Some believe that Jonah is a made up story because it lacks historical details but the Bible already talks about Jonah in 2 Kings 14:25 when he is found prophesying to Jeroboam about the expansion of Jerusalem’s borders. Jesus also makes reference to Jonah in Matthew when He is talking about His death and the prophecy that in three days He will rise again
Matthew 12:40 For just 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.
Jesus death, burial and resurrection were not made up and I do not think Jesus would use a fictional story to talk about His death because He wanted people to know that He was dying for their sins and overcoming death when He rose again. If Jonah was not a true story then critics would say that Jesus death and resurrection were spiritual in nature and not physical which would demean the sacrifice that Jesus paid for us.
In Matthew 12:41 Jesus says the Men of Nineveh at the end of time will rise up in judgment against others because they repented when they heard the judgment of God was coming which also shows that these were historical people and a story that is historical in nature. There are arguments for and against Jonah’s story being historical rather than allegorical but I believe there is enough historical evidence for us to believe he was an actual person and that these events took place.
We can learn many things from Jonah and as we walk through the book of Jonah I believe we will see that Jonah was similar to many of us in our interaction with God and with others.
The Silent Treatment is when you stop communicating with someone who desires communication. The Silent Treatment is detrimental to relationships and should be avoided if at all possible on your end because it hurts the intimacy of the relationship and causes undo stress between those who are no longer talking to each other. Matthew 18 gives clear guidelines on dealing with conflict because God knows that we are made for relationships with Him and with each other and we need to work toward always staying in healthy relationships with each other.
Although many people are familiar with the story of Jonah they do not always see how it relates to them in their personal lives. We will see today that Jonah gave the silent treatment to God and to a world that needed to hear the message God gave him. We have a tendency to give God and others the silent treatment when we become self-absorbed with our own wills rather than God’s.
The Word of the Lord Came to Jonah
1) God Does not give us the Silent Treatment
Jonah is a prophet, although an unusual one, and so as a prophet he would have the honor to hear from God and repeat the message that God wants communicated. It was a special privilege that the prophets had as they were told the message God wanted communicated. God wants a relationship with His creation and He wants us to know that sin separates us from God. Seven times in the book of Jonah and two hundred and forty two times in the Old Testament the phrase “the word of the Lord” is mentioned. This phrase shows that God is actively communicating with His creation.
“This is the essence of divine privilege, purpose and prerogative- to speak to man, so bringing him into voluntary and intelligent participation in the divine plan for his life and for the people of the world in which he lives.” J. H. Kennedy
People may try to ignore God but God is not ignoring them because God cares about People and He has made a way of salvation for the entire world. The Bible gives us a glimpse of some of the ways that God speaks to people as He is trying to get their attention. Many people may try to ignore God but God is not giving up on them.
God Speaks through Nature
Romans 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
The evidence of creation shows that there is a creator because it shows that it is designed. Science tells us that the way the world works it goes from order to chaos and not chaos to order. People have to ignore the evidence that we were designed and have faith to believe we came into being without a Creator. So God is still speaking through His nature to point people to Him even though many people are ignoring the proof and the scientific studies that point to God.
God Speaks through His Word
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[a] may be complete, equipped for every good work.
The Bible is one of the most attacked books that has stood the test of time. It is the most historical, archeological and scientific of all the Holy books. The Bible stands out above all the other religions even though it has been scrutinized more than any other religious book. God preserved His word for us so that we can know Him although many will deny the proof the Bible gives us about God.
God Speaks through Jesus
Hebrews 1:1-2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
Everyone has to do something with Jesus Christ and every religion has something to say about the historical Jesus even if they do not believe He was God in the flesh. Jesus asked His disciples in Matthew 16 who people thought that He was but at the end of it Jesus asked them who they thought He was. (See Matthew 16:15) This question is still the question that every individual must ask and seek to find because their eternity will depend on it. Either Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6) or He was a liar. Have you studied the historical person named Jesus? What was your conclusion about Him?
God Speaks Through His People
2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
God uses His people to tell others about Him just like He wanted to use Jonah to tell the city of Nineveh. Unfortunately, just like Jonah the people of God are not perfect and so people are turned off by their lives without listening to their message. You may not have like the messenger but that does not mean their message was not true. Have you been ignoring God because the messenger of God did not live a life that you thought they should live?
God uses all of these methods to communicate to people because even though we are sinners God is still reaching out to us with the hope of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ.
John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
“Go at Once”
Jonah was commanded to go and speak to a people whose wickedness was so bad that God was going to destroy them very soon if they did not turn from their sinful ways. There was urgency to the message that Jonah was supposed to take and that is the same urgency we should have to those around us.
Hebrews 9:27-28 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
You may not believe in a judgement and that God freely accepts everyone in or you may believe in a judgement that you believe you can earn by your good works or by doing more good than bad. God’s judgement is coming to every one of us and we can accept Jesus who took the judgment we deserve or we can try and face it alone. If you face it alone without accepting the free gift of Jesus Christ then you will fall short. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“Call out against it” or “Preach against it”
God was asking the prophet to not just speak to the Jews but to leave where he was and go to gentiles and tell them about God’s future wrath if they did not repent. God sees and God cares what is taking place in the world and the evil that He saw was reaching a point with Him that He was going to wipe them off the face of the earth.
One day all wickedness will be judged but there are times that God says enough to the wickedness that is currently taking place and judges it before the end of time. You cannot read the Bible and not realize that God is aware and involved in what is happening in the world and that He sees the evil that is taking place. The message from God is not always pleasant and that is why some people do not want to speak it and why some people do not want to listen to it. Jonah’s job was to tell what God said and leave it up to the listeners to decide what to do with the information they received.
The Assyrians were known for their brutality and cruelty and you can see why Jonah was hesitant to even go near them let alone preach a message that would have told them that they were wrong for how they are living. We live in a society that does not want to be told that how they are living is wrong and to tell them they are wrong is considered hate speech. As difficult as it may be we still have the responsibility to tell them the truth. Even those we would see as unreachable God does not give the silent treatment to but reaches out to them in hopes they will repent and turn to Him.
Read Jonah 1:3
But Jonah ran away from the Lord
2) We hurt ourselves when we give God the Silent Treatment
Most prophets would argue with God about the assignment but not Jonah as he says nothing and he just walks away from God. This is why I named the message “The Silent Treatment” because Jonah decided to be silent and not do the will of God. Jonah did not appear to be rebellious but he was rebelling against God. The other Israelites would have not known he was rebelling and would have thought God had just given Jonah an assignment to carry out not knowing he was going in the opposite direction of God’s will.
I believe most Christians in America fall into this category because we are not openly rebellious with how we live our lives but by not telling those around us about Jesus we are really rebelling against God. Christianity is not about just sinning less, it is about being obedient to do the things that God asks us to do. (Matthew 21:28-32; 25:14-30)
Flees from the Presence of the Lord
Jonah literally went into the opposite direction of where God asked him to go. A round trip to Tarshish would take 3 years (2 Chronicles 9:21) and so Jonah was going as far away as he could go from the assignment of God. Tarshish was a place where the presence of God was not known (Isaiah 66:19) and so Jonah was doing all he could to escape God’s presence since he did not want to fulfill Gods command. Because of Jonah’s disobedience he was sacrificing his intimacy with God. Prophets had intimate time in the presence of God (1 Kings 22:19-23; Isaiah 6:1-8; Jeremiah 23:18-22) and Jonah was sacrificing his intimacy with God because he rebelled.
Even though Jonah was doing all he could to escape God’s presence we know that there is no way we can truly escape God.
Psalm 139:7-10 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
No matter how far you run or how far you “FEEL” away from God you cannot escape His presence. We never lose our relationship with God but we can lose our intimacy with God and when we lose our intimacy with God we lose our intimacy among God’s people. The Jewish life revolved around the Temple and the festivities of God which involved the Temple Choirs, the sacrifices and offerings to the Lord, The Ark of the Covenant and the Holy of Holies. When people begin to rebel against God they usually try and get away from the people of God because it is a reminder that they need to change the direction of their lives.
Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
When you want to escape the presence of God then you also have to avoid His people as well because God is present with His people. People can blame others for the reason they are not in a fellowship of Believers but many times they are just trying to move away from God and blame others as the reason why they no longer go to church.
He went down
The Writer of Jonah wanted to make sure that we understood that Jonah was not only rebelling but the words that were chosen show the mental and physical state of Jonah as one that was on a downward spiral spiritually, mentally and physically. Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death and God hates sin because it hurts His creation. When you rebel against God you are hurting yourself. Jonah was supposed to “RISE and Go” but instead he “Fled and went DOWN”
Sin will cost you:
- Socially: he left the fellowship, and went down into the ship.
- Financially: he paid for a ship to take him as far away as possible. Ancient Jewish tradition says he paid for the entire ship. Sin always cost you more than you want to pay. God’s laws are there for our protection not to restrict us but to free us later. To reject a command of God is to reject God Himself and there is always a price to pay for your rebellion. Jonah’s silent treatment to God cost him everything as he tried and escape the presence and conviction of God.
3) God’s people cannot give the Silent Treatment to the World
Jonah did the exact opposite of what God had commanded him to do and Prophets who would not share the truth were responsible for the blood of those they refused to share with. (Ezekiel 33:6-8)
Reasons we do not share our faith
- A) Believe it is someone else’s job (Pastors and those with gift of Evangelism)
- B) We do not want to come across as too Holy
- C) Not sure we would have the answers to questions that might be asked.
- D) Do not want to hurt comradery at work or on sports team. (Telling people their religion is wrong is sensitive material)
- E) Scared of rejection personally or financially
We find out in Jonah 4:2 the reason Jonah did not want to speak to them and that is because he was afraid they would repent. Think about that, Jonah wanted them to experience the wrath of God and burn in hell. Jonah had experienced the grace of God but refused to allow others the same opportunity to experience that grace.
DO I care enough about people to warn them of God’s judgement? When we do not share about Jesus Christ we are giving people the silent treatment when they so desperately need to hear about a God that loves them.
Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The good news of Jesus Christ is simply this; Jesus died for our sins, He was buried and He rose again. Jesus death on the cross put us in a right relationship with God and without accepting (Acts 16:31) that free gift we are not in a right relationship with God.
Who have you been giving the silent treatment? God, because you know what He wants you to do and you do not want to do it? Coworkers, because you are embarrassed to share a faith in Jesus when your life does not match what Jesus teaches? Have you been silent to your Classmates or Neighbors, because you are not sure how to start the conversation? God has not been silent to reach out to you but have you been silent in His command to go into the entire world?
We have been given the grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ and we are to share with others what we have. The results are not up to us and whether they listen or hate us for it is not our concern. We are to share the good news of Jesus with people to warn them of God’s judgment if they do not give their lives to Christ
Would you pray for one person you need to share Christ with and ask God for the opportunity to do so?