperm whale, and presumed dead. The next morning the men of the ship begin to clean up and gut a whale they caught the day before and discovered Bartley in its stomach. He was unconscious but alive, his skin bleached white from stomach acid. He eventually recovered and said that breathing was surprisingly easy, though the heat (104 degrees) was almost unbearable.

So it seems possible just by natural cause that a person could be swallowed by a whale and live to tell about it. And when we consider the awesome power of an omnipotent God, how can Jonah’s story be anything less than certain.

But the key to unlocking this book is not establishing the plausibility of the plot. Its recognizing the infinite compassion of God and the drastic measures he takes to express it.

We think of compassion and love as residing in out hearts, but in the Biblical mindset, compassion comes from one’s stomach or intestines. Compassion is gut-level concern for others; something you feel deep in your belly. That’s why the Bible sometimes speaks of “bowels of compassion.” God had it. Jonah did not. So God used the stomach of a “fish” to try to turn Jonah’s stomach back to Him and the lost people of Nineveh.

Sadly, even Jonah’s fish ordeal had only a temporary effect on him. He took Gods message to Nineveh, but grew bitter and resentful when God spared the city. In many ways Jonah is just like us. How many times has God stiffed us up to serve him, only to see us fizzle out a short time later? How many times have we grown jealous and resentful when an enemy is successful and seems to enjoy God’s favor? There are many lessons and warning we can take from this story, so as we review Jonah in the next few minutes look for the Holy Spirit to apply them in a variety of ways.

1) You can run, but you can’t hide. Jonah 1:1-17 goes on to read how God called Jonah to go to Nineveh, he refused and ends up swallowed alive, we all know the story. These verses show compassion in disciplining his people. Cause and effect. We learned this as child. When you told your parents “no” as a child you were punished. Same thing here. God will take drastic measures to keep his people in line. He had Jonah thrown overboard and swallowed by a fish. Ask yourself this: What will He do to you??? Whatever it takes to keep you in his care. Hebrews 12 tells us that only legitimate “loved” key word LOVED children receive discipline. Illegitimate kids run wild with no restraint. So, while some people might think God was mean to do what he did to Jonah, he really was just the opposite. Jonah did something extreme by sailing away. God matched that move by sending a storm and a fish to eat him alive.

2) You can always pray. Jonah 2:1-10 is a prayer from Jonah to God then God compassion in answering our prayers. If God were and ogre, he would have gotten a cheap thrill out of squashing Jonah mid-flight. Instead, the Bible says that God provided a great fish for Jonah (Jonah 1:17) And after Jonah prayed, God commanded the fish to vomit him onto dry land. (verse 2:10) Sometimes God needs to drive us to our knees. He wants us dependent and praying. Sometimes he will allow our situation to get so desperate that we have no other choice but to cry out to him.

3) You can never be too far gone. Jonah 3:1-10 gives details of when Jonah does go to Nineveh and Gods compassion in granting repentance. Nineveh was a city of evil people. They were barbarians who worshiped idols and often raided Israel and tortured its people .In spite of this, God was sending them help! That’s why Jonah did not want to go… from the beginning Jonah suspected that God intended to spare the city. Nineveh didn’t deserve God’s compassion, but they received it anyways. Jonah 3:10 says that Nineveh turned from evil and God had compassion on them. But understand this: It was not their change of heart that led to God’s compassion. God’s compassion came first. Compassion led to repentance; not the other way around. After all, if God had not sent Jonah, the people would have never changed. This story illustrates the power of Gods word. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “All scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” By sending His word to Nineveh, God had compassion on them and gave them opportunity to change. And by granting a place like Nineveh repentance, God shows that we can never be too far gone. No matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done. God can save us.

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