Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Jonah Chapter 1

Title: Jonah Ch. 1 – God’s Protective Authority


One of the greatest things about summer is your newfound FREEDOM from school. You look forward to it from the first day of school in the fall, and when it finally arrives, it is the best feeling in the world! We love the moment when restrictions are released and freedom is tasted. Unfortunately, this love for freedom that we all share also shows its teeth in the opposite of situations…when we are dealing with authority.

As students, well, even as HUMANS, we struggle with the concept of authority! We don’t like someone else telling us what to do. This often creates major tension in our lives through relationships with our parents, teachers, coaches, pastors, bosses, police officers and more!

In This Series We Will Unpack A Crazy Biblical Account And We
 Will Discover The Purpose Of God’s Authority In All Of Our Lives.

From the beginning of human history, God has chosen to interact with the people He created. In different seasons He has used different modes of communication to speak to His people. From talking directly to Adam and Eve, to using a burning bush with Moses and even a faint whisper with the prophet Elijah, God has varied His communication styles. For a period of Israel’s history He would even speak through prophets who would share His words to all of the people. Jonah was just such a prophet. Over the next few weeks we are going to peek into his life, starting with the first chapter of the Old Testament book that bears his name:
Jonah 1:1-3 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
Jonah’s one job was to communicate God’s words to the people. Yet in this instance, he chose to disobey God’s command and go completely in the other direction, as it says in verse 3 “to flee from the Lord”. Just on a surface level, this sounds like a really, really dumb idea. As if the God who created everything can’t track Jonah to a different city. Did Jonah think God’s GPS couldn’t reach that far? How ridiculous is that?! Yet that is exactly what Jonah did. He ran away from God because he wanted something different from what God wanted.
This is a HUGE issue for Jonah, as he reveals that he has a major authority problem with God. Jonah decides to supersede God’s authority, go his own way and skip out of town for a vacation to Tarshish, instead of going to Ninevah.
Question – If Jonah was REALLY in control of his life, why did he feel the need to run from God?
Jonah’s strong reaction to God’s command shows his struggle with God’s authority, and a deep desire to be in control of his own life. Does that sound familiar at all? As we dig into Jonah’s life we are going to see that Jonah’s heart is a mirror of our own hearts.
Jonah had an issue with God’s authority that strikes close to home for all of us. We see AUTHORITY as DOMINATION, so we choose to REBEL.
I know that I don’t like to be told what to do. I hate to be micro-managed, and you hate it too! I can’t stand to think that my decisions are not my own, and this starts for all of us at a very early age. At this point in your life your distaste for authority has been creeping up inside you and is now rearing its head as rebellion. Whether it is with your parents, teachers, etc. you feel this very real tension when it comes to submitting to authority.
Don’t we all flirt with having this kind of relationship with God? We see God as a dictator who just wants to use us up and toss us to the side. Even when we obey Him we mutter under our breath that we know better than Him how to run our lives. This is the mindset Jonah had as he tried to run from God. Let’s see how it worked out for him:
Jonah 1:4-14 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.” Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.) The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.”
Yikes! Here we see Jonah’s struggle with God’s authority begin to affect other people. The ship he is on began to sink in the storm, and the crew had to make a very difficult decision.
Now, based on the way these sailors responded to the storm, we can see that they had an interesting relationship with God. Yet even these guys recognized how ridiculous it was to try to run from God. Then they risked their lives even more by trying to keep Jonah alive. Honestly, their compassion for Jonah looks WAY more “Christian” than Jonah’s lack of compassion for Nineveh! They even asked God for forgiveness for obeying Jonah!

Jonah lost sight of the purpose of God’s authority. He tried to manipulate God and run from Him and he disobeyed God in an attempt to become his own authority. His actions showed that he didn’t want God’s protection. What is your response? How do you see God’s authority in your life?
If you have a relationship with God through Jesus, you should LOVE God’s authority. That love is based on the reality of God’s PROTECTIVE authority, not a distorted view of a DOMINATING authority. Look at what Paul says about God in his letter to the Roman church:
Romans 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
All things exist to give God glory… all pain and all blessings. Both destroying Nineveh and forgiving it. Believe it or not, God is glorified in our successes and our failures. Even in Jonah’s story, the sailors on the boat saw who God was and turned to Him, despite Jonah’s disobedience!
John 17:11-12,15 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled… My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
Even when it doesn’t feel like, look like it, or smell like it…God’s authority exists for our protection. Let’s look back to the end of Jonah chapter 1:
Jonah 1:15-17 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him. Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Here is the perfect picture of God’s perfect authority. God sent Jonah to reveal His word to sinners. Jonah disobeyed God’s command. Yet even in Jonah’s disobedience God used Jonah to save a boatful of sinful sailors! Plus, God protected Jonah while he was sinking in a sea storm by providing a huge fish to swallow him. More on that next time!

As We Dig Into Jonah’s Life Over The Next Few Weeks, 
Remember That God’s Authority Exists For Our Protection. 
It Was True For Jonah And It Is Still True For You And Me Today.

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