Series on Book Of Jonah #2

 

"RUNNING TO GOD!"

-or-

"Fillet of Soul!"

 

TEXT:         Jonah 1:17-2:10

 

INTRO:       It is amazing what people will do to run away from God!  They will go to great lengths to run away from him:

 

a.   By business (overworking) ... always working.

b.   By avoidance ... always changing the subject when God comes up.

c.   By procrastination  ... "someday I'll accept the Lord ... when the time is right."

d.   By denial ... "I just don't believe there is a God."

e.   By rationalization ... "If there is a loving God I just believe everyone will go to heaven."

f.    By anger!  "I don't care!"

g.   By good deeds!  Too busy doing good they don't think they need God.

 

The tragedy of this and all methods of running away from God is that you REALLY CAN'T RUN AWAY FROM HIM ... AT SOME POINT YOU WILL RUN INTO HIM!  "Every knee will bow, every tongue confess..."  It is better to run into Him on this side of eternity than wait until you are on the other side!!!

 

ILLUS:    ... you can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. -- Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 8.

 

PROP. SENT:   Jonah's experience demonstrates that those who will run TO God will find deliverance and mercy ... forgiveness is the joy of God for those looking for Him!  [reminds me of the kid's song:  "SO big, you can't get around Him,  SO tall you can't get over Him, SO low you can't go under Him, SO wide you can't go around Him...!"]

 

I.  "A WHALE OF A TIME!"   Jonah 1:17-2:7

 

A.   Provision!?    Jonah 1:17

1.   A large fish was hardly what you would call "luxury class" accommodations back to shore!

a.   But it was God's means of providing a safe return for Jonah!

b.   Sometimes God's provisions are looking us in the face and we can't recognize them ... or we find them unsatisfactory!

2.   Because Jonah had been on the run God's provision was not exactly pleasant lest it promote in Jonah an attitude of "it doesn't matter" ... but it was life saving and would get him on the right track again!

3.   People on the run from God will find that God will send them or provide for them a return trip ... but it might not be a comfortable provision ... after all God wants us to know that running from Him creates more pain than it solves!

4.   Does God then let running Christians sometimes "Crash?"

a.   YES! ... He might let them experience real low depths in order for them to see their need of Him!

 

ILLUS:    My most painful experiences have been when I've had a problem and no one loved me enough to tell me about it. -- Paul Cedar, pastor, Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 3.

 

b.   The large fish wasn't the bottom yet ... 3 days and 3 nights in the depths of the sea were the bottom experience for Jonah!  This however provided Jonah with the impetus he needed to finally cry out to God for help and forgiveness for running!

 

B.   Prayer    Jonah 2:1-2

1.   Trapped by God & Jonah's own bitterness he now recognizes God's efforts to bring him back alive and give him another chance!

a.   Prayer breaks out ... and Jonah acknowledges that God hears him!

b.   How unlike the sailors' idols that they cried to, but who could not hear!

2.   Jonah by now realizes that though unpleasant the great fish was a way for God to grant him mercy and life!

3.   I wonder how many of us see this in the bad circumstances we sometimes find ourselves in ... or do we dig in deeper by becoming even more bitter and angry towards God?

 

 

ILLUS:    A number of years ago, a Navy jet fighter plane shot itself down over the deserts of Nevada while testing a new cannon mounted on its wing.  The plane was flying at supersonic speeds, but the cannon shells were subsonic.  What happened was crucial.  The fighter actually ran into the shells it had fired seconds before.  The jet was traveling too fast.  Sometimes we travel too fast for our own spiritual good.  God speaks and we are going too fast to hear Him.  Don't be guilty of traveling so fast with your life that you run past the sound of the Word of God.  Be in the center of His will. -- Source Unknown

 

a.   Living in the belly of a fish for 3 days would make him BITTER...

b.   OR -- it would make him BETTER!

4.   There wasn't much left to do but pray ... but sometimes that's enough!

 

C.   Panic!   Jonah 2:3-6a

1.   Notice how honest Jonah is about the experience and who he blames or doesn't blame for his predicament!

a.   "You (God) hurled me into the deep!"  Notice Jonah's not blaming the sailors ... though they had been the ones who physically threw him overboard Jonah realizes they were just being used by God to get him where God could get through to him!

b.   He recounts the moments he hit the water ... before the fish arrived he thought he was done for ... the "currents swirled around him" ... no sense of hope remained, no answer seemed possible except death ... BUT GOD HAD A FISH ON THE LINE AND READY TO CARRY HIM BACK ALIVE!  This was a real case of God being a "fisher of men!"

 

ILLUS:    Jawanza Kunjufu, in his book, Restoring the Village, writes:

   When I was a 14-year-old high school freshman, school was dismissed early for a teachers' meeting. I conveniently neglected to tell my parents about the change and arranged to bring my girlfriend over to my house. We weren't planning to study.

   As we were going up the steps, my neighbor, Mrs. Nolan, poked her head out of a window and said, "You're home awfully early, Jerome."

   "Yes, Ma'am," I said, improvising a lame story about how we planned to review algebra problems.

   "Does your mother know you're home this early," Mrs. Nolan persisted, "and do you want me to call her?"

   I gave up. "No, Ma'am. I'll go inside and call her while Kathy sits on the porch."

   Mrs. Nolan saved our careers that day. If Kathy had gotten pregnant, she might not have become the doctor she is today. And my father had warned me that if I made a baby, the mutual fund he set up for me to go to college or start a business would have gone to the child. I'm glad Mrs. Nolan was at her window, looking out for me. -- Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.

 

2.   Notice the irony of Verse 4:  Jonah who was trying to run away from God now acknowledges his fear of being banished from God's sight ... a reference of going to hell and never being able to see God again!

a.   Some people act so tough when they are running away from God ... but when it gets down to the nitty-gritty they are just as scared about leaving God behind as anything!

b.   It was bitterness that created Jonah's run away from God ... and the thought of never being with God brought him to repentance!

c.   Like a kid who in anger threatens to run away, they don't really want to, yet they try ... when the anger and bitterness ends they return!

d.   Notice Jonah's cry after his fear of really losing God ... "I will look again toward your holy temple" ... in part because he now had lost his bitterness and recognized God's hand in trying to get him to return!

3.   God has an interesting message to teach him in all this, like his call to Nineveh -- a city which he didn't believe deserved God's mercy, yet God desires mercy ... this is shown here in that he recognized he didn't deserve God's mercy ... just like Nineveh, yet God sought to save him too in mercy!

a.   This is grace ...  "undeserved favor!"

b.   God takes no delight in the lostness of anyone ... nor the running saints, He will go to great lengths, even painful ones, to get us to turn, whatever it takes!

4.   Jonah describes the early signs of drowning in verses 5-6a

a.   Engulfed by swirling waters.

b.   The deep surrounded me.

c.   Seaweed was wrapped around his body.

d.   To the roots of the mountains (meaning the bottom of the sea) he could feel himself sinking ... it looked like he would be barred for good from the atmosphere, BUT GOD...

 

D.   PRESERVED!    Jonah 2:6b-7

1.   "BUT" ... God brought him back, saved his life literally, and spiritually!

a.   "From the pit" ... was an expression referring to the place of the dead where they were forever separated from the presence of God.

b.   It was also recognition of God saving his physical life ... God wasn't through with Jonah yet!

2.   "When my life was ebbing away" (Jonah 2:7) ... HE REMEMBERED THE LORD, suddenly bitterness didn't matter anymore ... living did!

a.   Will God let running Christians sink so low!  YES!

b.   Sometimes it takes this to get them past the petty things they are bitter over to finally call unto God and run back into His arms!

 

ILLUS:    Garry Moore once devised an answer to take care of crank letters. "The enclosed letter," he would write, "arrived on my desk a few days ago. I am sending it to you in the belief that as a responsible citizen you should know that some idiot is sending out letters over your signature." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 134.

 

c.   Usually the stronger the bitterness the stronger the measures needed for a return!

d.   Jonah was a good case in point!  He was capable of coming around under just the right circumstances.  God could have stopped him earlier some other way, God could have made all the tickets available for a boat to Joppa "sold out," or God could have made the wind blowing the wrong direction the day he wanted to leave, or made his mule not get him there in time ... but Jonah had a "whale of a case" of bitterness, thus appropriate measures would be needed ... God knows!

3.   Jonah carefully sees the difference between false gods and the Lord God, while false gods are silent in your time of need God will hear a sincere prayer no matter where you find yourself!

 

II.  A WINNER OF A TEST!    Jonah 2:8-10

 

A.   Perceptive!     Jonah 2:8

1.   Those that put their trust in anything except God will forfeit the only means of grace ... they will be lost.

2.   Perhaps Jonah was now getting a feeling of how God was feeling about the lost souls in Nineveh ... Jonah would need this in his preaching at Nineveh!

 

ILLUS:    A preacher and an atheist barber were once walking through the city slums. Said the atheist barber to the preacher: "This is why I cannot believe in a God of love. If God was as kind as you say, He would not permit all this poverty, disease, and squalor. He would not allow these poor bums to be addicted to dope and other character-destroying habits. No, I cannot believe in a God who permits these things."

   The minister was silent until they met a man who was especially unkempt and filthy. His hair was hanging down his neck and he had a half-inch of stubble on his face. Said the minister, "You cannot be a very good barber or you would not permit a man like that to continue living in this neighborhood without a haircut or a shave."

   Indignantly the barber answered: "Why blame me for that man's condition. I cannot help it that he is like that. He has never come in my shop; I could fix him up and make him look like a gentleman!"

   Giving the barber a penetrating look, the minister said: "Then do not blame God for allowing these people to continue in their evil ways, when He is constantly inviting them to come and be saved. The reason these people are slaves to sin and evil habits is that they refuse the One who died to save and deliver them." -- Source Unknown

 

3.   The case was clear to Jonah ... IT IS GOD, OR IT IS NOTHING!

a.   Pity those who trust in idols.

b.   Those that ignore Christ lose more than just joy in this life; they forfeit eternal life with Christ ... their greatest loss!

 

B.   Promise!   Jonah 2:9

1.   It doesn't sound like a bitter Jonah now does it?

a.   "I will sing a song of thanksgiving!"

b.   Amazing how God's grace can change a bitter heart ... all this while still in the great fish's gut!

2.   Jonah promises renewal of his vows before God ... you know:

a.   To serve Him faithfully.

b.   To guard against a bitter spirit.

c.   To not live for just self.

d.   To recognize God's true place in his life...

e.   To understand that God is source of life and grace!  SALVATION!

3.   What had changed at this point?  Certainly not the circumstances, Jonah was still in the belly of the great fish ... BUT JONAH WASN'T RUNNING AWAY FROM GOD ANYMORE ... In fact he was RUNNING TO GOD!

 

ILLUS:    True story:

   In Tampa, Florida, Antonio Valdez Jr. was charged with driving without wearing  his glasses.

   A few weeks later, on his way to court to face the charges, Antonio crashed  his car ... because he wasn't wearing his glasses. -- "Strange World," Campus Life, Vol. 55, no. 9.

 

 

C.   PHEW!   Jonah 2:10

1.   The ride from God was over ... "plop plop, fizz fizz; oh what a relief it is!"

a.   Back now where he started from, not quite as sweet smelling as before, but God would allow clean up and then ministry!

b.   Of course when he told his Elders his fish story they likely didn't accept the quoted size of the fish!  Some things probably never change!

2.   The point here: GOD STILL LOVED HIM ... AND WAS GIVING HIM ANOTHER CHANCE!  We serve a BIG GOD, the God of second chances!

 

ILLUS:    In 1989 Zita, the last empress of Austria and the last queen of Hungary, died. She was buried in the royal crypt in Vienna where the other Hapsburgs lie. When the procession arrived at the church, someone knocked on the door. One of the friars asked who was there. They answered, "Zita, Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary and of Bohemia, Princess of Bourbon-Parma." They were denied admittance. A second time someone knocked. "Who's there?" "Empress Zita," was the answer. Still she was not admitted. There was a third knock. "Who's there?" "Zita, a poor sinner," was the answer. Then the procession was allowed to enter. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).

 

3.   You see when you stop running away from God and run TO HIM you will run smack dap in the middle of all HIS GRACE, LOVE, FORGIVENESS, etc!

4.   God can change the hardest heart ... when it turns toward Him ... SO WHY RUN AWAY ... RUN TOWARDS HIM!

 

CONCLUSION:    Running away from God only secures more pain and emptiness ... and sometimes greater bitterness than running TO God!  Running TO God will land you in His arms of forgiveness, mercy, grace, love, joy, and eternal life!  Who would be crazy enough to run away from that ... certainly not someone like you, RIGHT?  You don't want to be the "one that got away!"