December 4th 2022: James Hughes

Jonah 1

            Have you ever been given a job you didn’t want to do? Or are you in a job you hate and would rather do something else? I recently changed career and am working towards becoming a teacher myself, so I know what changing jobs is like. But what if God gave you a job to do that you did not want to do? That is the situation here in Jonah. He was given a job he did not want to do. He had been given assignments that he was happy with in former times, but this task was one he simply could not bring himself to do.

            Now in our passage today I want to start by giving you an overview of the book, describing the main characters in the book, then I want to draw out three ideas from Jonah 1. After this we shall consider what the passage has to say about Christ, and we shall end with three points of application.

Overview of book

The main characters of the book are:

  • The big fish. Sometimes referred to as a whale in many books (especially children’s books) but most probably some very large fish we do not know much about. Although this is sometimes put as the main character, we read very little about him!
  • Jonah. He is known as the son of Amittai and he is referred to in 2 Kings 14:25 where we learn that he prophesied about the expansion of Israel. He was from Gath Hepher which was located in Zebulun. We learn from the book of Jonah that he was essentially a nationalist. He was more than happy to focus on Israel but not at all on other nations (except to preach against them).
  • Sailors. We know very little about these men except that as a group sailors they were very brave and (most probably) very experienced and knowledgeable concerning the sea and sea faring. They seem to have been a mixture of people for they were exhorted to call upon their own gods. Hence, they were all pagans but probably from different parts of the Mediterranean region.
  • Ninevites. Nineveh was a major city of Assyria, the super-power of that time. They were a particularly cruel people. They would probably not feature in the series of children’s books that go under the title: “Horrible Histories,” because of their violent cruelty. Their form of execution was particularly barbaric and they practised a variety of tortures.
  • God. God is the central character of the book.

Timeline.

            The events of Jonah occurred some 800 years before Christ’s first advent. The Assyrian empire was at its height in power, but Nineveh would be destroyed about 150 years after these events by the Babylonians and other confederates. All of this was prophesied in the book of Nahum.

The book.

            Jonah is very different in style to other prophets, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and so on. The form of writing is narrative and appears similar to the period when Elijah and Elisha prophesied. These were known as the ‘former prophets’ and Jonah seems to fit in with this type of writing. 

            Jonah was sent to the Gentile nation of Assyria whereas usually the prophets preached to Judah and/or Israel.

            The sending of a nationalistic Jew to a Gentile nation is rather surprising, and (humanly speaking) would not expect to succeed. But there is much more going on here than the mere deliverance of a message to a Gentile nation, for the prophet himself is also being dealt with by God. In this we see that God’s purposes are not thwarted. He can bring about His purpose even with means which might not appear promising! Isn’t this something we see time and time again?

Three features of Jonah 1!

            The book of Jonah is a deep well but for now we can derive three important features of this first chapter.

[1] The Just Judge. (Jonah 1:1-2).

            In the second verse we discover that the “wickedness” of Nineveh had come before the Lord. The Lord God is sovereign. He not only rules over-all, but further, He owns all things. He has seen the wickedness of the Ninevites and so judgment was to be handed out to them for their wicked ways.

            Don’t we find in modern life that people love judgement? People like to point the finger. If someone falls foul of modern ‘principles’ they are called out and shown up. None may make a mistake. As soon as someone is judged in error they are made to pay. They might lose their job or their reputation. Modern minds love to judge, to ‘cancel culture,’ and to point the finger. But what do we have here in Jonah? God is sovereign and owns all. He could very easily have rained down judgement upon Nineveh without informing any one and still have been acting justly. We must ask the question: why is God announcing judgement, and why does He not simply destroy them?

            There is a great difference between how modern man sees judgement and how God acts as Judge. God’s announcement is given to bring them to the point of repentance. God’s announcement of judgement to come is a great act of mercy. The Just Judge might easily and justly have destroyed the people of Nineveh, but He announces the judgement first.

[2] The Prodigal Prophet. (Jonah 1:3).

            Jonah was disobedient! He fled from the presence of the Lord. He went in the opposite direction to Nineveh, going to Joppa and then on his way to Tarshish. There are echoes of Adam and Eve’s response in the garden of Eden here. They fled from the approaching Lord. But there is a problem here isn’t there? In psalm 139 (and elsewhere) we learn that God sees everything and knows everything. How then can anyone flee form the Lord? It seems that he was running away from the presence of the Lord – from the felt knowledge of God’s being with him. Why was he doing this? It was not out of fear, nor out of fear of death, for he displays no fears when the storm rages.

            In Jonah 4 we learn that the reason for his fleeing from the Lord was because he knew the character and nature of God. He knew that God was a merciful and gracious God. But Jonah was of the opinion that the Ninevites were totally undeserving of any forgiveness. These Ninevites were so wicked they ought never to be the subjects of mercy and grace.

[3] The Sleeping Saint. (Jonah 1:4-6).

            The storm had become so bad that the cargo was jettisoned and the sailors (experienced men) became afraid. After all the sailors had cried out to their various gods, we see the captain of the ship going to Jonah and asking why he was sleeping in such dire and desperate circumstances. Why was he asleep? Was he tired? Was he sorrowful? Commentators differ on the reasons for Jonah’s sleep. But in reality, it does not matter why he was asleep. The fact was that whilst all around him were seeing the trouble of the storm and were desperately trying to do something about it, Jonah slept.

All about Christ.

            We remind ourselves that the Bible is mainly about Christ. Reading of Jonah fast asleep in a boat whilst there was a raging storm reminds us of a similar incident in the New Testament. Crossing the sea of Galilee one day the disciples were afraid in a terrible storm and there was Jesus asleep in the stern (Matthew 8:23-27). The disciples were astonished that Christ slept in the boat and they shrugged him asking Him why He did not care that they were perishing.

JonahChrist
Disobedient and reluctant.Obedient fully pleasing the Father.
Uncaring for the Gentiles and foreigners.He cared greatly for the disciples and he faced much worse than a mere storm for them (the cross). Romans 5:8.

Three applications.

            What can we learn from Jonah chapter 1?

[1] The same Just Judge has pronounced judgement on all.

            Romans 3:10 tells us that there are none righteous at all among men. We often pass judgement upon others and in the process we neatly avoid judging ourselves. All of us fall short of what God requires. Now, the only means of escape is the cross of Christ. Nineveh had the hope of mercy from God. Jonah preached the message he was tasked and Nineveh repented. We too are in a very similar situation to Nineveh. We are wicked. We may have a different flavour of sin to the Ninevites, but it is still sin. We are still deserving God’s righteous judgement. Christ Jesus is our only hope. Only in Christ’s death and resurrection can we find hope! Could we offer our righteousness? By no means! All our righteousness is simply rotten rags. If we offer anything other than Christ, we will be eternally judged.

[2] What would our lack of compassion and our disobedience cost us?

            We might be tempted to think (like Jonah) that some people are outside of the realms of forgiveness. Some people (we might reason) are beyond the pail, beyond hope. Are we personally guilty of thinking about a certain group of people as being beyond forgiveness and deserving of God’s judgement immediately? Do we think that one group deserves judgement more than others? (Luke 13:1-5).

            All are judged already (John 3:36). Only those who have repented and put their trust in Christ will stand in a position of not being condemned (Romans 8:1).

            In the Lord’s model prayer we ask for forgiveness as we forgive others. Are we lacking the compassion of Christ? Let us examine our hearts. Do we consider some as being unforgivable? Are there some we think we simply cannot forgive? This cannot be! Jonah did not think Nineveh deserved mercy so he fled in the opposite direction, and in doing so he lost the presence of God.

[3] We need to awake!

            Are we awake to the situation around us? People are rushing in madness searching this way and that for some solution and hope. But all to no avail. In the world there is judgement with no mercy (cancel culture). But with God there is mercy and grace. He is long suffering! People in the world know that something is wrong. They get the details wrong and they seek for solutions in the wrong places. Now we (believers) have The Answer to the human condition and problem! Are we sleeping whilst everyone else is running around this way and that? Do we bring the gospel to the people? Are we saying to them that God has judged one and all, and all deserve condemnation but there is hope in Christ and His death?

            The Lord has passed judgement on sin and rebellion but has also provided hope in Christ – His death and resurrection. Awake! Rise up to you calling and proclaim the great goodness of God!

July 12th 2022: John Funnel

To watch this service, please click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/VVWMtMjKF9s

Jonah 1:1-3

Who here has heard of the story of Jonah? After Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, Christmas and Easter, Jonah is probably the most well-known story in the Bible – the man swallowed by a whale. That’s the popular narrative. The story is a really important one. Because it is so popular, we gloss over the beauty of it. The story of Jonah gives us a lens through which we can all see all of redemptive history. That’s why it is such a beautiful book. In the story of Jonah we meet the character of God. The story is not necessarily about Jonah, but God. We see God is beautiful. We also come to learn something of ourselves in His beauty too.

Despite the notoriety of Jonah’s story, we know very little about this man. He was the son of Amittai. I 2 Kings chapter 14 we are told he was from a place called Gath-hepher, meaning ‘the wine press’ or ‘well.’ This is also believed to be the place where Jonah is buried. Gath-hepher is significant; it is a very small village on a rocky hill, just a few miles walk from Nazareth. So, it is a place where Jesus probably went to regularly as a boy and was taught about the story of Jonah and remembered it in His ministry. We know the story of Jonah clearly made an impact on Jesus because He mentions him.

The book of Jonah is very different; it is about the prophet rather than what the prophet said. The message actually comes in the life of the person, not necessarily his words. Jonah is also unique in that he is a prophet called to get up and go out. There is no option to work from home. He was told to get up and go – go out to work. The place where he was told to go was an absolute dump, a godless place – Nineveh. The prophet Nahum kindly writes a travel guide for us. He describes Nineveh as a bloody city, full of deceit, full of war, robberies, witchcraft, drunkenness, and oppression. It is essentially a society that exists without God. Would you want to go to that place? No.

Sometimes we are too harsh on Jonah. Imagine if you were called to the crack dens of Swansea, Bridgend, Cardiff or Newport, or even the Lord calling you this morning to go to the Donbas, to witness on the front line against Russian military. Would you be in a rush to get going, to leave your comfortable beds in your lovely homes in Pembrokeshire? Would you be prepared to get up and go, to risk your life, to be with people you don’t know, who you don’t agree with, who do not like you. People who will no doubt be hostile, even violent towards you for bringing a message of truth to them. Would you get up and go? It’s tough.

Let me give a less extreme example. Imagine you have had an argument this week. You are in the right, they are in the wrong. You are angry. They are still being nasty to you. Would you go up and say sorry? Would you be the first to apologise for your part in the argument? We don’t like doing that, do we? The point I’m making is that we are all a bit like Jonah.

We all struggle to put self to death for the furthering of God’s kingdom. It’s hard. We all like to do what we like to do, what is easiest for us. We do not like to do what God tells us to do. Nobody here likes to love our enemies, do we? Every one of us is guilty of what Jonah is guilty of here. Lesson 1 pf Jonah – don’t be too harsh on Jonah. We’re all Jonah’s. Let’s get some acknowledgement of that shall we? Get your hands up if you think you’ve been a Jonah?

Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil[a] has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2). God speaks to Jonah with clear, specific instruction. He essentially says, ‘Leave your lovely, comfortable village. Leave your home, leave your friends, leave your family and go to the great city of Nineveh – the treacherous, hateful, godless town.

Jonah essentially says ‘no, absolutely not.’ Not only does he say no, he actually, proactively goes against God and goes in a different direction. In verse 3 we see he went to Joppa, 60 miles away. That’s like us getting up and walking to Aberystywth. He went to Joppa to get a ship to go to Tarshish, over 2,000 miles away! It’s like going to Birmingham Airport, then flying to Moscow, to get away.

Jonah really did not want to go to Nineveh. The length he went to, to get away from God’s calling on his life, is significant. It’s telling. That’s why it’s in the Bible. Jonah did not have to travel all that way to reject God’s call. He could have said ‘no’ from home. He didn’t have to travel. Jonah travelled all that way to get away from God altogether. That was his hope.

Tarshish, at this time, was very significant. It was the end of the known world at the time, you couldn’t go any further. As an old covenant Jew, Jonah’s relationship was built on blood and land. Jonah believed the further he got away from Israel, the further he got away from his land, the further he got away from God Himself and the further he could get away from the burden, the call to preach truth in Nineveh.

Jonah is running away from God, from the call of God’s grace. As Christians, we’ve all done that. We run from our burdens that God places on our hearts. We run from the people that cause us difficulties, who we should love and help all the more. We run away from our responsibilities to do what we want to do instead, so we can have an easy life. We run so far at times we think we have got away with it, that we have escaped God Himself. Do you know what always happens when we do that? We fall into sin. We fall into sin when we do a Jonah. When we sin, we think we have escaped God’s presence.

Sin – when we do something that we would never dream of doing before the throne room of God Himself. Sin is when we do something that we would never dream of doing sat here in the pews at church. Sin comes when we hide ourselves away, when we’re locked behind closed doors, where nobody can see us. We fulfil our lusts and desires, thinking we have got away with it. We think we have successfully hidden from God. But the reality is He is always watching.

He is always there. He is always with you by your side. He is watching, He is remembering everything you do and He is mourning over it. He grieves as you sin. That’s terrifying. Sin enters our life when we forget God is with us wherever we go. Sin comes when we think we are not in God’s presence. Sin comes when we think we’ve run to Tarshish. Sin comes when, as Christians, we forget that God lives in us. The scriptures say we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God is not going anywhere. We are Christians. Everywhere we go and everything we do in this life is theological. We are God’s love in action. You can run to Tarshish but He is still with you.  

What Jonah reminds us of here is that God is everywhere. He is all-powerful and all-knowing. He is Creator God. In Christ, He came in person. He entered into the fabric of time and space that He created, to become historic fact. He came to live in our brokenness, in the brokeness of places like Nineveh, in the brokenness of our hearts. He came to live in our fear. He came to live to experience heartache and pain, and loneliness. He came for you. He came to save your soul. He came to put your sin to death on the cross and then bury it. On the third day He rose again, giving us a fresh start in His Resurrection power. New life! Hallelujah! Liberty.  Freedom. Redemption from the pressures of this world, so we never have to run anywhere.

We have been liberated to walk with our God and answer His call. We have been freed to meet with Him daily, to know Him as a brother and a friend, as a King and as a Saviour. He is all of those things. Gracious, precious, God, Messiah. I love Him. Do you? He is with you wherever you go.  He is here, right now, rejoicing as His people gather in His name. Jesus is present. Hallelujah!

If you do not know Him and you want to know the joy that passes all understanding, to be part of His redemption plan, to hear His voice and be called and sent, then I pray that you will dive into the reality of His grace for you. Trust that on that cross, the historical event of the Crucifixion, He died for you. Receive Jesus as your Lord today and you can swim in His love. He is sovereign. He wants you. You can run away from all you want, but He is here calling you. He is here in Spirit, and He is here just for you. Amen.

May 8th 2018: Mike Viccary

Mike Viccary-May18We just don’t want to know Jesus, but for others to know Him too. In Isaiah 58 we read that Jesus came and gave His life for a ransom for many. The Church as a whole represent Christ and preaches the message of salvation.

Jonah 2:9 “But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”

At the end of Jonah’s prayer there are three essential components:
            1.         What do we mean by salvation?
            2.         To consider what ‘of the Lord’ means
            3.         Salvation comes from the Lord.

  1. The Nature of Salvation
    1. Jonah 1:7 The mariners only call out to God when things get terrible; there was such a devastating storm. Often, we do not call out to salvation until difficult things happen.
  2. The mariners had no way of delivering themselves. They tried to save Jonah from his fate but they couldn’t. There’s no way you can save yourself.
  3. Jonah 2:5 In order to come to the Lord you really need you really need to jettison the world, discount any rescue that comes from the world.
  4. Salvation would only come to them through Jonah the prophet. They could not do anything except what Jonah asked them to do. The mariners’ lives were dramatically changed, they suddenly became the Lord’s people.
  5. The mariners needed a sacrifice. The storm became calm when Jonah was thrown into the sea.
  6. Salvation came to the mariners when death came. They had to throw Jonah aboard (Jonah 1:14). Jonah wasn’t innocent, he was guilty of not following God.
  7. God makes good things come out of evil. God is remarkable in that He even uses our sin. He is not distracted by our sin.

What do we learn from the story of Jonah?
1.   He confesses his condition (Jonah 2:2-4). This is historical fact. Jesus refers to it. Jonah realised he was guilty, effectively dead. He didn’t actually die although he nearly met his death. He realised he was spiritually dead. Without Christ we are dead. We sin, do what we want, cut off from God.
2.   He calls out to the Lord in prayer. That’s what we need to do (Genesis 4).
3.   All of us are idolaters who pursue ungodly things. We must throw those things away. The mariners threw everything overboard, we must forsake everything.
4.   God is sovereign. It wasn’t actually the mariners who threw Jonah into the sea, it was God. Jonah realised God was sovereign over all the things in his life. He is in charge.
5.   Jonah expresses great confidence in God because He is the only one who can save (Jonah 2:1). Salvation comes to those who recognise they are dead, and seek to trust only what God can do.
6. Salvation includes resurrection (Jonah 2:6).
7. Deliverance can only come from the word of God (Jonah 2:7). God spoke to the fish. Salvation comes at a word – at a word you can be forgiven.

What do we know about the Ninevites?
1.   Jonah 1:2 God knows our deepest thoughts, our sins. Judgement was about to fall on the Ninevites.

2.   Salvation must come from the word of the Lord preached. Salvation came because Jesus came into the world.
3.   You need to believe in the one the Father sent, you will have life.
4.   There’s a deep reliance on God alone.
5.   The removal of God’s anger (Jonah 3:6). God is holy, He must judge sin. When He sees people repenting, judgement must fall, it fell on Jesus.
6.   Jonah confesses.
7.   God shows Jonah He is a compassionate God.

Salvation is a sovereign act of God. It requires deep repentance and turning, an earnest heart that says, ‘I must attend to this.’ Believe God is true. Turn to Him, change. Salvation requires death, to die to self, to take up your cross and disown what this world has offered you.

  1. Salvation is of God.

He is not only duty bound to save anyone (Romans 9). It is God’s gift to give or not to give salvation. God is holy, God is good, God is righteous. Salvation is ‘of the Lord.’ It’s His.

  1. Salvation comes from the Lord.

Salvation comes through the precious blood of Christ. There is nothing more important. Salvation, Paul says, is Christ Himself (1 Peter 2:4). We come to Him, chosen by God, and precious. God will give or not give salvation as He determines.

Salvation is of the Lord. Before even the world was made, the Lord Jesus Christ was ready and willing to be the Lamb slain. The Lord promises the gospel in Genesis 3.

If you’ve been saved, you’ve been saved that others might be blessed. Christ came into the world to save sinners. He is right here this moment. If you’ve never turned to Him, come. God’s heart and mind is to come to you and say. ‘Take hold of me.’ God is close.

God is extravagant (Psalm 18). How many times have you been rescued from tricky situations, even situations you don’t know of? That’s grace. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of God. Right from the dawn of creation He offered salvation.

Salvation of God is everlasting. Hunger after God. Psalm 119:41. It’s through hearing the scriptures that Salvation comes.