Storytellers: Jonah

Storytellers: Jonah

Illustration: Monster Fish
My boys have recently gotten into fishing.  Several months ago they got new fishing rods.  For Christmas they got two tackle boxes.  They pretty much have everything they need to land the big one.  They love fishing so much that they wake up just about everyday and watch a show called “Monster Fish”.  The show chronicles the journey of famed fisherman Jeremy Wade.  Wade travels the world in search for the largest fish on planet earth.  He has caught some whoppers for sure.  In most cases, this fella goes to dangerous places and searches for the most dangerous fish around. 

You know, the Bible is full of fish, fishermen, and whoppers.  Big whoppers.  We are all familiar with the stories of Jesus telling the disciples to cast their nets back into the water after a long day of catching nothing.  The disciples were obedient to the Master and they nearly sunk the boat with the amount of fish in the nets.  

Well today, we are talking about Jonah.  No, we are not talking about the big Whopper that caught Jonah, but we are talking about Jonah’s witness.  Jonah was instructed by God to go fishing in an unlikely pond.  It would be here that God would catch an unlikely people.  

A Whopper Caught Jonah So Jonah Could GO Witness!

Most of us know the story of Jonah.  Jonah was a prophet of God.  An Israelite.  A man with a calling on his life.  He was called to go and share the message of God to the people in Nineveh in hopes that the people would repent.  

Jonah, the reluctant prophet, said “no”.  He had good reason for his response as you will learn in just a moment.  Jonah ran from God.  He ran from his call.  Instead of going to Nineveh in the desert, he chose to go to Tarshish which is on the beach. Of course we know the rest of the story.  Jonah was caught in a furious storm and in an act of desperation, Jonah requested that he be thrown from the ship because he knew the mighty storm was caused by God’s anger and would eventually capsize the entire vessel.  The men throw Jonah overboard and Jonah is swallowed up by a great fish.  

Jonah 1:17 ESV
And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Of course, we know that after three days, Jonah was released from the bowels of the fish.  The Scripture tells us that Jonah was spit on the dry land.

Jonah 2:10 KJV
"And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land."

Jonah would have looked very different the moment he was…well…vomited back up on dry land.  His skin would have been bleached white due to the acid in the fish’s belly.  His hair would have been most singed off because of the same acid.  His eyes would have been badly bloodshot.  He would have lost a significant amount of weight having not eaten and being badly dehydrated. It would have been quite a site to see Im sure.  

So, Jonah hears from the Lord again.  “Go to Nineveh”.

Nineveh was a city full of Gentiles.  Most Bible readers will know that Israelites did not get along very well with Gentiles.  Especially Gentiles from Nineveh.  Nineveh was an especially wicked place filled with sin, corruption and suffering.  

The Old Testament book of Nahum speaks about Nineveh saying:

Nahum 3:1 ESV
Woe to the bloody city, all full of lies and plunder—no end to the prey!

Nineveh was a city of violence, known for its brutal treatment of those it conquered. The Assyrians were notorious for amputating hands and feet, gouging eyes, and skinning and impaling their captives. The final verse of Nahum’s book emphasizes the violence of the Assyrians in the form of a rhetorical question: 

Nahum 3:19 ESV
“Who has not felt your endless cruelty?”

Let’s just say that Nineveh was not a place you want to visit.  It was no vacation destination.  This is where Jonah was told to go, tell the story of God, and watch God do a mighty work.  Let’s read the story together.  


Jonah 3:1-5 ESV
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth. 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

What Can We Learn From Jonah’s Fishing Trip?

I. Jonah Heard vs. 1-2
Jonah 3:1-2 ESV
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”

How many of you are fisherman out there this morning?  Good, lots of you are.  How many of you have special spots, or favorite spots to fish?  Good most of you do.  How many of you have ever shared your favorite fishing hole with someone else?  Yep, that’s what I thought.  Not many of you.  

You see, most fisherman have their favorite fishing hole.  To prevent it from being over fished, most fisherman keep this hole a secret.  Sometimes, this hole is discovered accidentally and other times, it has been passed down from father to son or friend to friend.  Either way, a good fishing hole is a sacred spot.  It is very special and memories are often attached to this place.  

Well, God is not one to keep a good fishing hole secret.  Nope, God wants His best fisherman to go there and start fishing.  Nineveh was a great fishing hole because it was full of fish.  God told Jonah to go there and start fishing.  

Two things to point out here about God’s call to Jonah.  First, the Hebrew word for “word of the Lord” actually means “command of the Lord”.  The Lord commanded Jonah to go to this place.  It was not a request.  It was not given to Jonah as an afterthought of if Jonah had time to go there he could.  Nope.  It was a solid command.  No questions asked.  “Jonah, GO TO NINEVEH.”  

Secondly, the Hebrew word for “arise” means “ means more than stand.  It also means “certainly help him to raise” it also means “prepared”.  God is commanding Jonah to go to Nineveh but He is comforting Jonah by saying “Jonah I have prepared you for this task.  I will come along side of you and lift you up.  I will strengthen you for this assignment.”

You see friend, the same call given to Jonah is the same call for us today.  We too are called to go and fish.  Yes, sharing an evangelical witness may seem scary, daunting even, but we must heed the command knowing that Jesus is there with us. God is coming along side of us to strengthen us.  He has prepared us.  How?

Well, God has prepared us by giving us a tremendous lure.  A lure is basically bait.  So, what is our bait?  Our bait is our testimony.  It is our “look what God has done in me” story.  Trust me, your story of God moving in your life is compelling and attractive.  People will listen if we share it.  People will be drawn to Jesus if we just cast the line of our testimony.  

Jonah heard the command of God, have you?  Where is your fishing hole?  Are you making an effort to fish it?  Are you using the lure of your Jesus story to draw fish close to God?

I John 5:10 ESV
Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.

Psalm 71:15-16 ESV
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.

What Can We Learn From Jonah’s Fishing Trip?

I. Jonah Heard vs. 1-2
II. Jonah Headed Out vs. 3
Jonah 3:3 ESV
So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth. 

So Jonah hears from God. He understands that God is not going to let him travel alone.  Then we come to verse three and we see immediate action on Jonah’s part.  No where does it state that Jonah stops to pack.  No where does it say that Jonah paused, he simply proceeded to the destination.  He does not request a ride, a donkey, a camel, nope, Jonah simply got to stepping.  He did not complain about the long 3 day journey.  He did not ask for God to provide him with suitable attire or request a reprieve for him to regain his strength.  Nope, he just said “ok” and went along his way.  

We all know that Jonah was a bit hard headed but after a few days in the belly of a fish, Jonah was ready to move forward with God call.  

Jonah’s Challenges 

1. Look at the City

As stated earlier, Nineveh was a terrible place.  It is no place that anyone would want to go.  It was not a safe place.  It was not a secure place.  It was not a place that any person of faith or religion would choose to go on their own.  Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria.  A huge expansive city.  The city was the center for pagan worship.  Each day massive sacrifices were given to these gods.  In many case, children were given over to the knife to please these blood thirsty gods.  

The city was governed by vigilante law.  It was not uncommon for people to have their eye gauged out, hands cut off, limb removed simply for being suspected of a crime.  During the time, there was no more violent place on planet earth than Nineveh. 

It was a very lawless city.  Rape was out of control.  Prostitution was one of the largest industries of the city, especially temple prostitution.  Some scholars have said that Nineveh was the rebirth of the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  It was a dreadful, unsafe, and horrible place to go.  

Jonah went.  

2. Look at the Cost

Jonah was no where near the city.  After being in the belly of the fish for 3 days, God sent him on foot on another 3 day journey.  He never made it to Tarshish, the destination he chose when he fled from God.  Instead he was marooned in Joppa.  It was a 550 mile journey through desert, wilderness and mountain.  Remember, Jonah was weak.  His skin burned with the acid from the fish’s belly.  He was hairless because the acid would have burned off all of his hair.  His clothing would have been tattered, worn and burnt through from the innards of the fish.  He would have been hungry.  He would have been weak.  He sight would have been hampered.  He had no money.  No food.  No companions.  Nothing.  

Jonah went.  

3. Look at the Call

Nineveh was a exceedingly great city.  It was exceedingly sinful.  It was exceedingly large.  Some 120,000 people inhabited the city along with the King.  God command to Jonah was to go and tell the entire city to repent.  It was all on Jonah’s shoulders.  It was all on his back to make this happen.  It was impossible.  It was improbably.  There was no way that these sinful horrible people would accept the call of God in their lives.  There was no way that they would repent.  Why bother making the trip?

I am sure that Jonah had lots of questions.  I am sure that he had lots of hesitation.  

What about you?  Do you see yourself in Jonah?  I certainly do?  

You see, sometimes, many times, God calls us to the scary places of the world to share the Gospel.  He tells us to go to the insane places to lift high the name of Jesus Christ.  It is tempting to think of our own personal security in those moments.  “I’d be safer if I stayed right here in Daphne” instead of going to that far of distant land.  Yet, I would say that Jonah was much safer by heeding God’s command in his life than running to the safe place. 

Yes, running to Tarshish made sense.  It was safer.  It was on the beach.  But God does not always call us to the beach.  No, he calls us to the battlefield.  This is the Gospel.  Go to the world, this big dangerous world and tell people about Jesus.  Making disciples has never been safe or convenient.  

Listen to Paul’s words about his working in sharing the Gospel.

2 Corinthians 11:24-27 ESV
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

I do a lot of reading and I came across this article by Craig Greenfield.  It is called No, the ‘Safest Place’ Isn’t the Center of God’s Will.

“Serving God in the slums didn’t earn me protection from cancer, the death of my friends and neighbors, betrayal, robberies or any of the other struggles we have faced. In fact, we likely faced more of those things because of where we followed Jesus.

Perhaps it’s time we realized that the safest place, physically speaking, is NOT in the center of God's will. The center of God's will may, in fact, be one of the wildest, most dangerous places you could imagine. 

He never promised you a rose garden. He never even promised to spare your life. Frankly, you could definitely be killed in the battle. 

Without a theology of suffering—I would have given up this game a LONG time ago. If my only defense against pain was a pocket full of clichés and platitudes, I’d be unlikely to last.

What puts things in perspective for me, is the reminder that I follow someone who was beaten, mocked and ultimately executed—and who invited me to take up MY cross.”

What Can We Learn From Jonah’s Fishing Trip?

I. Jonah Heard vs. 1-2
II. Jonah Headed Out vs. 3
III. Jonah Was Heeded vs. 4-5
Jonah 3:4-5
Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

So, Jonah journeyed into the most violent fishing holes around. He meets some of the most dangerous fish around.  To be honest, he doesn’t even use a very convincing lure, but something happens.  People begin to respond.  Not just a few of them.  All of them.  God uses Jonah’s message to create a sweeping revival that plows through the city.  People are radically converted and are immediately repentant.  

Scripture tells us that even the King responded to Jonah’s message of God’s coming wrath.  What Jonah thought was a lost cause actually becomes a spiritual earthquake.  

I think that many times we think of our current situation like Jonah thought of his.  

These people are to far gone. 

There is no way that these people will respond.

They are just to sinful to hear the Gospel.

Their hearts are to hard for the Gospel seed to penetrate.  

Friends, let me tell you an absolute truth.  People will not have a chance to respond to the Gospel if we refuse to tell them. We do not know what God will do or what He is doing. We do not know the outcome.  Will some say no?  Sure.  That’s what Jonah thought.  Shoot, Jonah didn’t think the people deserve God’s message of salvation.  Sure, some will say no but what about the countless people who will say yes to God call in their life.  How can they respond if they never hear.  

I’ve said it once, I will say it again, we are educated beyond our obedience.  

People are more hungry to hear the Gospel than we are to share the Gospel.

Jonah had to tell the story for the people to hear it and respond.  How many people do we know that simply have not had an adequate witness to truthfully respond to the message.    

So, what’s your message?  Who is your audience?  

Isaiah 6:8 ESV
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”



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