The Overwhelming Opening Irony of Jonah 1

So that’s it, Jonah 1 is done.  I think the overwhelming theme of this opening chapter is Irony.  Think about it.  It’s ironic that Jonah ran away from God only to find God chasing him down.  It’s ironic that the pagan, non-Christian sailors told Jonah to pray, when Jonah was running away from God.  It’s ironic that when Jonah didn’t care one ounce about the safety of the sailors, it was the sailors that tried to save his life by rowing faster rather than throwing him overboard when they found out that Jonah was the cause of the storm.  It’s ironic that pagan sailors put their faith in the God of Israel after seeing Him calm the storm, when Jonah ran away from preaching to gentiles in Nineveh because he didn’t want them to come to faith.  It’s ironic the pagan sailors seemed to fear God more than Jonah, a prophet of God.

This should not surprise us at all.  God often does things that we never expect.  This is true in my life as well as yours I’m sure.  When I was in Middle and High school, the thought of public speaking sent a panic through my bones that felt like a lightning bolt!  When I had to do it, I use to put little phrases on my note cards like “You can do it buddy!”  “Go for it!”  It’s almost over!”  They never worked, and often made me more nervous than I was before – my face would get red, my eyes would water, my whole body would shake, which would cause my voice to stutter.  It was awful!  It’s ironic that God would use someone like me as a preacher!

I want you to know three things from Jonah 1:

a) God can and will use you in this life for His purposes.  God used Jonah to save the souls of the pagan sailors, and God used the pagan sailors to call Jonah back to Himself.  No matter where you are in your life, running away from God or ignoring Him completely, Jonah chapter 1 teaches us that God chases His people down and always brings them (us) back to Himself.

b) Jonah didn’t act on what he knew was right.  You see, Jonah was a prophet long after Moses, so that means that Jonah would have read the books Moses wrote (Genesis – Deuteronomy), and from reading those he would have understood that God has a kingdom in mind that is bigger than just the Israelites.  God told Abraham in Genesis 12:3, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”  This is the missionary call, that all peoples and tribes on earth who believe in Jesus will be blessed!  But according to Jonah, the only people who would be blessed were the Israelites!  Perhaps some of you are content to have a small vision of God’s mission like Jonah did and only live your life in the little corner of your own world, in your own church, doing what you’ve always done, and caring about the things you’ve always cared about.  Jonah chapter 1 calls us all to throw that small vision away and get a bigger vision, for the peoples of the world!  There’s more to the Church than America!  There are peoples and there are tribes that Jesus bled for that need the gospel, and the only way they will hear the gospel is if someone leaves their comfortable home and goes to them with the message of life!  I am praying that God would call some of you to go the hard places to do the hard thing, because there are still people in tribes and villages out there every day that die without hearing the gospel, and if knowing that doesn’t break your heart you are just like Jonah.  This reminds me of a song that says, “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness in the sea, God forbid that I should let that mercy stop with me.”

c) The ironic nature of Jonah chapter 1 prepares us for a greater irony found in the Bible, the cross of Jesus.  There’s something that’s more ironic though.  The Man who was mocked as King on the cross really is the King.  The Man who seemed utterly powerless on the cross is more powerful than 4 billion nuclear bombs!  The Man who died on the cross is the only One who can give us true life.

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