Jonah was a prophet to northern Israel, their enemies were the gentile nation of Assyria ‘Nineveh’ the great city and Jonah was given the unusual instruction from the Lord to preach to that city calling them to repentance. Here we see one of the first displays of God’s desire to see all nations saved and how He would do so through Israel!
We don’t know how Jonah received this word from God, whether it was verbal, in a dream or vision, writing on a wall or through another prophet, but Jonah didn’t respond with words, he just ran. Rebelled against God’s command.
Down is never good when God is up! Notice that verse 3-4 says that Jonah went ‘down’ to Tarshish and ‘down’ to Joppa (which means beautiful- its actually our modern day Tel Aviv). Eventually he ended up down in the belly of a whale, which Jonah himself describes as ‘sheol’ which is another name for hell.
Are you desensitized to the product of your disobedience? While the storm is going on Jonah was sleeping (Jonah 1:5). I imagine this is like sleeping during turbulence on a plane. What this shows is Jonah’s ignorance and desensitization to his disobedience. A trap many of us fall into! We sleep when we need to wake up and change. OBEDIENCE IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICE!! OBEDIENCE IS BETTER THAN ENDING UP IN A WHALE! 1 SAMUEL 15:22
Don’t deny God in the midst of your storm. In verse 9 we read Jonah’s first words, he states his identity and who he believes in, even in the midst of the storm… what can we learn from that? Even in our mess, don’t deny the God that you serve. For this is the one reason why in verse 16 we see that these men who served other gods now feared the Lord God Almighty and made sacrifices & vows unto Him. Without Jonah’s declaration, they wouldn’t have known.
Jonah took responsibility for his disobedience (Jonah 1:12). In psychology there is something we call ‘Diffusion of Responsibility’ where everybody shares in the blame or the glory of a situation. There was none of that there because Jonah stepped forward and said cast me out for the sea to calm down. Very noble, as I know some would have liked to have company in that big whale and therefore drag people down in their plight.
Jonah 1 NIV
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 and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee 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.
5All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.
6The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
7Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.
8So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
9He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
10This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)
11The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
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.”
13Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.
14Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.”
15Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.
16At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.
17Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
1 Sam 22:15 NIV
15 Was that day the first time I inquired of God for him? Of course not! Let not the king accuse your servant or any of his father’s family, for your servant knows nothing at all about this whole affair.”