When we were children and our parents told us not to stick our fingers into electrical sockets, were they being mean and simply trying to spoil our fun? No, they were protecting us from serious harm and looking out for our best interests because they loved us. So it is with God. When he suggests something, if we listen and obey we enjoy the benefits because he has our best interests at heart. The god of this world is ruthless and comes only to steal, to kill and to destroy. When we live according to God's word, we live abundantly and we have God's protection. When he tells us stuff it's not to spoil our fun, it's because he's protecting us and looking out for our best interests. The god of this world entices and seduces us away from the word so he can harm us. Arguing with God and refusing to listen to him is insane.
Now, the thing is, no one is perfect and we all get it wrong from time to time. Sometimes we even turn our noses up at God and stubbornly refuse to do things his way even when we know better. Such disobedience often leads to consequences in life that we would rather have avoided, not because God is punishing us but because we decided to disobey and stick our fingers into spiritual electrical sockets.
The good thing is that whenever and wherever we return to God he is always there to help us sort things out. There is no situation or problem that we get ourselves into that is too big for God to deal with. It may seem that way sometimes, but if we lift up our believing and focus on God and his word despite our disobedience and mistakes, the answers will always be there. The book of Jonah makes for interesting reading in this regards.
Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.
Nineveh was a city of Northern Africa, the capital city of the Assyrians who were enemies of the Israelites. God told Jonah, who was a prophet, to go to Nineveh and confront them because of their evil ways. That's what prophets do. If you are off the word, don't be surprised to find a prophet in your face confronting you. Sure he'll make you mad, but once you calm down and get your head back into the word you may find yourself being grateful someone loved you big enough to get in there and help you. Confrontation is necessary to get people's attention when they are walking away from God. Here in Jonah, God gave the Assyrians an opportunity to change their ways by sending a prophet to confront them. Jonah unfortunately had a problem with his assignment.
But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
Tarshish is modern day Seville in Spain, which is a long way away from Nineveh. Jonah knew that if he confronted the Assyrians they could change their ways and escape their imminent destruction. He wanted the Assyrians destroyed because they were the enemies of his people. So he came up with a plan - he decided to disobey God and run as far away from Nineveh as possible so the Assyrians would be destroyed.
Jonah obviously loved people more than he loved God. He ran away not because he was afraid, but because he believed he was protecting his people. Often in life when you're in the spiritual competition the word can be difficult to carry out and the easy option is to run away. Using a credit card to buy something for which you don't have the money and going into debt is running away from God. It is the easy option for people who can't or won't believe God will supply their need. Jonah took the easy option and ran away. Doing the word is what's important, not doing what our feelings dictate. Do we follow our head or do we follow our heart? That's the choice the world gives us but they're both wrong. We follow God and his word despite anything either our heads or our hearts tell us.
But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.
So there was Jonah sailing away from Nineveh and a storm hit. Not just any old storm either, it was a massive typhoon, a hurricane. Now before we continue, let's have a spot quiz. Did anyone spot the idiom of permission? Think back to Job in the opening sessions of the class. Who did all the nasty things to Job? God or the devil? The devil, right? We know that it was the devil who killed his children, destroyed his business and stole his health. We understand the idiom by recognising that Job had fear in his life which allowed access to him by the devil. Do you see the same idiom of permission used here? The meaning of green and red traffic lights has not changed since you read the book of Job and neither has the truth that God is good and the devil is bad. It wasn't God who wanted Jonah dead, it was the devil. The difference between Job and Jonah though is different in that Job was afraid while Jonah was simply being disobedient.
Then the mariners [sailors] were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares [the cargoes] that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.
This is fascinating. That storm was so powerful that the crew dumped the cargo overboard because they were in fear of their lives, yet Jonah was fast asleep. How do you manage to sleep in the midst of a hurricane aboard a small wooden ship while everyone around you is terrified for their lives? Jonah was very comfortable with his decision to run away, so comfortable in fact that he was quite happy to die rather than do God's will. He thought he was giving his life for his people. Very noble but very wrong. The question is, do we love God more than we love people? If not, we are not walking with the love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation. Jonah loved people more than he loved God. Jonah was out of fellowship. The captain of the ship then got a bit pissed off with Jonah and kicked him out of his bunk.
So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.
There was something about that storm that made those sailors suspicious. It was no ordinary storm and they had the feeling there was some spiritual force behind it. All bad weather basically has spirit power behind it. Tornadoes don't just happen.
And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.
Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?
And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.
Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.
Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.
Once the crew knew he was a man of God, a prophet, and a disobedient one at that, they asked Jonah what they needed to do to escape that storm and save their lives. Jonah knew he had run away from God and he was quite comfortable with that. If he died, the Assyrians wouldn't get the word and they would be destroyed. In his mind he was dying for his nation. The devil certainly didn't want Jonah around, so it was in his best interests to kill him as quickly as possible while he had the chance.
And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.
Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.
Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee.
So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.
Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.
So Jonah was chucked overboard and the storm ceased.
Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Chapter one ends with an intriguing truth. God had prepared a big fish to eat Jonah and it was lurking at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. Note that it doesn't say a whale, it says a big fish. Also consider that God had prepared for this big fish to be there. This is remarkable. God in his word promises that he will always provide a way to escape for us out of any situation.
1 Corinthians 10:13
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
God is also faithful to his word and he does not lie.
God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
The way to escape will always be there, even at the bottom of oceans. In Jonah's case, while he was sinking to the bottom of the sea something amazing happened. First of all, verses 2-9 of chapter 2 are a prayer and all the verbs are in the past tense. This tells us that Jonah spoke these words later, after he was out of the fish. Verse one even tells us just that.
Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,
It says then. Then when? Then, after Jonah was out of the fish's belly, which was three days and three nights later. Jonah prayed later, not when he was in the fish's belly but when he was out of it. That's what it says if you just read it. This prayer was prayed after Jonah was out of the fish's belly. That's why all the verbs in verses 2 to 9 are in the past tense. Jonah couldn't possibly have prayed this while he was still actually in the fish's belly, for Jonah was dead.
And [Jonah] said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell [the grave] cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.
Jonah used the idiom of permission here. Who chucked Jonah over the side of the ship? The crew or God? It wasn't God, it was the crew. See the idiom? This is the idiom of permission, the truth that was set in the book of Job which holds true throughout the entire bible. The meaning of red and green traffic lights has not changed.
This was quite a situation. Jonah was sinking to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea after being chucked overboard from a ship during a monster storm. As he sank towards the sea bed he knew he didn't have much time left. All around him was dark ocean. The light of the sky would have been fading far above him. His lungs would have been bursting as he ran out of air. He was dying. Then a remarkable thing happened. Jonah decided to get himself back into fellowship with God.
Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.
Looking towards God's holy temple was a reference to the prayer Solomon made when he dedicated the temple he'd just built.
1 Kings 8:22,44-50
And Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven:
If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the LORD toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house that I have built for thy name:
Then hear thou in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.
If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near;
Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness;
And so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name:
Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause,
And forgive thy people that have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against thee...
So there was Jonah sinking to the bottom of the ocean and he got himself back into fellowship with God. Isn't that remarkable.
The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.
Jonah sank to the bottom and the weeds closed around his head. Just as his soul fainted within him, at the very moment of his death, Jonah got himself back into fellowship with God. These were his last dying thoughts as he turned his heart back to God. When Jonah later prayed this prayer, he was back on dry land. When he was out of the fish and back on land, God raised him from the dead, God brought up his life from corruption.
God is always there, ready and willing to forgive and forget. He's great. God never turns his back on anyone. Whenever people come back to him he's right there with the answers. It doesn't matter if you're wrapped in seaweed at the bottom of the ocean or even if you're floating around at the edge of the universe far away in the vastness of space. God can rescue anyone from anywhere.
If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
To make sure we don't miss this truth, God had it written twice to establish it. This truth will never change, it is established.
Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:
But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.
God is not a man that he should lie. If we were literally floating around somewhere in the universe in a distant galaxy hundreds of light years from earth, God would have a way to get us home. He can deliver anyone from anything at any time. Our believing is the key to seeing God's deliverance.
So just how does God rescue a drowning man from the bottom of the ocean? Was this situation beyond what even God could handle? Not really, all it took was a fish.
Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?
Look, if God always has a way to escape, even from the bottom of an ocean, then God is always going to have that way to escape prepared beforehand. It's there, you can trust that because God is not a man that he should lie. The way to escape will always be there.
So down at the bottom of the ocean just before Jonah died, he got himself back into fellowship with God and a big fish swallowed him whole. He was in the belly of that fish for three days and three nights. Eventually the fish became a little nauseous about its indigestible cargo and vomited Jonah up onto the shore where God then raised him from the dead.
And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
Jonah had been dead for three days and three nights. Jesus Christ later used this truth to teach that he would also be dead for three days and three nights.
Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.
But he [Jesus] answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Can you imagine how Jonah must have felt when he regained consciousness on the shore? Can you imagine how he must have felt when he stood up and looked out over the sea and realised what God had done? No wonder he prayed that prayer.
Look, if God can get Jonah from the bottom of the ocean back to dry land, can he sort out your problems for you? Are your problems as bad as Jonah's? Are you running out of air at the bottom of the ocean? It may feel like we're drowning in life at times, but God has the answers and he can sort out any messes we get ourselves into whenever and wherever we decide we're going to do things God's way and ask him for his help.
I don't care how much of a scoundrel you've been in the past, if you're drowning, and you turn your heart back to God he will be there for you. God isn't some mean nasty old devil spirit who is looking for ways to beat you up, not at all, he's wonderful, and he's looking for men and women with the courage and strength to believe in him and trust him so he can deliver them. The deliverance is there, the question is are you willing to do things God's way and put your trust in him? Jonah got himself back into fellowship, was delivered from the weeds at the bottom of the sea and went on to do his job as a prophet.
And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying,
Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.
So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.
So what is it going to be? Are you going to cry your eyes out and bitch and complain about all your problems, or are you going to get your head into God's word, stand up, claim God's promises and live victoriously? It isn't up to God what kind of life you live, it is entirely up to you.
Chapter 54 - At Thy Word