Of all the prophets in the Old Testament, Jonah is the sole one that Jesus compared Himself to; Jonah is also unique because it revolves exclusively around the gentile nation of Assyria. Watch for the type found in Jonah's death, burial, and resurrection; as we observe these four chapters.
I'll tell you a story about two guys. It was just a few days before Christmas and these two men decided they want to go sailing while their wives went Christmas shopping. You see, they hated Christmas shopping. Any man here can relate to that? Oh, some of you can at least.
So they went out sailing and a storm came up. Storm tossed this little boat so badly that they lost control of it and it got lodged in a sandbar. They were stuck out to sea in a sandbar. They get out of the boat, they get into the mud. The wind is ripping it up, throwing them against the boat. They're sinking deeper in the mud, they're pushing with their all might, it's a horrible, horrible experience. Finally one guy turns to his friend and smiles, and says, man, this sure beats Christmas shopping, don't it?
Do you know there are some people that will do anything to get out of a responsibility that they should be doing, a task, an activity they're not too fond off, even prophets. And we find out with this guy named Jonah. He's going to run from God; he's going to buy a ticket; he's going to get into a boat; he's going to get into a storm; he's going to get beat up pretty bad by this great fish, this whale, all the while smiling and saying, this sure boats going to Nineveh, don't it? It's just the kind of the guy that he is.
We're going find out why? To me this is very important, why he runs from God is way more important, than was that a literal fish or figurative? What's going on inside of Jonah, I submit is more important than what's going inside that whale.
Now this is "The Bible From 30,000 Feet", I know, but we're going to spend the whole night in just this book. Now this is a pretty short book, but I love this book, and it's an important book also in the New Testament as well, as we're going to find out in just a minute. Only 48 verses in the whole book, four short chapters, 48 verses, 1328 words, and so though we are flying over a lot of Scripture we're just sort of bring that plane really low tonight, and kind of circling over this book a few different times.
It's a minor prophet with the major message. We just commissioned a missionary tonight. Jonah was the first foreign missionary as God's represented prophet to go to another place, the town of Nineveh, and here, here is the real kicker. He ends up starting the biggest revival recorded in history, and he doesn't want to be a part of it, like the prodigal son, this is the story of the prodigal prophet.
Not everybody believes that Jonah really happened as a historical narrative, some relegate it to it being a myth like the Greek mythology tales. They say, and say Hebrew myth, and parents would love to teach this myth to their children while they would tuck them into bed. That's all it is, it's an ancient Hebrew bedtime story.
Others see it as an allegory. They say, well, its representative. Jonah represents the Jewish people, and Nebuchadnezzar is represented by the whale that swallowed him up, and the great storm that came in is simply the Babylonian storm of God's judgment. Other people believe it's a dream that there was a historical Jonah, that he got on a real historical boat, that he got on in a real bad storm, but he was down sleeping even as the text says, and he dreamed this fanciful tale, and he woke up, lived through storm, and he wrote it down.
All of those explanations, I submit to you are pure bunk. I believe this is a real historical narrative, and I believe that Jonah actually happened, call me crazy that's what I believe. I believe it for a few reasons. Number one, it reads like a real historical narrative as a matter of fact, and I take it literally.
Number two, Flavius Josephus the Jewish historian who was very meticulous about writing down what happened to the Jewish nation said, this was a real story; but here's third the real reason why I believe it because Jesus Christ Himself used Jonah as an example of His own resurrection. "As Jonah", Jesus said, "was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights." And guess what? Jesus really died and really rose, and He refereed back to a real incident of a guy named Jonah.
So if you believe the Book of Jonah is just a lie, then you have to call Jesus Christ a liar. You cannot take Jesus Christ seriously unless you are willing to take a book seriously that He Himself took seriously. And so He quoted from it. I believe it's true. I heard a story about a girl who was preaching at a university, just an open air meeting, she would just speak to whoever would come by and listen, and she was talking about Jesus loves you, and died on the Cross for you very simple message, and a professor skeptic walked by and smiled and rubbed his little whiskers, and he thought, I'm going to get this girl. And so he interrupted the preaching with everybody watching, he said, "Excuse me, you really believe in the Bible?" Yes sir, I do. You really believe all those stories are true? Aha! Story about Noah? she goes, I believe it. Really? The Red Sea opening, you believe that? Yeah, I believe it.
Now the Egyptians drowning? She said, yes, I believe it. And he said, do you believe that story in the Bible about Jonah? She goes, yes, absolutely it's true, it's in the Bible, I believe it. I have a question for you madam. How can a man survive with the gastric juices and the lack of oxygen for three days and three nights, how could he survive that?
She goes, I don't know. Further more, he went on to describe various physiological conditions that he would have to undergo while inside the belly of the whale, and asked her to explain it, and she said, I don't know, and this went on a few times, and finally she said, time out, tell you what, I don't know the answers to your questions, but when I get to heaven I'm going to ask Jonah. And he was really smug and said, well, what if Jonah isn't in heaven? And then she said, well, then you can ask him.
A little simplistic for some, but I like her approach. Let me give you a rundown to the book now. It's four chapters, again, 48 verses, 1328 words, four chapters.
Chapter 1, running from God, that's what Jonah is doing in chapter 1, he is running, fleeing from the presence of God, running from God, that's chapter 1.
Chapter 2, running to God. He starts praying, he starts seeking God. He starts conforming to His will. So running from God, chapter 1; running to God, chapter 2; chapter 3, running with God.
Now he's going to be the ambassador taking the message that God wants him to preach to the people of Nineveh, that's chapter 3.
Chapter 4, a run in with God, they have a serious disagreement in chapter 4. They're going in the same direction, something happens, and causes a tremendous run in of this prophet and God. Let's look at chapter 1 verse 1; "Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah, the son of Amittai", saying. Now guess what, we know exactly where Jonah is from, even though this book doesn't tell us. In the Book of 1 Kings chapter 14, we read that Jonah the son of Amittai, was from a place called Gath-Hepher now Gath-Hepher is in Galilee. It would be four miles north east of Nazareth. Today it's a little Arab village called Al-Mashhad, but there was a literal Gath-Hepher few miles from Nazareth, he was a Galilean prophet.
You know, why I'm making a big deal out of that? Because in the New Testament the Pharisees didn't know their Bibles, and when Jesus Christ appeared on the scene, and they said, He's a Prophet, maybe He's the Messiah. One of the Pharisees said, search and look, for no prophet has risen out of Galilee, wrong answer, you fail that test, there was a prophet, his name was Jonah. He was from the Galilee region, a few miles from Nazareth. And by the way the name Jonah, you know what it means? Dove, dove.
You know some people have names that fit them, other people have names they just don't fit them. This is a guy whose name doesn't really fit his personality, because when you think of a dove, you think of, it's a symbol of gentleness, and peace, and even cooperation, not this guy.
Now I had a dentist one time named Dr. Steel, he was appropriately named, because he had nerves of steel, and he didn't mind if you hurt, if you cried, if you let the neighbors get woken up out of a dead sleep, he just keep drilling, Dr. Steel. But then, I once met a very legalistic girl, named Grace, it didn't fit, it just didn't work. I have even thought may be you should either change the theology or change your name.
Jonah, his name, dove, compliant, peaceful didn't fit him. God said, "Arise, go to Nineveh that great city, and cry out against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me." This is the ancient capital city of the Assyrian empire; a great city, a huge city. Founded by a guy named Nimrod, remember Nimrod? Great grandson of Noah, he founded this city of Nineveh.
Notice God says, "Go and cry out, against it." Jonah should have loved this mission. Go cry out against it, now God will give him the message in chapter 3, verse 4, here's the message that Jonah eventually did preach.
"Yet forty days, and Nineveh will be destroyed; overthrown!" You would think that based upon what we know about Jonah, he would have said, "I'd like that Job, I'd like to see judgment fall on that town," but we find him non-compliant as we go through the story.
Verse 3, "Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish." Hmm, Tarshish, from the what? "The presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, found a ship going to Tarshish, he paid the fare, he went down into it with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord." Okay, figure it out on a map. Nineveh is 500 mile north-east of where he's from, or where he's at, and that is Joppa, 500 mile north-east. He goes, he decides to go, he tries to go, his plan is 2000 miles do west. So God says, "Go this way." Okay, tell you what, I'm going that way, far away as from God as I can get. He wants me to go 500 miles that way, 2000 miles that way. That's where Tarshish was.
Now he says, he has tried to flee from the presence of the Lord. Wouldn't you think that a prophet of God would know, you can't flee from God's presence, you can run, but you can't hide. You can't flee from God's presence.
What does it saying in Psalms 139? "Where can I flee from your presence, O Lord?" David tries to describe several different places, it's impossible to run form God. Now here's what Jonah means, here's what the text means when it says, he went to flee. It means to flee from standing before God as a prophet. He's handing in his prophetic resignation. He's saying, "I quit, I don't want to be a prophet, I'm now a non-prophet organization." This is his resignation. You think he would know better? You remember Moses trying to run from God, when God said, "Go to Egypt and be My spokesman", he had all these excuses, but he finally went? Remember Jeremiah try to quit, and said, "I'll never speak ever again in the name of the Lord." But then it says, "But His word was in me like a fire, I couldn't contain it." Here's Jonah trying to flee from the presence of God. Why? Why would a prophet whose whole job description is to hear a message from God, and to speak a message for God, try to flee from God's presence? Especially when you have an opportunity to bare the name of Yahweh; outside of your borders and have a strategic opportunity to reach an entire city; one of the greatest cities in the world.
You know this is to me like Billy Graham calling you up, and saying, I have heard about you, I'd like you to be a speaker of my next Crusade, and you were to say, "Well, there's a really good TV show on that, I, I don't think I want to do that." What? You just have like the golden opportunity handed to you, and you are going to go watch television? Go to Nineveh, cry out against it. Jonah went to flee from the presence of the Lord. Verse 4; "But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up."
Notice how verse 3 begins, what does it say? What's the first two words of verse 3? But Jonah. What's a first two words of verse 4? But the Lord. Mark that. For every move God has another move, but Jonah he is so independent, but God is now after him. Now with some people they simply comply. God speaks to them, and they are like I'm ready to do Your will. With other people, they are little more stubborn, hard hearted, hard headed, and God has to convince them through more dramatic means, shall we say.
Example, there was once a little boy name Samuel, and God came to him at night and said, Samuel, Samuel and eventually he learned that God was speaking to him, you know what he said to God? "Speak Lord, Your servant hears." Our God will love to have thousands of people that would do that, every time God spoke. "Speak Lord, Your servant hears." But not everybody is like that; some like Saul of Tarshish have to be not off their horse, put on the ground, and go, Lord, what do You want me to do? End up against the wall, Jonah is of that ilk.
Now he's going to learn, and he's going to do what God wants him to do, because God loves him too much to let him go. But listen to this scripture, it fits perfectly,
Proverbs 15:10, "Harsh correction is for him who forsakes the way." Here's the principle; if you won't listen to the still small voice of God speak to you, you may want to buy storm insurance. It's just not very smart, when God speaks to go, I'll go in the other direction.
Verse 5; "Then the mariners were afraid, every men cried to his god, and through the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load, but Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, and lain down and was fast asleep." Wow! Pagans are praying and Jonah is sawing logs.
"So the captain came to him and said. What do you mean sleeper, [not prophet, not excuse me reverend], what do you mean sleeper? Arise, call on your God, perhaps, your God will consider us that we may not perish." And they said to one another.
"Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot, [the world would say], happen to fall on Jonah."
Alright; now this is an issue just between God and His prophet, that's all. God's dealing, doing business with His prophet; it's just between those two, until Jonah got on somebody else's boat. Now because he got on somebody else's boat, he's involving them in his disobedience. A disobedient child of God is a menace to everyone involved in their lives. They have the capacity to hurt a lot of people. It might just be between you and God, but if, if you're married to a wife, married to a husband, you have children, you have parents; you're involving the people in your circle, and could cause a whole lot of damage and pain.
Case in point, there was a guy in Old Testament, Book of Joshua chapter 7, named Achan, and he just decides on his own, "Forget what God says, I'm going to take spoil from Jericho for myself." Because of that, all of Israel was under the judgment of God, because God gave an order, don't touch the spoils of Jericho, they're all to go for a specific cause. But now, he involves everyone, and many people died for his sin.
David, 2 Samuel chapter 24 decides, how wonder how big my army really is, he wanted to boast in his own military might, so he decides to take a census to find out how many fighting troops he has; 70,000 people died in a pestilence, because of David's decision, and David's pride.
Verse 8; so they said to him, "Please tell us, for whose cause is this trouble upon us." The lot fell of Jonah, now all eyes are on him, kind of like, okay dude, what's the explanation here? "What is your occupation?" O, ho! I remember a police asking me that when I was doing 95 miles an hour on a motorcycle in Tucson, Arizona, long time ago, a long time ago. What do you do for living, boy? I looked up, I thought, why did he ask that question? I said, "I am a teacher, officer." Very generic, isn't it? I am a teacher. He said, "What exactly do you teach, boy?" And I had to say, "Calvary." What is that? Calvary, Calvary Chapel of Albuquerque. Oh, you're a preacher, ha? To put it in a whole different playing field; what is your occupation? They ask him. He said to them, "I am a Hebrew, [see, he's being very general, I'm a Hebrew, I'm Jewish, and he says], I fear the Lord." Yeah, right. "The God of Heaven, who made the sea and the dry land." Okay, they're getting the picture that this guy is the prophet. The man, it says, verse 10; Were exceedingly afraid and said to him, "Why have you done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he told them."
Now I want you to look at something, because you're going to see a thread of thought. Verse 5, back in verse 5 it says, the mariners were afraid, and they were afraid because of the circumstances surrounding the event. Verse 10, it says, they were exceedingly afraid, now they're afraid of the consequences, and as if to say, now wait a minute, you are a prophet of Yahweh you know they've heard about Yahweh, they've heard about this Jewish God who opens up the Red Sea and kills Egyptians, and opens up the Jordon River and knocks over the walls of Jericho. You bummed Him out, and you're on our boat? See, they, they get this, they understand this, they, they knew his reputation.
You know some people are a bit superstitious, I was getting on an airplane, it's happened to me a few times, and I was sitting down, and either people are in line outside the gate or inside the airplane, and I will never forget this one gal, she walked on the airplane, and she stopped, she said, Pastor Skip, I said, yes ma'am. She said, I, I'm so afraid of flying, I, I hate flying, I was praying to God, and then I saw you sitting there, and now I know everything is going to be alright.
So my mind immediately went to the story, and, and I'm thinking to myself, you better hope that I'm alright with God, because if I'm not, this may be like the last plane you want to be on. There were 13 ministers, they were traveling to a pastor's conference, they were on an airplane, and the plane was experiencing turbulence, and people were afraid, their trays were going up and down, water and fluid spilling everywhere, and people are white knuckling it, and these pastors are very calm and collected, and the stewardess walks by, and one of the spokesperson for the pastor said, hey, you go tell the captain he has nothing to worry about, there are 13 ministers aboard.
So she went and told them, and came back, didn't say anything to him, and the guy stopped her and said, hey, did you tell the captain there are 13 ministers aboard? She said, yeah, I told them. What did he say? He said, he's really happy that he has 13 ministers aboard, but right now he would rather have four good engines.
Verse 11; "They said to him, what shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us? For the sea it was growing more tempestuous." He said to them, "Pick me up and throw me into the sea." Oh, such a tenderhearted man, isn't he? Pick me up and throw me into the sea, you know what he should have said? I'll tell you what to do, you don't have to do anything, I need to repent so just stay right there for a minute, give me about 5 minutes of this repent time, and I'll be back with you. And now he says, pick me up and toss me overboard. "Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know this great tempest is because of me, never the less, the men rode hard to return to the land, but they could not for the sea was growing more tempestuous against them, therefore, they cried out to the Lord and said, we pray, oh Lord, please, do not let us perish for this man's life, do not charge us with innocent blood, for You oh Lord, have done as it pleased You. So they picked up Jonah threw him into the sea and sea ceased from raging." Verse 16, don't miss it; "Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord, and took vows." Now this is the third time, we read that these pagan mariners feared. First they're afraid of the circumstances. Second, they're afraid of the consequences. Third, they feared Yahweh, they feared the Lord exceedingly, we see a progression in these guys. By the way, this word here to fear the Lord is a Hebrew word that is to reverence, so "Yareh" to fear in the sense of worship, and reverence, and awe. Wow, He's like awesome. What a progress and what a contrast, isn't it? They pray; he sleeps. They rebuke his disobedience, he maintains his disobedience. They soften their hearts and fear Yahweh, he hardens his heart, and says, throw me overboard, the prophet of God.
Verse 17; "Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the whale, or the belly of the fish, three days and three nights." Now you know, whenever a man catches a fish, it's not really big new, as it happens all the time, and sometimes people, when they tell their stories, they get bigger and bigger and bigger, after they tell them. So when a, when a man catches a fish, it's not a big news, but when a fish catches a man; now that's newsworthy, and, and this story makes the pages of Scripture. It's such an unusual story that happened historically, that is written down for us, that's news. People have read what we just read, and they've said, preposterous, outlandish. That's such a fishy tale, I can't swallow that, and they have said other things, I won't repeat.
Now several suggestions have been made as to what happened, what kind of a creature was this? And your guess is as good as mine; I'll give you the rundown. Some believe it's a white shark, a white shark called a Rhincodon Typus that's its, its scientific name. It can grow, some say, up to 70 feet, it has been known to swallow people who have actually survived after a short period of time. Other people point to a creature called the Phinoclon shark, and the Phinoclon shark has been able to swallow sea cows up to 1000 pounds, and they have survived. Others say, it's a whale, and whales will often follow a ships when they're throwing their garbage off, and we just read they were throwing their cargo off the ship, that would certainly get the attention of creatures in the sea who would want to follow the ship to see what else would fall off, that would be for their food.
It seems that the only real candidate and this is one I vie for, is in a class called the mice dechets, and that is the Sperm Whale, the Catodon Macrocephalus, that's its scientific name, the Sperm Whale.
The Catodon Macrocephalus, it's know to have swallowed unusually large objects including sharks up to 15 feet. They have teeth but not for biting and chewing but, for gathering prey and so that seems to be the best candidate, and seals, penguins, and in some cases people have even been found who have survived.
But let's move to chapter 2; "Then Jonah prayed to his God from the fish's belly." When? After three days. Now just mark that, he didn't pray when the storm came up, he didn't, didn't pray when he fell overboard, didn't pray when he got swallowed, he was in there three days. Then Jonah prayed, three days of whale time, and that did it. It's only so much a man can take, right? It's really hot in there, really moist in there, it's really smelly in there, and I last couple of days I was in Austin, Texas, I was at a Worship Leaders Conference, down there was 103 degrees, 103 degrees, about 95% humidity. Man! I remember walking outside, went out to this restaurant to eat and there was a trash can outside, the real big kind; I walked way around it, I could smell it for like, oh, it was horrible, with that humidity and that heat.
Jonah is in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, then Jonah prayed to the Lord. So how much he can take, finally he goes, I think I want to pray now, God, now we're going to go through this prayer rather quickly, but this is what I want you to notice. There's nuances in these prayer of several different Psalms, a quotation from the Book of Lamentations, a quotation from the Book of Job, they're not exact quotations, it's very free renderings, but it shows you that this prophet Jonah was familiar with Scripture, very familiar with Scripture, because when he prays, this is what comes out.
Verse 2; "And he said, I cried out to the Lord, because of my affliction, and He answered me out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice."
Psalm 120 and Lamentations 3, have a very similar language.
"For You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, And the floods surrounded me; all Your billows and Your waves passed over me." In other words, I really messed up really bad, and I'm paying for it now, that's my lose rendering of what he said. Then I said, "I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple."
Now, most people in reading this would be very suspicious that this could even be a prayer from somebody in distress. They would say, "Listen, when somebody is facing a crisis and they are about to die, they're not going to have a prepared flowery Psalm like prayer." I beg to differ. I've known people, who have come very close to death, and time slows down, there's a suspended animation, and they have said, it's like their whole life flashes before them in an instant, and things slow down, and memories come up, and words come up, that they have remembered.
And here's my point, here's a guy very familiar in his lifetime with Psalms, and Job, and Lamentations, and during this time, maybe in a coma, and out of a coma, these words recall, become his prayer, when he's almost at the end of his life. And here's the point I want to get to, here's the warning I want to give you.
Exposure to scriptural truth does not guarantee a Godly life. I want to make that a real strong point tonight. Exposure to biblical truth does not necessarily make a Godly life. One of the things that have grieved me the most in all of the years of ministry, is to see people who week by week by week, get deep, solid, exegetical, biblical, teaching truths, that would transform a life, if they were really grabbed a hold and applied to their lives. But I've watched people, I've watched church people, I've even watched in some cases staff people not take scripture to heart, and like Jonah, they come to a point like this. Exposure to the truth, but not changed by it.
Verse 5; "The waters surrounded me, even to my soul, the deep closed around me; weeds were wrapped around my head." What's that? Seaweed, its kelp. I've, I've been caught in seaweed beds before. Trying to paddle out on a surf board, you suddenly get caught by just swarms of weed, and you are stuck in it, and all you can do is cry out, kelp, kelp. I set you up for that one.
"I went down to the bottom of the mountains; the earth with its bars close behind me forever, yet you had brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer went up to You, into your Holy temple. Those who regard worthless idols, forsake their own mercy."
You see that verse, verse 8, that's the lesson he learned. This is the takeaway for Jonah. This is the bottom line for Jonah. "Those who regard worthless idols, forsake their own mercy."
I'll loose paraphrase, those who run from God tie their own noose. Now let's get even a little more earthy with it. Those who disobey God will end up as whale vomit. That's what's going to happen to him, he's going to be vomited out on the land, it's a gross thought that happens to Jonah.
Now he mentions worthless idols. What's an idol? Was Jonah carrying a round little idol statue with him and setting it up in the belly of the whale? No, an idol is anything that replaces God as first place in their life. Jonah had an idol. Do you know what the idol was? Jonah; Jonah's idol was Jonah. Jonah's idol was himself. He set his will up above God's will, anybody who does that, that's idolatry. Anybody who claims to know God, but pushes away what God wants, and their will, and their agenda is more important, as regarding worthless idols.
There's a great old Jewish proverb that says, "There's no room for God in the one who's full of himself." Jonah was full of Jonah, the belly of the whale is about to be emptied out, and Jonah's pride is about to be emptied out.
Verse 9; "But I will sacrifice to You." You go wait, wait a minute, you're in the belly of a whale dude. What do you got to sacrifice with? But he tells you, "With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed, Salvation is of the Lord." In other words, he must have said to God, "God please, if You let me get out of this whale, I'll do whatever You want." He made some kind of a vow, that's the sacrifice he's going to pay.
"So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto the dry land." Fascinating, says, and the Lord spoke to Jonah, Jonah went the other direction. God speaks to a fish, and the fish goes, okay. The prophet of God is the most out of control creature in the story. The whale worked then, didn't it? Whale time did its job.
True story; there's a guy who was in a mobile trailer up in Seattle, Washington, and a thief with a hose was trying to siphon gas from the motor home. So the owner, Dennis Quigley was his name, heard a noise outside, went out to investigate, and there is the thief, hose in hand curled over, vomiting on the dirt, and didn't know what happened. Well, this thief in trying to siphon gas put it in the wrong hole, and was sucking out sewage from the sewage tank. He was a 14 year old thief, they didn't prosecute him, they thought he suffered enough.
I think he is going to learn this lesson; we don't have to do anything else. Well you know what, after gagging on gastric juices for three days and three nights, he, he he's got it now, he he's got the lesson, and this unusual chauffeur drops Jonah off on dry land.
Now chapter 3, remember, he's running from God, now he's running to God, now he's running with God. That's the theme of this chapter. And this is really the biggest miracle in the book; it's not the whale, its chapter 3. Biggest revival in history, bigger than the great awakening, than any of the great revivals in history is this one.
You know, Billy Graham and his organization, when they go into a place, if they have a 5 percent return of people, that is, of the whole crowd that night in the stadium, if 5 percent of that crowd comes forward to receive Christ, that's sort of the standard, that's, that's a good night; if it gets up to 10 percent. It's like wow! Hallelujah! Jonah, saw 100 percent people coming to hear, and receive, and respond to his message.
"Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying." Boy, these are gracious words. You know God might just said, "Hey, I told you once, you're not going to listen Me, there's a lot better, younger preachers, prophets than you Jonah, I'll choose one of them." The word of Lord came a second time.
"Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the message that I tell you." There's one thing to be forgiven by God, is quite another thing for God to say, I'm going to give you a second chance. Isn't that beautiful? Peter knew what that was like, Peter denied Jesus three times, and Jesus came to restore him. "Peter, do you love Me?" "Yes, I do." "Then feed my sheep." Listen, Peter's going, Really? Me? "Peter, do you love Me?" "Yes, I love You." "Tend my lambs." A second chance, a commission, God wanted him to do it. Jonah was commissioned.
Verse 3, "So Jonah arose, and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord." "Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days journey in extent." C.F. Keil, the great Old Testament archaeologist tells us that the city of Nineveh -- get this, wasn't a single city, but a complex of four cities clustered together around the Tigris River. It was huge. I want you to picture it.
Here's Jonah walking up to a city, the walls are 100 feet tall, 100 feet tall, the top of this building here is about 35 feet tall. So imagine, walls are 100 feet tall, three times a peak of this roof, and posing 15 gates, they're opened on the wall of Nineveh around it, each named after one of the gods they worshiped, to be very intimidating. There were towers 200 feet, so 100 feet beyond the, the wall. It was incredible. The not the circumference, but the diameter of the city, the diameter of the city of Nineveh was 19 miles in diameter; the circumference of the city, 60 miles. Remember, its four cities clustered together, greater than Nineveh, 60 miles of circumference.
Now the ancient reckoning for travel by foot was 20 miles a day, you could cover typically, if you were walking from one place to another, 20 miles a day. So three days journey historically fits the picture. Three days journey to walk around that city and extent; it was an exceedingly great city.
Now based on chapter 4, verse 11, which tells us there are 120,000 little kids in that town. We can estimate the population to be upwards of 600,000 people. They do not love God, they hate Jewish people, they were known for brutality. Okay, in fact, Ashurbanipal, one of the Assyrian kings piled up skulls of those that he killed and captured. There were cut off lips and ears, and piled them up in front of the gates, just to keep people aware. And Jonah, one guy, walking up to that city, and he's going to say, turn or burn.
See how it goes over. "Jonah began to enter the city in the first day's walk, and he cried out, and he said, yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." You'd expect phoom arrow, phoom, another arrow, he's dead, story is over. He gives this message, forty days and it will be over throned.
"So the people of Nineveh believed, God proclaimed a fast, put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them, the word of the -- then word came to the king of Nineveh, and he rose from his throne, and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on ashes." This is either Adad-narari the III, or Shalmaneser, one of these two guys fit that historical narrative. "And they covered themselves with sackcloth and ashes."
Stop, for a just a moment before we finish this up, because somebody is going to read this, because it happens all the time. They read and go, oh, come on. You mean to tell me one little dude walks to the gate of a pagan city, and gives a message, and everybody, just everybody suddenly turns to that God, that doesn't happen, that's impossible for an immediate genuine conversion.
Let me just plan something in your mind. These were very superstitious people. One of the great -- not great because he wasn't, it was false, but one of the gods they worshiped was the fish god. Dagon was a god, a Philistine god that was incorporated into Assyrian worship. They believed he was the god of the control of the seas; nobody could outdo Dagon, the sea god; very superstitious.
But remember what Jesus said in the New Testament. He spoke of the sign of the prophet Jonah, remember those words? He spoke of not a side that he's shown, the sign of the prophet Jonah. How could Jonah himself be a sign?
Now let me explain something to you. This is a piece of history, 1891, there was a guy name James Bartley. He was a fisherman out in the Falkland Islands, on a boat called the Star of the East. They were chasing Sperm Whales out of the Falkland Islands. One of the tails of those whales hit the boat, two men went overboard, one drowned, and Bartley was unaccounted for and thought dead.
One of the whales in that vicinity was caught and eventually brought on this huge whaling ship in 1891 and they, they skin it, they take the, the oil, started peeling the skin down and the fat from it, and as they opened it up, they found James Bartley inside in a coma, took him to the captain's quarters for two weeks before he completely revived out of it. But he was alive after a long period of time in that whale. He got up from it, his face was bleached white, neck bleached white, hands bleached white. He had the feeling look of white parchment, hair burned off from the gastric juices.
So imagine Jonah looking like that. Okay, whole different picture right? Not this guy with this Bible and a beard white, this is his white, you know dead looking papered looking like a recycled Michael Jackson, I'm sorry that's all that I can think off; bleached white, maybe like doing the moon dance.
Now he's walking into the town, they get a load of the guy, and maybe they heard from those fishermen in advance, maybe they reached in about what had happened that Yahweh was superior to Dagon? And here is the sign of the Prophet Jonah. By the way the story that I told you about the 1891 fishing ship is cited by A. J. Wilson in the Princeton Theological Review, issue number 25. If you'd like to chase that down, because where is that at? So there it is.
Verse 7; "And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: do not let them eat, or drink water," obviously this man is very touched "But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God: yes, let everyone turn from his evil way, and turn from the violence that is in his hands." "Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?" "And God saw their works, and turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster, that He said He would bring upon them; and He did do it."
Now grant it, this is a strange state of the union message for a king to bring, everybody, I want everybody, pets, stray dogs, horses, people, in sackcloth and ashes, it is what is says, even the animals. And again, you read and go, ah, that's a little weird. Using horses in funeral processions goes all the way back to the time of the Persians and even this era, and some of you remember, I remember in my mind JFK's funeral. I was just a little kid, I watched the horseless or the rider less horse, he was draped. He was in mourning garb, and his horse was marched through in that funeral procession, and it's not a typical to have people involved in some of these, and animals involved with people in some of these great acts of mourning.
A side note, a quick side note. Did you know that one of the first people groups to embrace Christianity in the 1st Century were Assyrians. When the missionaries went out to Assyria and Babylonia, they were one of the first groups to embrace it, and they trace back the Assyrian Church to this day, traces back the move of God in their culture from the time of Jonah preaching to them, and God sparing their city.
That God was merciful to us, and we wanted to always be in touch for that mercy. They were receptive to Christianity. Chapter 4 is very short, but this is the run in with God; the run in with God. Okay, this blows my mind, but, what you mean but? The whole people group repented. You, you don't hear a negative conjunction after that, "but it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry." What a contrast between God's nature and Jonah's nature. God's merciful God's slow to anger. Jonah is mafioso. He hates these people because of the bitter ankhs that had been toward the Jews from the Assyrians, and the Jewish people at that time hated the Assyrians, wanted God to judge them.
Now we do laugh at Jonah. He fled from the presence of the Lord, hated the Assyrians. Can I just try to put it in a more modern term? Let's say the story of Jonah happened during World War II, and let's say Jonah lived in New York City, in the kosher section of New York City where the lot of Jewish people lived. And it says, the word of the Lord came to this Jonah living in Manhattan, said, arise, go to Berlin, and preach this message of doom to the Nazis, but it they repent, I'm going to overturn their sins. You would read something like this, but he went into a boat in Manhattan to go to Hawaii, to flee from the presence of the Lord.
See when you put in a different more modern context; we understand his hesitancy, and now his anger. He's angry at God. But, but God is merciful, you think God is so merciful, and he's God representative, you think he would say, okay, I will get pass the personal stuff, hallelujah, they responded they repented; not with some people, it's interesting.
Do you know that the -- you know where the healthiest place to live on earth is? South Pole; South Pole, no germs, germs can't live there. It's too cold. So it's the healthiest place to live on the earth, few germs, few, those kind of things, but very few people live there. You know why? Yeah exactly, it's just too cold. There's some people just like that. They're so germ free, truth conscious, no mercy, cold to be around, hard to be with, legalistic; they're right, they're dead right.
So he pray to the Lord, and he said, "Ah Lord, [that's how he said it I believe; not ah, Lord.] Because you'll read what he said, "Ah! Lord. was this now what I said, when I was still in my country, therefore, I fled previously to Tarshish for I know that You're gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in loving kindness, one who relents from doing harm." He's not happy about God's character here. "Therefore, now Lord, please take my life from me, for it's better for me to die than to live!" Wow! The Lord said, "Is it right for you to be angry?" There's a series of questions as we close out the book, to give perspective to this guy.
Is it right for you to be angry? You know, Jonah look, I'm pleased. I'm stocked, you're displeased. Jonah, which one has the right perspective here, you or Me? Is it right for you to be angry? You know some people are angry when other people are blessed? I know Christians who get angry when other people are blessed, because they are blessed, and what about, what about me? How come I'm not blessed, what God, am I chopped liver or what? You have to beat up old car, gets horrible gas mileage. Somebody comes and says, you wouldn't believe it, rejoice with me brother, somebody gave me, gave me a new car. You go, oh. Hallelujah. It's hard for you to rejoice for those who rejoice.
Verse 5, "Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, there he made himself a shelter, and sat under it in the shade, that he might see what would become of the city." "And the Lord prepared a plant, and made it to come over Jonah, [merciful to Jonah], that it might be a shade for his head, to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah, [get this], he was very grateful for the plant." It's the, it's the first time we read it that Jonah is pleased about anything.
Chapter 1, when God told him to -- gave him his commission to go to Nineveh, was he pleased? No.
Chapter 1, when a storm came out of the sea, was he pleased? No. When he went into the belly of the whale, was he pleased? No. When God gave him the second commission, he did it, but was he pleased? No. When God spared the city in His mercy, was Jonah pleased? No. Now he gets a plant. I got a plant, I'm so happy. This fast growing castor plant we believe with broad leaves, grow very, very quickly like my weeds in my backyard. "But as morning dawn, the next day God prepared a worm, and so it damaged the plant, and it withered. It happened when the sun arose, got prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah's head, [remember he has no hair at this point, it's awfully white], and he grew faint, and then he wished for death for himself, and he says, it's better for me to die then to live."
If I were God I would have said, you know what, you are right. God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the plant? And he said, it is right for me to be angry even to death!" I hate to counsel this guy. The Lord said, "You have had pity on the plant for which you have labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night, and should I not pity Nineveh that great city in which there were more than a 120,000 persons, who cannot discern between their right hand and their hand, and much livestock." Jonah, you are more worried about a soulless plant, than 600,000 souls, who will face eternity. See it's all about you Jonah, it's all about you and your little comfort zone, and not all these people whom I love.
I am distrust when I see people so attached to pets, now listen, so attached to animal rights, marching for animal rights, and just that quick will be pro abortion, or you can kill human life. After all, it's all about us and our choice, but don't you hurt those animals, I'll protest for the goldfish. Ladies and gentlemen, that's whacked, that's, that's that's out of balance. [Clapping]
Now I'm going to personalize it, is because you may not clap. "Are you concerned about your own plant?" About your own comfort zone and maintaining your own comfort level? Is that more important than all of the souls that are around us, that without Christ will perish?
You know, if we could just start looking at, at people around us, millions of Americans, their conversion waiting to happen, and you have the truth.