The Curious Story Of Jonah.

Jonah 1:1-3
“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”

So begins one of the strangest stories in the Bible:  Jonah.  Almost sounds like a fable or a legend, doesn’t it?  I mean, come on:  A guy swallowed by a great fish who lived to tell about it?  Really?  Yep.  I assure you, it really happened.
Pictures Of Jesus.
Jonah was the son of “Ammitai,” whose name is derived from the verb אמן (‘aman), which means “to confirm or support.”  Our English word, “Amen,” comes from it.  The plural variant, “‘umnam,” means “Verily or truly,” while the noun means, “Faithfulness.”
Do you see it?  Jonah’s father is the One Who confirms and supports, the great “Amen,” the Faithful and true!  It’s Our Father!
Evil Nation.
Getting back to our story, it starts out well enough with the LORD giving a word to Jonah, telling him to go preach to the wicked city of Nineveh.  According to Abarim Publications,  “Nineveh was the capital of Assyira, which was built by Nimrod according to the Biblical account (Genesis 10:10)”  He’s the guy who built the infamous Tower of Babel.
(For more on that topic, you may follow the link below:
Again, quoting from Abarim Publications, Nineveh “was situated on the eastern bank of the river Haddakel (Tigirs), opposite the modern city of Mosul.  Expanded by various Assyrian kings and finally Sennacherib, it became the largest city in the world for about fifty years.
The meaning of the city’s name is unclear but may mean, “Nunus’ Place, Fish Place, Offspring’s Habitation or Strong Propagation Of The Seat Of Government.”  It’s a Holy Spirit picture of a great rescue of the “Fish People: Believers!”
Do you see it?  Jonah…..Great Fish…..Fish people rescued? It’s all a picture of Jesus redeeming His people and building His Church!

Why did God send Jonah to these people? Because He is a God of great compassion!  He is willing that NONE should perish. He wanted to give them a chance to repent of their great sin and be saved……like the people of the world.

They were so bad and hated the Jews so much, in fact, that they had many imprisoned, tortured, and even killed. Sound familiar?  Hitler wasn’t the first one to have the idea though he certainly took it to unprecedented levels.  That’s why Jonah hated them and wanted the Ninevites to die.  He didn’t want them to get saved.  Go and preach to them? Now way!  
So he fled; ran as far away in the opposite direction as he could.

Escape Plan.

Jonah first went down to the seaport of Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. Interesting destination, though no one to this day knows exactly where it is, or was.  Many scholars believe it was way over on the the Atlantic coast of Spain.  That’s about 3,000 miles away, folks! (See map below.)

To a Hebrew audience, the name Tarshish may have sounded like White Dove, Dove-White, or Search For Alabaster.  These word pictures plus all the root words from which it is derived are nothing short of amazing!  Every one of them points to some aspect or characteristic of our Lord Jesus.  You can check out all of them at Abarim Publications.  Below is a link to their page explaining it all:

Great Tempest.

Jonah arrived in Joppa, paid the fare, and boarded the ship.  He tried to make his escape but the LORD didn’t let him get too far away.  He sent a great wind which kicked up a mighty tempest that was so strong, the ship nearly broke apart!

Needless to say, the sailors were terrified!  Each cried out to his respective “god” (lower case “g”) for help, but none came, of course.  This should not surprise anyone as there is only One True God.

The crew also tried everything else they could think of to lighten the ship to keep it afloat, like throwing things overboard.  Nothing worked.

Where Is Jonah?
Here they were in the mist of the gravest peril. ALMOST every hand was on deck, struggling and straining to save the ship. Then they noticed that someone was missing:  Jonah.  Where was he?  The captain went to investigate.
Meanwhile, he was in the lowest part of the ship.  Not only was Jonah not pulling his weight up on deck, he was down there fast asleep!  When the captain finally found him he said to him in chapter 1, verse 6, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.”

Does this scene ring any bells?  It should!  Who else do we know that was fast asleep in the boat during a very great tempest?  Yep, you guessed it.  Jesus!!  He was sleeping in the boat with His disciples when they were on the Sea of Galilee, a great storm threatening to capsize their boat.  But Jesus, completely unconcerned about the storm, was sound asleep in the stern of the boat.

Meanwhile up on deck, while the captain was below chiding Jonah, the crew decided to cast lots to see who was responsible for the terrible storm.  Let’s follow the story:

Jonah 1:7-9
“And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.
Then they said to him, “Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?”
So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
As soon as they heard his words, they were VERY afraid!  They asked him, “Why have you done this?” 
Ah, now the light dawns!  You see, they realized that Jonah had fled from the presence of the LORD, Maker of heaven and earth, the One Who sent the storm.  They knew that this man would know what they needed to do to make it stop.  But they were stunned by his answer.
Throw Me Into The Sea.
Jonah 1:12
“And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.”
What???  Throw him overboard?  Who is the guy…some kind of a nut?
Well, they didn’t think that was a very sound idea… first; so they tried to row against the storm and reach the shore.  But the storm only grew greater and they couldn’t make any headway.  Finally, they did a very wise thing:  Cried out to the LORD, The God of Israel.
Jonah 1:14-16
“Therefore they cried out to the Lord and said, “We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You.” So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows.”
Did you catch that? Unlike the Jewish Pharisees at Pilate’s court, who said “His blood be on us and our children,” in Matthew 27:25,” these Gentiles wisely asked that they NOT be charged with innocent blood!”

Instant Believers!
Look at what happened!  The sea became calm the instant Jonah thrown overboard and the instant calm created instant believers!  Look at the last line: “Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows.”
Wow!  No more “other gods”…..AND they offered a sacrifice to Him! 😮
Of course, The LORD was waiting for this event.  He had this great fish prepared to swallow Jonah, where he remained for three days.
If that isn’t the most unbelievable, fantastic tale of all time, I don’t know what is…..yet it’s all true.  This event really happened to a real person in real time.  But the Holy Spirit has recorded it for us to tell us about Jesus.

Jonah Goes To Nineveh.
Jonah 3:1-3
“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.”

At last, Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD, went to Nineveh, and delivered to them a stern warning.  Lets’ read on.
Jonah 3:4-5
“And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”  So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.”

Think back for a minute:  How many times did God give the Law from Mt. Sinai?  Two times.  The first time Moses had to break the stone tablets because of the lawlessness of the Children of Israel.  If he hadn’t, pure law would have killed them all.

The second time, Moses was instructed to place the tablets under the Mercy Seat of the Ark.  That is a picture of Jesus’ death…..He died the death that the Law would have brought us…..He perfectly obeyed the Law, hid it in His heart…..He is THE Mercy Seat…..saving us all from certain destruction.  Now, when we are born again, we are hid with Christ in God and credited with His Law keeping!

This is a picture of the 180 degree difference between Law and Grace:  The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life!

(King Of Nineveh repents.)

(The people of Nineveh repent.)

Getting back to Jonah, he had just come from his ordeal of being in the belly of a great fish for 3 days.  Being affected by all those digestive juices, he must have looked terrible!  They took one look at him, heard his words, and believed him! All of them, from the king to the lowest man, repented in sackcloth and ashes.
Not only that, but the king sent out a decree for a total fast:  No eating or drinking by either man or animal.  He commanded everyone in his kingdom to turn from their evil ways and cry out mightily to God.  Perhaps He would turn away His fierce anger and spare them.

God Of Grace.
Look at God’s response:
Jonah 3:10
“Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.”

They were so sincere about Jonah’s message that they tore down all their idols and determined to follow only the True God.

WOW!!!  How would you like to preach a sermon like that and the whole stadium get saved?
You’d think that Jonah would be happy at the outcome.  No more torturing and killing of his people.  Maybe they could finally live in peace.  But no, Jonah was not pleased.  In fact, he was so angry he wanted to die.

Not a very good attitude, is it?  But isn’t he just like us sometimes?  We humans often have this sense of justice that wants to see the guilty get what they deserve.
But God isn’t like that.  He is a God of grace:  UNdeserved favor.  He gives us what we DON’T deserve because Another, JESUS, took what we DO deserve. Good thing, because if He gave us what we actually do deserve, we would all go to hell.
But God SO LOVED us of the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believes in Him should NOT PERISH, but have eternal life.

Portraits Of Jesus.
In this story, we are reading what Jonah did.  All of it is a picture of Jesus, except for the running away and bad attitude parts.

Throughout these four chapters are pictures of what He did for us.  Count the number of times it says he went down:
2. Jonah went down to Joppa.
3.  He found a ship that was going down to Tarshish.
4. He went down into the ship.
5. He went down into the lowest part of the ship.
6. He went down into the sea.
7.  He went down into the belly of a great fish.
That’s 6 times.  Add one more to Jesus’ story and you have seven times.  #1:  He came down from heaven.  That makes seven times He came down.
No one before or since has ever humbled himself more than our Lord Jesus.  He emptied himself of all He was and all that He had and was made in the likeness of men.  Because He did that, He is exalted above all others and given the Name that is above EVERY Name.  That at the Name of Jesus, EVERY KNEE should bow.

Name Your Problem.
What name is holding you hostage?  Do you need healing from a disease?  At the Name of Jesus, your disease must bow.
Do you have a financial need?  At the Name of Jesus, that need must bow.
Do you need healing in your marriage or relationships?  At the Name of Jesus, they must bow!
Name your problem.  Jesus has overcome it!
There are pictures in this story of what Jesus suffered for us.  He died and was in the “belly of the earth” for three days.  But God did not leave Him there.  He rose again with a new, incorruptible body to be our Great High Priest forever after the order Of Melchizedek!   He is the greater Jonah!

But I see something else here.  This curious story is a timeline of events involving Jesus, Israel, and the Church. Let’s think for a moment:  Why did Jesus come to earth the first time He was here?  He answered that question personally, in Matthew 15:24.

“I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

He came to His own people first: The Jews.  But they ultimately rejected Him, both in their homeland and in the diaspora. So, God began to offer salvation to the Gentiles.
For 2,000 years, the Jewish people wandered from place to place finding only sorrow, persecution, rejection, and death, ending in the greatest persecution of all:  The Holocaust.
At last, they were given a land to call home in 1948 when the State of Israel was born.
During that 2,000 year period, the non-Jewish nations of the world believed the message of the Gospel and were saved in droves.  They went throughout the world preaching the Gospel to others, bringing great joy to God’s heart.  It softened the rejection that He felt from His own people.
Today, HALLELUJAH, many Jewish people are discovering that Jesus was, indeed, the Messiah for whom they had waited so long and that they missed their first visitation.  The Church is now comprised of both saved Jewish and non-Jews alike!
The men in the boat who threw Jonah overboard are a picture of the Jewish people in their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah.  As soon as he went into the sea, it became completely calm. Afterward, as you know, he was swallowed by a great fish, was in its belly for 3 days, and then spit out onto the land.
First and foremost, this depicts Jesus in His death, being in the “Belly of the earth for three days.” The sea is a depiction of the nations of the world, meaning Gentiles.  Fish are typically a picture of individual believers.  But what swallowed Jonah was a GREAT FISH, in whose belly he was for three days.
Who has had Jesus primarily all to themselves for 2,000 years?  The Church!  We are the ones who have fed on or “Swallowed” Jesus for 2,000 years.  Are we filled with the Holy Spirit?  YES!!!…..and Jonah’s name in Hebrew, “Ionah,” means “Dove.”
I submit to you that this GREAT FISH is a Holy Spirit picture of the Church that feeds on Jesus and in whom lives the Spirit of the Living God:  The Dove: Ionah!
So now, maybe the Story of Jonah doesn’t seem so curious after all.

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