Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Jonah’s Prayer and Testimony’
© April 17, 2016 by Steve Mickelson
Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #616 (Christian Baptism – from Matthew 3 and 28, Acts 2, Romans 6); Prayer
Opening Hymn #180: Jesus Is Coming to Earth Again; Choruses
Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers
Scriptures: Luke 11:29-36; Romans 6:1-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Let us pray…
Welcome to our Sunday morning praise and worship service at BLCF Church. For our lesson today, we will examine the Scripture’s account of the Prophet Jonah and the Wale, or to be more precise, a large fish. While a large fish plays a part in the lesson narrative, Jonah’s account is, by no means, a fish story or fishy tale.
Rather than read through the three chapters of the Book of Jonah, let us check what I like to refer to as our Wikibits on the subject, which presents an interpretation that agrees with most Biblical scholars:
Book of Jonah (From Christianity.about.com):
The book of Jonah is different from the other prophetic books of the Bible. Typically, prophets issued warnings or gave instructions to the people of Israel. Instead, God told Jonah to evangelize in the city of Nineveh, home of Israel’s cruelest enemy. Jonah didn’t want those idolaters to be saved, so he ran away.
When Jonah ran from the call of God, one of the oddest events in the Bible occurred—the story of Jonah and the Whale.
The book of Jonah highlights God’s patience and lovingkindness, and his willingness to give those who disobey him a second chance.
Author of the Book of Jonah: The Prophet Jonah, son of Amittai. Date Written: 785-760 B.C.
Jonah and the Whale – Story Summary:
The story of Jonah and the Whale, one of the oddest accounts in the Bible, opens with God speaking to Jonah, son of Amittai, commanding him to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh.
Jonah found this order unbearable. Not only was Nineveh known for its wickedness, but it was also the capital of the Assyrian empire, one of Israel’s fiercest enemies. Jonah, a stubborn fellow, did just the opposite of what he was told. He went down to the seaport of Joppa and booked passage on a ship to Tarshish, heading directly away from Nineveh. The Bible tells us Jonah “ran away from the Lord.”
In response, God sent a violent storm, which threatened to break the ship to pieces. The terrified crew cast lots, determining that Jonah was responsible for the storm. Jonah told them to throw him overboard. First they tried rowing to shore, but the waves got even higher.
Afraid of God, the sailors finally tossed Jonah into the sea, and the water immediately grew calm. The crew made a sacrifice to God, swearing vows to him.
Instead of drowning, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, which God provided. In the belly of the whale, Jonah repented and cried out to God in prayer. He praised God, ending with the eerily prophetic statement, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:9, NIV)
Jonah was in the giant fish three days. God commanded the whale, and it vomited the reluctant prophet onto dry land. This time Jonah obeyed God. He walked through Nineveh proclaiming that in forty days the city would be destroyed. Surprisingly, the Ninevites believed Jonah’s message and repented, wearing sackcloth and covering themselves in ashes. God had compassion on them and did not destroy them.
Again Jonah questioned God, because Jonah was angry that Israel’s enemies had been spared. When Jonah stopped outside the city to rest, God provided a vine to shelter him from the hot sun. Jonah was happy with the vine, but the next day God provided a worm that ate the vine, making it wither. Growing faint in the sun, Jonah complained again.
God scolded Jonah for being concerned about a vine, but not about Nineveh, which had 120,000 lost people. The story ends with God expressing concern even about the wicked.
Points of Interest from Jonah and the Whale:
- God commands everything in his Creation, from the weather to a whale, to carry out his plan. God is in control.
- Jonah spent the same amount of time—three days—inside the whale as Jesus Christ did in the tomb. Christ also preached salvation to the lost.
- It’s not important whether it was a great fish or a whale that swallowed Jonah. The point of the story is that God can provide a supernatural means of rescue when his people are in trouble.
- Some scholars believe the Ninevites paid attention to Jonah because of his bizarre appearance. They speculate that the whale’s stomach acid bleached Jonah’s hair, skin, and clothing a ghostly white.
- Jesus did not consider the book of Jonah to be a fable or myth. While modern skeptics may find it impossible that a man could survive inside a great fish for three days, Jesus compared himself to Jonah, showing that this prophet existed and that the story was historically accurate.
I would like to suggest to those who have studied animal classification, who might have objections to referring to a whale, a mammal, as being a fish, we should not allow the author some slack, as the inventor of modern scientific classification, Swedish botanist, Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), had not been born.
While the interchangeable use of whale and fish can be overlooked, the conclusion that the Jonah account parallels the story of Jesus is not completely accurate.
Both Jonah and Jesus came to evangelize the message of God’s plan of forgiveness and salvation, Jonah was God’s Prophet, with Jesus being the Word made flesh. In other words, while Jonah preached God’s plan for saving humanity from the judgement of sin, Jesus’ sacrifice provided humanity with the means to become saved and forgiven, by faith.
The parallel between Jonah and Jesus ends, when we see that Jonah rebelled against God and ran away in the opposite direction.
Jonah willingness to sacrifice his own life to appease God’s anger, in order to save the crew of the boat, has drawn comparisons with the Lord’s self-sacrifice for humanity. The comparison fails when we consider that Jonah had committed the sin of offending God and Jesus was innocent of any sin.
Then, we have the comparison between Jonah and Jesus with regards to the three day’s Jesus’ body was kept in the tomb until his resurrection, being akin to the same number of days Jonah stayed inside the fish. It must be noted that Jonah’s being kept alive by God inside the fish for the three days is not the same as Jesus being dead in the tomb for three days, before being resurrected.
This raises the comparison to what did the Lord mean when he described his own resurrection in Luke 11:29-36 (ESV), as being the The Sign of Jonah:
The Sign of Jonah
29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
While both Jonah and Jesus ministered to a sinful world, offering God’s forgiveness, we see the Lord pointed out in verse 32 that his sign or miracle would be not only greater than Jonah’s given to the people of Nineveh, and the Lord’s wisdom is greater than that of King Solomon. For after the Lord death, resurrection and ascension, comes the light of God’s Holy Spirit to all who forgiven by faith, Christ warns us not to hide or extinguish the light of the Spirit and fall back into the darkness of sin, as we continue to read from Luke 11:
The Light in You
33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”
Like Jonah, believers in the resurrected Christ are commissioned to evangelize the Gospel of Christ unto the ends of the world.
I feel that the lesson to be learned from Jonah’s account does present an example to us of God’s forgiveness and preserving a life for His plan to evangelize to the sinners of the world. However, instead of comparing Jonah’s salvation to Christ’s, we need to view it in the context of the rebirth of Christian believers, who must evangelize, as apostles or messengers to the world of the salvation message contained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as we see in Romans 6:1-14 (ESV);
Dead to Sin, Alive to God
6 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self[a] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free[b] from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Footnotes: a. Romans 6:6 Greek man b. Romans 6:7 Greek has been justified
While we are instructed by the Lord to evangelize the Gospel message not as Jonah had to a single people, but the Good News of Jesus unto the ends of the world. We should never lose our hope and faith in Christ’s resurrection and encourage one another in this hope, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV):
The Coming of the Lord
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,[a] that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Footnotes:a. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 Or by the word of the Lord
Finally, as believers in the Resurrected Lord, we should take comfort that Jonah, in spite of being confined in the belly of a giant fish, facing his own uncertain fate, did not allow the surrounding darkness to extinguish the light of his own faith in God, as we see in Jonah’s testimony that is also his prayer, Jonah 2 (ESV), which I would like to read as a closing prayer for today’s lesson.
Let us pray:
2 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, 2 saying,
“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress,
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 flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
passed over me.
4 Then I said, ‘I am driven away
from your sight;
yet I shall again look
upon your holy temple.’
5 The waters closed in over me to take my life;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head
6 at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O Lord my God.
7 When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
8 Those who pay regard to vain idols
forsake their hope of steadfast love.
9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (AMEN)
10 And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.
Closing Hymn #248: One Day When Heaven Was Filled
Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.