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                    "STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS"

                Jonah - Messenger To Nineveh (1:1-4:11)

INTRODUCTION

1. We now come to the most well known of "The Minor Prophets":  Jonah,
   whose name means "Dove"

2. His book does not contain prophecy per se, rather it contains the
   history of a prophet...
   a. A prophet reluctant to fulfill the mission God assigned him
   b. A prophet who complained when his mission proved successful
   -- What kind of prophet is that?  Perhaps one that reveals what may
      be true of ourselves!

3. This short book of "Jonah" easily falls into four sections...
   a. "Running Away From God" (chapter one)
   b. "Running To God" (chapter two)
   c. "Running With God" (chapter three)
   d. "Running Ahead of God" (chapter four)

4. In this brief survey of the book, we will simply read our way
   through it...
   a. Making observations as we go along
   b. Offering lessons that can be glean from each section

[With the first chapter then, we soon find Jonah...]

I. "RUNNING AWAY FROM GOD" (1:1-17)

   A. AN OUTLINE OF THE CHAPTER...
      1. God commissions Jonah to preach in Nineveh - 1:1-2
      2. Jonah rebels against God's plan - 1:3
      3. God has a plan for Jonah - 1:4-17
         a. He sends "a great wind on the sea" - 1:4-16
         b. He prepares "a great fish" - 1:17

   B. OBSERVATIONS IN READING THE TEXT...
      1. Jonah is also mentioned in 2Ki 14:23-25
         a. He prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II (ca. 793-753
            B.C.)
         b. He was from Gath Hepher (4 miles NE of what was later
            Nazareth in Galilee)
      2. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria
         a. It was located about 220 NNW of the present city of Baghdad
         b. The Assyrians were noted for their cruelty, especially to
            prisoners
      3. The city of Tarshish
         a. A Phoenician outpost in SW Spain
         b. On the edge of the Mediterranean world, Jonah was running
            in the opposite direction of Nineveh
      4. In retrieving Jonah, God gained some converts (the sailors)
         - cf. 1:14-16

   C. LESSONS FROM CHAPTER ONE...
      1. God concerns Himself with the wickedness of heathen nations
         - 1:2
      2. One cannot run away from God! - cf. Ps 139:7-11
      3. God is able to use incidents in the lives of His servants for
         His glory - cf. 1:5 with 1:14-16

[With the end of chapter one, Jonah is now in the belly of the great
fish.  Having run away from God, we now find him...]

II. "RUNNING TO GOD" (2:1-10)

   A. AN OUTLINE OF THE CHAPTER...
      1. Jonah's prayer - 2:1-9
      2. Jonah's deliverance - 2:10

   B. OBSERVATIONS IN READING THE TEXT...
      1. The prayer is written like a psalm; its present form may have
         been composed after the fact, looking back
      2. Jonah realized that what happened was God's doing - 1:3
      3. It is interesting to note that his prayer is more of a
         THANKSGIVING, than a petition

   C. LESSONS FROM CHAPTER TWO...
      1. "Someone has observed that there are times when we must be
         made to go into the lowest depths that we may regain a living
         faith" (Hailey)
      2. Prayers in time of need should be made with an attitude of
         thanksgiving as well as petition - cf. Php 4:6

[Having learned his lesson, Jonah is now ready to do God's will; so we
next see him...]

III. "RUNNING WITH GOD" (3:1-10)

   A. AN OUTLINE OF THE CHAPTER...
      1. The Lord again commissions Jonah to preach in Nineveh - 3:1-2
      2. Jonah obeys and proclaims God's message - 3:3-4
      3. The people of Nineveh are moved to repent, including the king
         - 3:5-9
      4. The Lord takes notice, and relents of the disaster He had
         intended to bring - 3:10

   B. OBSERVATIONS IN READING THE TEXT...
      1. Jonah's message was brief, yet clear - 3:4
      2. An unusual fast is proclaimed  - 3:5-7
         a. Three days without food AND water
         b. For both man AND beast
      3. With sackcloth for both man and beast, the king calls for a
         true change of behavior - 3:8-9
      4. The king of Assyria reasons like the prophet Joel - cf. 3:9
         with Joel 2:14
      5. Nineveh's example of repentance is a rebuke of Israel...
         a. Israel in Jonah's own day - cf. 2Ki 17:13-14,18; 2Ch
            36:15-16
         b. Israel in the days of Jesus - cf. Mt 12:41

   C. LESSONS FROM CHAPTER THREE...
      1. Such preaching of condemnation is often conditional - cf. Jer
         18:7-10
      2. The least likely prospects might be the ones who will convert
         - e.g., 1Co 6:9-11
      3. We see the place of fasting and prayer, as one seeks to
         petition God - e.g., Ezr 8:21-23

[Jonah's mission was a success!  Souls headed for destruction were
saved!  You would think that Jonah would have been elated.  But in the
final chapter we are surprised to see this prophet...]

IV. "RUNNING AHEAD OF GOD" (4:1-11)

   A. AN OUTLINE OF THE CHAPTER...
      1. Jonah vents his anger - 4:1-4
         a. Angry because he knew that God would relent - 4:1-2
         b. So angry that he desires to die - 4:3-4
      2. God uses a plant, a worm, and a hot east wind to teach Jonah
         - 4:5-11
         a. A plant to provide shade for Jonah - 4:5-6
         b. A worm to destroy the plant - 4:7
         c. A vehement east wind that with the sun exhausts Jonah - 4:8
      3. God uses the plant to teach Jonah an object lesson - 4:9-11
         a. Jonah is angry about the plant - 4:9
         b. Shouldn't he have similar pity on Nineveh? - 4:10-11

   B. OBSERVATIONS IN READING THE TEXT...
      1. We find Jonah manifesting a sectarian spirit
         a. Perhaps there was an underlying racism in Jonah's heart
         b. This may explain why he fled to Tarshish in the beginning
      2. He possessed the same spirit as:
         a. The elder brother of the prodigal son - cf. Lk 15:11-32
         b. The Pharisees toward Jesus eating with sinners - Mt 9:10-11
      3. Jonah is shown to have more compassion for a plant, than for
         innocent children!

   C. LESSONS FROM CHAPTER FOUR...
      1. We learn the danger of a sectarian spirit
         a. It makes us to be petty
         b. It blinds us to matters of greater importance
      2. We see God's nature
         a. He is gracious, merciful, slow to anger
         b. Abundant in lovingkindness, He is willing to relent when
            there is repentance

CONCLUSION

1. The book of Jonah is of value to PREACHERS...
   a. Never prejudge an audience
   b. Don't try to avoid the responsibility God has placed on you

2. The book of Jonah is of value to ALL CHRISTIANS...
   a. Don't have a selfish, narrow-minded, sectarian spirit
   b. Be concerned for all the wicked, whoever and wherever they are

3. The book of Jonah is of value to SINNERS...
   a. God loves you
   b. Destruction is coming...
      1) But He sent Christ and the apostles to reveal His will and
         save you
      2) Today He has His preachers and teachers to warn you
   c. Salvation is available wherever there is true repentance and
      obedience!

Finally, may the example of Nineveh's repentance remind us of what
Jesus said:

   "The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this
   generation and condemn it, because they repented at the
   preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here."
                                                   (Mt 12:41)

Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah; have we repented at the
preaching of One (Jesus) Who is much greater?
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