Sermons

You Can Run But You Can Not Hide

Sun, Jan 31, 2021
Teacher: Mark Hull
Passage: Jonah 1:1-17
Duration:29 mins 43 secs

Message text

You Can Run, But Can Not Hide

Jonah 1:1 – 17

’Hello, this is Mark - I am unable to take your call right now, but please leave your name, number and a short message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. (beep)’ A standard message that most of you have on your answering service at work or at home - the whole point of having an answering machine is to make sure you don’t miss your calls.

BUT - there are some people who use it to screen their calls, to avoid certain callers, to sift out who they want to talk to, to work out which calls to return and which calls to ignore. Have you ever done that? Maybe you know someone who does that?

Well, Jonah is just like that when it comes to God - the message on his answering machine goes something like this - ’Hello, this is Jonah - I am unable to take your call right not, please do not leave your name, number or message, because I won’t be getting back to you, (beep)’

And that is how our lesson begins this morning. We will start in the opening verses of chapter 1 of Jonah.

1The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 3But Jonah ran away from the LORD

Now before we go any further, it’s crucial that we understand something of the background to the book of Jonah.

Who was Jonah - where was he from? Where was Nineveh?

Well, we’re actually told in 2 Kings 14:25 that Jonah is a prophet and a servant of the Lord. He lived in Israel and he served God as his prophet - as his mouthpiece

So it’s no surprise to us when we read in v.1 that the word of the Lord came to Jonah, Son of Ammitai - it was his job to answer the call.

But unlike his other assignments which so far has been local (within Israel), this one requires that he go overseas (Nineveh). Now some of us may jump at the opportunity to work overseas - the boss says to you he needs someone to work on a project in London - and you take the opportunity. But Nineveh is not like London. Let me explain.

Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria. And Assyria was a very powerful and significant nation. Assyria was Israel’s enemy, and Nineveh was the enemy’s capital city.

The Assyrians were a cruel and heartless people - Assyrian engravings depict people being tortured, skulls worn around their necks to show their cruelty. When they took over a town in battle they would take any survivors and they would impale them on stakes in front of the town.

And it’s to this group of people, to this great enemy nation, to this enemy city that God calls Jonah to go.

And here is our first lesson:

  1. Jonah, the man of God hears the Word of God and willfully disobeys it vv.1-3

God gives Jonah a very clear command - 2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

Jonah knows what God wants, he knows what God desires of him, he perfectly understands what God has called him to do - God’s instructions are clear … and he disobeys.

Nineveh is East, but we’re told in v.3 that he flees to Tarshish which is in the West - he goes in the opposite direction.

Why does Jonah disobey God? Here are some possible reasons for Jonah’s disobedience.

  1. Perhaps Jonah was afraid - fearful for his life? Nineveh was the Assyrian capital - violent and brutal. Nineveh had walls 100 feet high and so broad that 3 chariots could run around them side by side. Perhaps Jonah thought, to preach against Nineveh was a suicide mission, so he runs away. But, the word of God does not tell us he was fearful does it.
  2. Perhaps Jonah thought it was lost cause - what could one man do? who would listen to him in this great city? A city of unbelieving idol worshippers who were more interested in ’Command & Conquer’ than they were in God - so he runs away. But again, the word of God does not tell us that Jonah thinks it’s a lost cause.
  3. Perhaps Jonah thought the message was severe and harsh. It was hard message wasn’t it - preach against Nineveh’s wickedness - no one likes being the one who has to bring such a message. Perhaps Jonah wasn’t too keen preaching fire and brimstone - especially to a group Assyrians - so he runs away. But again, the word of God does not tell us that Jonah was unhappy with the message.

These are all possible reasons why Jonah runs away,

but what you and I need to pay attention to is that Jonah, who was a believer, a man of God, hears God’s word and disobeys it.

Verse 3 tells us that Jonah ’ran away from the LORD’.

The person who ’runs away from the Lord’ or ’flees from the presence of the Lord’ is the one who is refusing to serve God in the task he knows God has called him to do - and that’s what Jonah is doing - he is refusing to serve God, even though he knows what God’s word says.

He goes West and lands himself into a whole heap of trouble as we’ll see. That East-West distinction highlights the radical difference between God’s way and man’s way. Instead of following God East to Nineveh, he runs after his sins to Tarshish in the West.

He refuses to serve God - he will not obey God’s word - he does the exact opposite … he ’runs away from the Lord’ … he ’flees from the presence of the Lord’.

God might not have called you to go to Nineveh, but human nature does not change (time and time again we see in our relationship to God the same scene played out here)

Jonah is the OT equivalent of a Bible believing Christian. He believes in sin and punishment, he believes that salvation is from God, he knows God’s character - God is just, yet merciful and gracious. He believes in God the creator of all things. YET - he refuses to obey God’s Word.

You can know the truth about God, and yet disobey God - a very sobering lesson. We hear the word of God - we know the character of God –

we know what it means to be faithful – to do what is right - to live God’s way - to have the right priorities and goals in life

YET, we avoid it, we make excuses, we will not listen, we choose to go in the opposite direction.

When you disobey God - when you choose to live your way - when you avoid what God says about life for you - he will not rearrange the stars in the skies to say ’STOP, do not go farther’. He lets you do what you want.

If you choose to stop reading the Bible, he does not send a storm to get you reading again. If you choose to stop coming to church, he does not send an earthquake to shake you up. If you choose to put your career or work first,

he does not send a fire to wake you up. NOT AT FIRST - he allows you to do what you want - to go downhill and to pay for your own foolishness - but his judgment lies just around the corner.

And as Jonah boards that ship he doesn’t notice the rats are getting off.

And here is our second lesson:

  1. Jonah, the man of God is found out and comes under the storm of God’s judgment vv.4-16

The safest and the best and the simplest thing Jonah could have done was to go to Nineveh and preach against the city. Instead, he runs away, and God sends a major storm.

You can run, but you can not hide. You can see the contrast between v.3 and v.4. Have a look - it’s very clear. 3But Jonah ran away from the LORD …

4Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.

God in his judgment sends a violent storm - the sailors in v.5 do all they can also: they go from praying to throwing out their cargo.

And Jonah’s wake-up call finally comes to us in v.6

The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.”

In desperation the sailors then cast lots to find out who is responsible for this mother of all storms, and guess what? In the providence of God, the lot falls on Jonah - he can run, but he can’t hide. And when they question him (Who are you? What have you done to cause this?) - they learn the terrible truth.

9He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” 10This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (Not a question, but an exclamation!)

The last place you want to be is in the same boat with a man who has disobeyed the God who made the sea - who is refusing to serve the God who made the sea.

And Jonah knows that the wages of sin, the penalty for disobedience is death - the judgment of God has caught up with him.

So they ask Jonah, What shall we do? And Jonah’s response

v.12“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

Do you notice - there’s no excuses, there’s no bargaining with God - he basically says: God is dealing with me justly - God is righteous - I deserve this, and God is right in punishing me.

Jonah accepts without reservation the consequences of his disobedience. He knows that wages of sin is death. The penalty for disobedience is death. (Rom.6:23 - for the wages of sin is death).

And Jonah surrenders to God’s punishment. I have sinned and I deserve to die, I have disobeyed God and I deserve the death sentence. We read v.15

Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.

And let me say to you this morning, that like Jonah when we disobey God, when we refuse to serve God and live his way - the path only leads downhill, and like Jonah it will be a rude awakening because only judgment awaits - if not in this life, certainly in the next. The New Testament clearly speaks of judgment in the present.

When we persist in disobedience - he will discipline. If you are being disobedient in the Christian life, do not for one moment think you can or will get away with it - it is a downhill walk spiritually, and it’s only a matter of time - you can run, but you can’t hide. And when the storm comes, when the tempest comes, you will have brought it on yourself.

Hebrews warns us to take God’s discipline in this life seriously (ch.10 - it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God).

And for some of us - maybe just maybe, God is saying wake up- are you taking the word of God seriously in your life? Is there something God has clearly told you to do that you’re not doing - his word is clear, but you will not do it? Is there some hidden sin, that you will not give up!

Take heed my friend, take heed - it is not the way to start a new year - for God’s judgment looms - the wages of sin is death.

And Jonah the man of God faces the storm of God’s judgment.

And here is our third lesson -

  1. Jonah, the man of God is as good as dead, and God saves him

The miracle in the story is not that Jonah gets swallowed by a huge fish, but that God saves Jonah! He is as good as dead in v.15 cast into the sea facing death, the punishment for his sin, then we read grace in v.17. But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah expected death - he knew that the wages of sin, of disobedience meant death - and when he is cast into the raging sea - that’s what he expects - he deserves it - the justice of God. And then the great fish gulped him up - and he finds himself alive inside the fish. You and I would think - not much of a rescue, being swallowed by a large fish.

This fish becomes the instrument of God’s rescue and that rescue is nothing less than a resurrection from the dead for Jonah

Which is why Jesus compares his ministry to Jonah. Have a look with me at Matthew 12:39 . The teachers of the law and the Pharisees come to challenge Jesus - give us a sign and we will believe you - do this and we will follow you. And Jesus answers in v.39 … “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.

Jesus says that this is ultimately how we are to understand Jonah.

What we see in Jonah is an acted prophecy, an anticipation, a foreshadowing of the death of Jesus who dies and is in the grave for 3 days. Jonah faces God’s judgment for sin and is as good as dead - it teaches us that that our God is a just God, who takes our sin, our disobedience, our unfaithfulness very seriously - the wages of sin is death. Jonah’s death functions as a picture of the death of Jesus - a death which pays your sin-debt - a death that pays the penalty for your sin, a death that turns away God’s anger, a death that restores your relationship to God, a death that wipes your slate clean, a death that makes it possible for you to begin again.

But we also see in Jonah an acted prophecy, a foreshadowing of the resurrection of Jesus who is raised to life after 3 days in the grave. After 3 days Jonah is cast up upon the beach –

the big fish vomits him out (Jonah 2:10) - he came back as it were from the dead. Jonah’s rescue, his deliverance functions as a picture of the resurrection of Jesus - a resurrection from the dead over sin and death for you and me.

A sign to people in Jonah’s time and to future generations about the character of God (just, but that he is also a way for salvation.) A God who expects us to be obedient to his ways.

The story of Jonah is really the story of Jesus Christ. Just as Jonah faces the judgment of God, so did Jesus on the cross. Just as Jonah went to his death - so did Jesus. Just as Jonah remained 3 days in the grip of death - so did Jesus. Just as Jonah returned from the dead, so did Jesus.

And just as Jonah was a sign to the sinful Ninevites - so too was Jesus a sign to his own generation and to our generation and to generations to come.

A sign that teaches us that God takes our sin seriously (God is just) - the wages of sin is death, but also a sign teaching us that God is gracious rescuing and saving even the most disobedient from death - because the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.

Romans 4:25 sums it up this way. 25He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification - so that we might be declared right with God.

The sign of the prophet Jonah points to Jesus dying for our sin and rising in victory over sin and death for our salvation.

This is the most important lesson we must learn - we are as good as dead in our sins, but God saved us.

John 3:16 – 20  16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

18“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

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