I. THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE STORY.
A. Bible critics have had a field day with the book of Jonah. They claim the story is too hard to swallow.
1. They speak of the impossibility of a man being swallowed by a whale and surviving.
a. The story here declares that God prepared a great fish. Not necessarily a whale.
b. Do you believe that man is able to make a fish like object in which over 100 men can submerge under the water and remain for several days, and then be deposited at a dock?
c. If you can accept man's capacity to make such a vessel, why do you have problems with God doing it?
d. The difficulty is with the limited concept of God. If He created the whole universe, and all of the life forms within it, surely He would have no difficulty making such a fish to serve His purposes.
e. Would you be more comfortable if the story read, and a submarine surfaced and the captain ordered the crew to take Jonah on board, and they returned to shore where they let Jonah out?
2. But then there are other miracles in the story that you would have to contend with.
a. The miracle of the storm.
b. The miracle of Jonah being able to sleep in such a storm.
c. The miracle of the lot falling on Jonah.
d. The miracle of the great calm after Jonah is tossed over.
B. There is only one piece of evidence that I am going to present to prove the authenticity of the story and that is Jesus believed it.
1. As far as I am concerned Jesus is smarter than all of the critics.
2. When Jesus was asked for a sign, He told them that the only sign they would receive was the sign of the prophet Jonah who was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
3. He also spoke of the men of Nineveh rising in the day of judgment with that generation and condemning it for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold a greater than Jonah is here.
II. THE STORY: JONAH WAS A JEWISH PATRIOT WHO WAS CALLED BY GOD TO GO AND WARN THE NINEVITES THAT THEY HAD 40 DAYS UNTIL THE JUDGMENT OF GOD WOULD FALL UPON THEM.
A. Nineveh was the capitol city of Assyria, and the Assyrians were a cruel and heartless people who were conquering the nations and brutally mutilating their captives. They were a threat to the nations of Israel and Judah, in fact they are the ones that conquered Israel and were defeated by God as they were laying siege to Jerusalem.
1. Jonah knew the mercy of God and was afraid that they might take his message to heart and repent, and thus not be destroyed. He was afraid of success in his preaching.
2. As far as Jonah was concerned, nothing was better than that Nineveh should be destroyed.
B. Jonah tried to run from the call of God.
1. Went to Joppa and found a ship sailing to Tarshish. That was the opposite way from Nineveh, and as far as you could go.
2. Three times it is mentioned that he was seeking to escape from the presence of God.
3. Had he read the psalm that we read this morning, he would have realized that there is no escape from God. "Where can I escape from Your presence, if I ascend to heaven, You are there, if I descend into hell, You are there, if I take the wings of the morning, and flee to the uttermost parts of the sea, even there You will surround me."
C. Jonah felt that his plan for his life was superior to the plan of God. He was determined to run from the call of God, he would stubbornly resist the call of God.
1. First he tried to go in the opposite direction.
2. Next he told the sailors to throw him overboard. He figured that if he drowned in the sea he could escape the call of God. As far as he was concerned, it was better to drown, than obey.
3. He sat there in misery in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, before he prayed. Talk about being stubborn.
4. He describes the misery of his accommodations.
a. The floods compassed me about, and the waves passed over me. The depth enclosed me, and weeds were wrapped around my head.
b. He said, "Out of belly of hell I cried." If it were a whale, and I personally have no problem with that, being a mammal the temperature would have been 98 degrees and the humidity must have been horrendous. No wonder he thought he was in hell.
5. For three days and three nights he endured this misery saying "No way will I go to Nineveh."
6. It should be noted that he brought all of this misery upon himself by disobedience.
D. I have mentioned before some of the old songs from the Stamps Baxter hymnals that they used to use in the South. "Tell them Now, They can't read their tombstones when they are dead." "I'm under the spout where the glory comes out." another one I remember "He won't compel you to go against your will, He'll just make you willing to go." One of the verses of that song deals with Jonah.
III. THE TRUTH THAT JONAH DISCOVERED IN THIS APPALLING SITUATION, "THEY THAT OBSERVE LYING VANITIES, FORSAKE THEIR OWN MERCIES." WHAT WERE THE LYING VANITIES?
A. That he could run from the call of God.
1. You are mistaken if you think that you can run from the call of God upon your life.
2. The gifts and the callings of God are without repentance.
B. That he could escape from the presence of God.
1. That he could find a place which was forsaken by God, a place where God wasn't.
2. We sometimes hear of a place described as the most God forsaken place in the world. Maybe he had heard mariners describe Tarshish that way. If he could only reach Tarshish he felt he could escape the presence of God.
C. That his way was better than God's way.
1. God said, "Go to Nineveh." tis better I go to Tarshish.
2. God said, "Cry against it." tis better I never preach there.
D. These are the lying vanities that brought upon him all of the misery, and discomfort.
E. They that observe these lying vanities forsake their own mercies.
1. God is merciful, and God's ways are best.
2. Gods will for your life is the best thing that could ever happen to you.
a. You will never be content or satisfied with anything less.
b. To try to run from the call of God is only to invite calamity into your life.
D. There are important truths that we must learn, and God is determined that we should learn them, one way or another.
1. There is the easy way to learn and the hard way to learn.
2. You will learn the truth of God the easy way or the hard way. Jonah chose the hard way.
3. Some of you have also chosen the hard way.
a. You are still insisting on doing things your way.
b. Your lives have become a disaster area. But you continue on, declaring "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul, my head is bloody but unbowed." Fool.
4. The misery you have encountered is a sign of God's mercy. God will not let you go on to destroy yourself. He loves you and is using this present calamity to speak to you and teach you that you need to listen to Him and submit to His ways.
E. In Jeremiah God said to the people, "I know my thoughts concerning you, they are peace and not evil, to bring you to an expected end." or a desirable end. The people had chosen a path that would bring them war and destruction by the Babylonians, God's designs for them were of peace.
F. God's designs for you are good, they are for peace not evil. For you to observe a lying vanity, is to forsake your own mercy.