August 3

Jonah 1-2

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Commentary by Dr. Drake Travis

Lord, don’t let us even think of running away from our calling.  You have joyous things planned for us, regardless of what we think.  Amen.

This book is far beyond a fish story about a rebel who has a grumpiness problem.  It is a true story that parallels Christ arriving. It is kingdom operatives in full force.  There is evangelism, transformation, and triumph that is truly found in biblical proportions.
1 – Jonah was raised in a small village very near to where Jesus OF NAZARETH was raised.  Had they been contemporaries as young boys, they would have been able to trot to each-others’ homes in a manner of minutes.  Nonetheless, the king during Jonah’s life was Jeroboam II, whose time was 793-753 B.C. that we read of in The Kings.  Israel is late in its time during Jonah – remember they were in a 190 year long death spiral of ungodliness 920 – 722 B.C.  They lost territory to Assyria decade after decade. However during Jonah&Jeroboam II ‘s time they were ‘on a brief rise’ and gained some of the territory back.
God calls him to go and to preach to Nineveh and …… “God are you serious?!” Jonah is livid at the assignment. Nineveh was a city in the middle of its 300-year prominence that ran from 900-605 B.C. They were ghoulishly diabolical. Their practices and tactics were fiendish and grisly to put it mildly. Assyria’s invasion and decimation of Israel in 722 B.C. just a generation later, is a scenario that Hollywood, even today with all its tendency to “push the envelope”, wouldn’t dare touch. If they did they’d be sued into bankruptcy for going way past ‘over the top’. Assyria was that horrible, and Nineveh was its capital. Nineveh’s tenants would stack the skulls of their subjects [who fought them] in high heaps, on both sides of all gates entering Nineveh. The memo: you fight us, you end up on the pile!
Jonah ran from his calling as would most any person given such an assignment today.  He hated Nineveh. Any of us would hate Nineveh too. You can almost picture “Indiana Jones” entering the city wide-eyed and sneering with anger toward the place and all its inhabitants.  They had been killing people for centuries and loving everydeath along the way. What would any of us wish for this city?  Pardon all the assertions, we just want you to really feel what Jonah was feeling at the time of his calling. The name “Nineveh” conjured sheer terror in the hearts of anyone who was not committed to that city
–> So God called Jonah to Nineveh and … he high-tailed it for Tarshish.  “Tar-TESS-oos” (as it was called in the 700’s B.C.) was a mining colony that Phoenicians were digging in a region that today includes “Gibraltar” in SW Spain.  It is not possible to be more geographically disobedient to one’s orders to “go to Nineveh”.  It’s equal to being in Kansas City, Kansas USA, God calling you to Miami, so you head for Anchorage Alaska. Or being called to San Diego, CA, so you head to Bar Harbor, Maine.  We remember and know about the storm, the panic, the throwing of freight overboard, then finally finding Jonah and bringing him up on deck for a frantic inquisition. Please catch what happens.  He simply told his story and the whole boat crew converts!  Pastors dream of 100% success rates!  Jonah just tells his story – that’s it – and they sacrifice and believe in the God of Abraham instantly. Jonah still had a “go ahead and kill me” attitude but do take note: evangelizing isn’t some grandly calculated labyrinth of “insight required” gobbledy.  Just tell your story and watch the souls be touched by God.
2 – The Lord’s graciousness abounds again.   Where the ocean would have killed him, the whale saved Jonah’s life. God could not have been kinder. Whales are warm blooded, they breath oxygen. The ride is about 3-5 mph and gentle. Jonah could breath, there’s no hypothermia, and the whale let’s him out close enough so Jonah can bodysurf to shore.  The first thing he probably heard was “will ya’obey me now?”
But about the prayer, Jonah sounds very much like David in the Psalms.  He covers every pertinent topic current to the situation, he recalls his faith, states his vows and affirms salvation is from the Lord. Imagine him going to Nineveh having not prayed this prayer, nor been through this trauma, been frightened to death in a storm, sat inside a 40 foot beast for a historical submarine ride …? All this made him an authentic evangelistic v.s. being a cynical believer who only hated Assyrians and wanted them to go to hell where he formerly felt they belonged.  We’ll see where all this takes him when we read Jonah 3-4 next week.  Strangely enough, Jonah’s story hearkens us forward to Jesus.  Jesus even refers to Jonah as a factual sign.  Ah, this Bible is good stuff  ?

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