Jonah's Repentance and God's Deliverance
Jonah’s Repentance and God’s Deliverance
Frederick Charrington was a member of the wealthy family in England which owned the Charrington Brewery. His personal fortune, derived solely from his brewing enterprise, exceeded $66 million.
One night, Charrington was walking along a London street with a few friends. Suddenly the door of a pub flew open just a few steps ahead of the group, and a man staggered out into the street with a woman clinging desperately to him. The man, obviously very drunk, was swearing at the woman and trying to push her away. The woman was gaunt and clad in rags. She sobbed and pleaded with the drunken man, who was her husband.
“Please, dear, please!” she cried as Charrington and his friends watched. “The children haven’t eaten in two days! And I’ve not eaten in a week! For the love of God, please come home! Or if you must stay, just give me a few coins so I can buy the children some…”
Her pleas were brutally cut off as her husband struck her a savage blow. She collapsed to the stone pavement like a rag doll. The man stood over her with his fists clenched, poised as if to strike her again. Charrington leaped forward and grasped him. The man struggled, swearing violently, but Charrington pinned the man’s arms securely behind his back. Charrington’s companions rushed to the woman’s side and began ministering to her wounds. A short time later a policeman led the drunken man away and the woman was taken to a nearby hospital.
As Charrington brushed himself off, he noticed a lighted sign in the window of the pub: “Drink Chrarrington Ale.” The multi-millionaire brewer was suddenly shaken to the core of his being. He realized that his confrontation with the violent husband would not have happened if the man’s brain had not been awash with the Charrington family’s product. “When I saw that sign,” he later wrote, “I was stricken just as surely as Paul on the Damascus Road. Here was the source of my family wealth, and it was producing untold human misery before my own eyes. Then and there I pledged to God that not another penny of that money should come to me.”
History records that Frederick Charrington became one of the most well-known temperance activists in England. He renounced his share of the family fortune and devoted the rest of his life to the ministry of freeing men and women from the curse of alcoholism.
• This is a story of repentance.
• It is a story that should typify our lives.
• But if I reflect upon our world outside these doors and how the world has crept into our lives many people have no problem disassociating their actions from the outcomes of those actions.
• We can sin against God or others and not take personal responsibility for them.
• If we were to ask a stranger if they felt they had done something wrong many would with conviction declare their innocence.
• We can justify our culpability of actions and deny what we have done.
• Jonah sailed on that ship and to a certain point denied his responsibility to God.
• God took action and Jonah’s fate was certain death for his actions.
• But what about repentance and second chances?
• The man in the story was given a second chance to make right the wrongs he had caused.
• As we will see today Jonah was given a second chance as well but it came in a unique way.
• The journey to second chances is not always a smooth road-it is meant to have us make changes and reflect on our responsibility.
• God I think has provided a condition for second chances and we will see that in God’s deliverance of Jonah.
Jonah’s Dilemma (1:17)
1:17 (2:1) The Lord sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.
• When we leave off at 1:15-16 we are given the distinct impression that the story has come to a tragic end but like any good story true or not the plot has some twists and turns that take the reader on a journey of discovery.
• When we move to verse 17 we do not see Jonah dying in the sea but a Jonah saved from death.
• What is interesting is that we could think of many means by which God could have saved Jonah.
• It is not out of God’s control to do what he likes and he could allowed Jonah the ability to breath under water
• He could have instantly transferred him to dry land or even to Nineveh for that matter.
• One of the last things the ancient reader or even we would expect is that a giant fish would come along to save Jonah from death-it goes to show God’s flair for the dramatic at times.
• There is a story told about a young girl sitting in a park reading the story of Jonah from her Bible when a man sat beside her and asked her what she was reading. She stopped to explain that she was reading how Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and saved from death.
• The Man responded that this was surely not true for what kind of fish could swallow a person and they could survive.
• The girl responded that she did not know but that she would ask Jonah when she went to Heaven.
• The man said what if Jonah was not in Heaven but in Hell and she said well then you can ask him.
• The issue of what kind of fish or whale as it has often been postulated would be in the Mediterranean Sea and be capable of housing a person.
• Further was it even possible to live inside a person for that long?
• I took some time to do some research and many have tried to figure it out but the fact of the matter whether naturally possible or not that is not the point of the story.
• As believers in the Word of God we need to realize that this story is true simply because God is capable of anything.
• So whether God created a special type of fish or whale or had a species appear there out of its natural habitat should be left in the realm of distracting speculation.
• The point that God is trying to demonstrate is that he saved Jonah from death in a way that no person could ever take credit.
• If Jonah had been thrown in and clung to a piece of discarded cargo and drifted back to land he may have been able to make a claim to his fortunate circumstances
• But no one could take any credit for being saved by living for three days in the stomach of a fish.
• The verse is very specific as to how long Jonah spent in the stomach of that fish-three days and three nights.
• The phrasing of three days and nights was used to emphasize that it was three full 24 hour days-so a full 72 hours in the stomach of that fish.
• The phrasing also was used to demonstrate a journey away from the land of the living for it has been thought that the journey from living to death or Sheol was three days.
• So the emphasis being made by the author of Jonah is that for the duration of the journey that it would have theoretically taken to enter death Jonah was kept safe from it.
• But it also has greater significance of we allow our Christianity to enlighten the text.
• Matt. 12:39-40 says: 12:39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 12:40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.
Jesus confirms the validity of the Jonah account as true but more importantly we see that Jesus was explaining part of God’s plan for redemption-which required a sort of death.
• Jonah received redemption by means of God’s sovereign control in keeping him alive and Jesus would bring redemption available to all people through God sending him to the same duration of death before his ressurection
• Further as we will see, Jesus’ death was the way to reconcile other and Jonah’s experience in the fish was the means that God would take reconciliation to the people of Nineveh.
• So here is Jonah thinking that he had surely died and yet he is miraculously saved by being in the stomach of large fish.
• It may have seemed a cruel fate because he was in this foul prison with no means of escape unless God would deliver him from what had saved him from death.
• Imagine the smells and tastes-the complete darkness and utter despair.
• But there is a lesson here in that Jonah’s dilemma was also going to be his means of reconciliation.
• It is no different for any of us-when we run away and God will not let us go he can bring things in our lives that yell at us to take notice.
• God is saying to us that he has placed us in this mess so that we can see again how desperately we need him.
Jonah’s Despair (2:1-6)
2:1 Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish 2:2 and said, “I called out to the Lord from my distress, and he answered me; from the belly of Sheol I cried out for help, and you heard my prayer. 2:3 You threw me into the deep waters, into the middle of the sea;
the ocean current engulfed me;
all the mighty waves you sent swept over me. 2:4 I thought I had been banished from your sight, that I would never again see your holy temple! 2:5 Water engulfed me up to my neck;
the deep ocean surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. 2:6 I went down to the very bottoms of the mountains; the gates of the netherworld barred me in forever; but you brought me up from the Pit, O Lord, my God.
• The bulk of verses 1-6 comprise a psalm of unknown origin.
• We are not sure whether Jonah was reciting a psalm that he was familiar with or whether he composed one for the occasion.
• As we look at verse we should pause a moment to see that Jonah prayed to God.
• We might think that fairly insignificant or that we would take that for granted but it is significant.
• It shows that despite all that has happened Jonah still sees Yahweh as his God-of all the action or deities he could of prayed to he understands the supremacy of Yahweh.
• Jonah has gone through a dramatic experience-has suddenly been woken up, thrust into frantic circumstances and decisions and thrown over board to his death only to feel life drained away and then restored.
• We are not sure whether Jonah realized where he was-if he knew he was in a fish or not.
• He may have suspected something of the sort from the smells and sounds but the darkness would not have revealed anything.
• What he will have known is that he thought he was going to die and now he had not.
• God had again displayed his ability to control every circumstance and display his power in places no person could provide.
• The emphasis coming through the book is again reinforced that God is sovereign and will give mercy to those who he desires to give it to and his power is transcendent beyond our perception.
• It must have been uncomfortable but not so much so that he could not pray and so he begins by crying out to God in his despair recounting in verse his ordeal.
• In verse 2 he expresses his decent into death, thinking that he would not survive the ordeal-he had disobeyed God and was going to reap the reward for his action but he cried out to God anyway.
• In verse 3-6 he describes his agony-the currents engulfed him moving him and controlling his descent even if he fought against them he was powerless.
• The waves swept over him, covering him in water, taking him down.
• When he could not fight the current or the waves he reconciled himself to death-banished from God never able to worship Yahweh again.
• The water covered his entire body as he struggled to keep his head above water but seaweed like tentacles covered his head and dragged him down to the entrance of death.
• There was nothing he could do-there was nothing that anyone could have done to save Jonah-he had incurred the punishment of God.
• But suddenly he was given mercy-new life flowed through his veins, air entered his lungs and he found a place to set his feet.
• God had given him new life.
• It has been said, “What we need most is mercy. Justice would ruin us.”
• Think of your own life for a moment-have you had times in which you have run from God only to face troubles?
• What happens when we turn back to him-does he say “I told you so” or does he offer reconciliation?
• Now what if you have not been running from him but are facing troubles and trials what then can we expect of God?
• Surely we can expect a great deal of his mercy especially when we have done nothing wrong.
• Whether we are running in disobedience or facing horrible circumstances we should be able to know that God desires to give us mercy
• We may be in great despair but he gives us his favor
• Specifically from the life of Jonah we should take the time to reflect on our own despair-is it because I have not walked faithfully with him?
• Am I facing this calamity because of my pride?
• God can do for you what he did for Jonah-he can save you from the waves, currents and choking sea weed and restore hope to your soul.
Jonah’s Dedication (2:7-9)
2:7 When my life was ebbing away, I called out to the Lord, and my prayer came to your holy temple. 2:8 Those who worship worthless idols forfeit the mercy that could be theirs.
2:9 But as for me, I promise to offer a sacrifice to you with a public declaration of praise; I will surely do what I have promised. Salvation belongs to the Lord!”
• After Jonah has realized and had thrust upon him the mercy of God he responds with words of dedication.
• It is interesting at this point to note that there is not any indication in the book that Jonah ever initiated his reconciliation with God on his own.
• Jonah ran and it does not seem that he would have ever relented from it.
• It goes to show that when we are pulled by our own desires or we are influenced or controlled by Satan we may never turn from it.
• God has always initiated reconciliation with his people.
• Adam and Eve- God went looking for them.
• Exile of Israel-God caused it to bring them back.
• Jesus on the Cross-God offered his son willingly
• So with Jonah-God ran after him, caught him, woke him up and splashed cold water on his face-all because God wanted Jonah.
• When we meet God’s irresistible grace we cannot help but respond and Jonah did.
• In verse 7 he summarizes his experience to this point-he was desperate and turned to God and he listened to him.
• The reference to ‘holy temple’ is not so much saying that the prayer went to the temple in Jerusalem as much as it is saying that where God was that is where the prayer went.
• Then Jonah makes a comparison and expresses that unlike other deities, Yahweh is more than stone, metal or wood, he is living, breathing and alive.
• To worship other gods is a waste of time and futile and does not lead to mercy.
• We do not worship stone, metal or wood- or do we?
• Do we desire and strive for that piece of jewelry or that particular car or that piece of furniture?
• We do not consider ourselves idol worshippers but materialism is idol worship.
• Pride is worship of the idol called “me”
• Unbelief is worship of the idol called “mistrust”
• What do any other gods provide? In my experience absolutely nothing except problems.
• What we need to do is be like Jonah at this point and declare that we will offer sacrifices to God-not alone or hidden but publicly.
• Do we sacrifice our selves or do we hold on to our idols?
• Do we have the guts to show our community, family, nation that we live a life of praise to the LORD?
• The end result of Jonah’s declaration of dedication is that he says he will do as he has promised-he will honor his covenant with God and make sacrifices of thankfulness.
• The last phrase is significant because it can mean several things.
• Salvation obvious to us is something that only God can provide.-we cannot gain reconciliation through any means other than God’s choice-not work or action can do that.
• It also means that salvation is the work that God does-he does not furnish it through a third party but through himself-that is why the final reconciliation of humanity had to come from Christ as God.
• Finally it means that God is in charge of salvation-he decides whom he will save and how-this is important for Jonah because it declares that God can give mercy to even the enemy of Israel.
In his book One Crowded Hour, Tim Bowden describes an incident in Borneo in 1964. Nepalese fighters known as Gurkhas were asked if they would be willing to jump from airplanes into combat against the Indonesians. The Gurkhas didn’t clearly understand what was involved, but they bravely said they would do it, asking only that the plane fly slowly over a swampy area and no higher than 100 feet. When they were told that the parachutes would not have time to open at that height, the Gurkhas replied, “Oh, you didn’t mention parachutes before!”
• How dedicated are we to God and his cause?
• How would we need to change to be fully committed?
• Jonah was willing, what about you?
Jonah’s Deliverence (2:10)
2:10 Then the Lord commanded the fish and it disgorged Jonah on dry land.
• Death had really been the fate to which Jonah was destined
• He had for all intense and purpose done what is one of the greatest offences in our relationship with God.
• He had seen the clear and distinct will of God and had deliberately and intentionally disobeyed.
• God in his justice should have let him sink to the bottom of the sea never to be seen again.
• But God has other plans for Jonah and so after his miraculous escape from death he now is at the end of his deliverance.
• He has responded to God positively by acknowledging his sin and wants a renewed relationship with God.
• We are not told at this time if Jonah has in mind to go to Nineveh if he is released from the fish, but it is fair to say that by his admission of wrong that he is more willing than he was at God’s first call.
• So in order to continue what God had began days earlier through Jonah the fish vomits him up on to dry land.
• We can presume confidently that this large fish was swimming around the entire time that Jonah was thinking and praying
• We are not told but he may have been discharged back in Palestine from where he started.
• There are those who have tried to speculate as to what kind of condition Jonah may have been in after his ordeal.
• It is safe to say that he was probably hungry and tired.
• One speculation is that because of the stomach acid in the fish Jonah would have come out bleached white as a ghost but the text is not concerned with Jonah’s physical condition
• Verse 10 is simply a response by God in mercy to the repentance and acknowledgement of Jonah as to the sovereignty of God.
• Jonah’s deliverance from death in the sea is complete.
• Through this all we should be reminded as to what got Jonah in this situation to begin with.
• God wanted to show compassion on a people for whom Jonah did not want compassion.
• The issue was not proclaiming judgment for Jonah but it was the potential for mercy.
• God is showing Jonah the extent of mercy to those who do not deserve it.
• From a human perspective we might think that this is all for the sake of those in Nineveh but the book of Jonah is more of a lesson of mercy for a disobedient servant.
• If we were to stop reading the book at this point and have never heard it before we may conclude a happy ending having a grateful prophet expressing gladly the mercy of God to a people undeserving of mercy just as he had been given.
• Jonah had every reason to feel for Nineveh now but as we see he does not.
• God can restore each one of us in our relationship with him.
• If you have personally walked away from God we see just how far God is willing to go to bring us back to him.
• But what about your relationship with your wife or husband-your children or friends is there room for restoration with them.
• God wants to bring healing-he has the power to control and express his power in extraordinary ways
• There is nothing you are facing that goes beyond God to fix.
• But Jonah asks a valuable question-Do we not see reconciliation because of our willingness to submit to God?
• God saved Jonah from death and we cannot be sure if it was purely because Jonah admitted his wrong on the ship or God was giving him amazing grace.
• But there seems to be connection between repentance and mercy-no repentance means no mercy.
• If I were to tell you that God only saved Jonah from death because of his repentance I would be saying something the text is not saying explicitly.
• But If I look at what the Bible says as a whole the consistency would be to conclude that Jonah may have been left to die if he had not submitted to the sovereignty of God.
• With that in mind-when you look at your relationships with God and how your life is going do you need to submit to you so that he can restore you.
• What each of us needs to do is search our hearts and ask if my circumstances are God’s way of saying “What about me, what about your relationship with me? Where am I in your life?”