1:1-3 Jonah: The Prophet, Commission And Disobedience
Memory Verse: Jonah 1:2
1:1 Jonah, The Prophet Of The God Of Heaven
- 1:1a Jonah was the son of Amittai. He was an Israelite. He was a prophet. A prophet is a person who is called to be “God’s man” because God has chosen him out to be a special messenger for Him among mankind. We know from the record in 2 Kings that Jonah was an active prophet during the reign of King Jeroboam the second—the king of Israel at the time. Israel had been sinning against God at this time through idolatry and immorality, but in spite of it, God used Jonah to delivered an encouraging message of expansion and prosperity. Their borders were going to be restored. Over time the prophecy came true. Jonah became an established prophet among his people whom he loved.
2 Kings 14:23-27
- 1:1b As a prophet, Jonah receives messages from God and delivers messages for God. Of course God can use any type of means that He wants to get His message out, but He has chosen to use men. The book of Jonah opens with the phrase “Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah…,” but how does this work? We aren’t told here if Jonah heard an audible voice, or how it exactly came. But we know from the New Testament that the prophecy didn’t come by Jonah’s will, but God’s holy man, Jonah, was moved by the Holy Ghost. After receiving the message, he was to deliver it accordingly.
2 Peter 1:21
- Today, we don’t have prophets like we did in the Old Testament who receives messages directly from God and delivers messages for God. But we do have the direct revelation of God recorded in the Bible. All believers are commanded to take the teachings of the Bible and give it to world. But God still calls out men to be “God’s man” and serve Him in a similar role as a prophet. They are called to give special attention and study of the Bible—taking its truths and teaching them to God’s people and the heathen world.
- Today, the call of such a man is not God orally telling him what to do, but it is acknowledging and submitting to the gifts that He has enabled him with. Certain men will have an inclination to give their life to God for full-time service. But how can they know for sure? They can recognize “the call” through the following steps: desire, ability, lifestyle and confirmation.
1 Timothy 3:1; Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Peter 1:15-16; Acts 16:1-2
1:2 God’s Commission For His Prophet
- 1:2a The first word to Jonah is “Arise”. God had a task for Jonah and He wanted him to stand to his feet and get ready for the task. It also points to a sense of urgency.
- 1:2b Next, God tells him to “go to Nineveh, that great city”. This was a city that was about 600 miles away from Jonah’s home. Jonah couldn’t just deliver the message through a letter or pass the message along. God wanted him to stand face to face with the inhabitants of the city and deliver it in person. Jonah had to “go”—to move away from the place he was and head in the direction of Nineveh. Nineveh was a great city in most of the areas that a person would judge a city’s greatness (size, population, military, power). But God also considered its wickedness to be great, telling Jonah, “For their wickedness is come up before God.” This city’s sin was so great that God has taken notice and He is ready to do something about it. We aren’t told much about their sin, which might be deliberate sin against God or they might be sinning out of ignorance, either way, they are in opposition against the God of heaven.
Jonah 1:2; 3:2; 3:3
- 1:2c Finally, when he arrived he was supposed to “cry against it.” God wants this wicked city to hear His message. Jonah was being called by God to go to the city of Nineveh to formally and authoritatively proclaim against their sin. But God doesn’t just want a message of doom to be proclaimed, but a message of hope. Even though this city has great wickedness and has sinned against God, God wasn’t going to destroy it without an opportunity to let them repent. He could destroy the city without delivering a message, thus God sending a messenger is a loving and kind act on the behalf of God to allow men to turn from their evil ways. God is merciful and longsuffering.
- Today, believers have a similar urgent task. Paul tells us to “awake” and Jesus told us to “go.” As believers, we are to stop sinning and start living righteous lives so that we can obey Jesus’ command to reach a world that does not have the knowledge of God.
1 Corinthians 15:34; Matthew 28:19
- Today, God is still calling men out to serve Him. Every believer should be involved in taking the gospel to the world, but some will be set apart for doing it as full-time service. Some men will be specifically called out to arise and proclaim the Word.
1:3 Jonah’s Disobedience And Foolish Actions
- 1:3a What happens next is probably a shock for most people who read it for the first time. We expect that a prophet would always be obedient to what God has told him to do. But they are also sinful humans, who also have a choice to obey or disobey. Jonah obeys the command to “arise and go” but he didn’t head towards Nineveh, instead he sets out for Tarshish—trying to flee from the presence of the Lord. He didn’t argue with God or try to make up a reason why he didn’t want to do this, he simply ran away from God. Can anyone really run from God? No. But he wasn’t thinking about and meditating on the truth that He knew and what the Bible taught, He was just focused on disobedience and these thoughts of sin distorted the truth He knew. How often does this happen to us? Are you running from what God wants you to do?
- 1:3b Jonah’s home is in Gath-hepher (we are assuming he was there during this time). He leaves home and starts his fleeing by first going down to the costal city of Joppa. There he found a ship going to Tarshish, paid the fare to board the ship and then got on and headed towards Tarshish. Tarshish is the complete opposite direction of Nineveh, the direction he should have been heading. Nineveh was east of his hometown and Tarshish was west. This command just became personal, and God will have to do some work in the life of his prophet. Does God need to do some work in your life? Are your running from God? Where or what is your Tarshish—meaning that thing (a job, a degree, a location, a relationship) in your life that is leading you in the opposite direction of God’s will for you?
- What is a prophet?
- Today, is God still looking for men to serve Him?
- What was God’s message to Jonah?
- Today, what similar command do we have from God?
- What was Jonah’s response? What is your response?