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Title: Studies in

Studies in Jonah
Jonah 02
THE GRACE OF GOD Jonah Chap 1 v4-17
Jonah 02
God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, the capital
city of Assyria and to the enemy of his people,
in order to preach to them. Jonah didnt want to
be a missionary to the Assyrians and bought a
package cruise to Spain instead.
1. Is he indifferent to rebellion? 2. Does God
act in judgement blotting Jonah out? 4. Does he
make Jonah redundant or give him a menial job? 3.
Does he turn his back on Jonah and send someone
else instead? No! God responds in none of these
ways. He meets Jonah's rebellion with his grace.
Grace is God's favour at work where it is most
needed and least deserved. Grace is God reaching
out to people who are so stubborn that they will
not turn to him and so deaf that they will not
hear him. Grace is Gods initiative and
determination to bless us despite our constant
rebellion and failure.
Because God is a God of persevering grace, we
find him pursuing Jonah up and down the
shipping-lanes of the Mediterranean. What an
amazing picture this is!
Instead of washing his hands of his disobedient
prophet, God surrounds his life v4, with a
violent storm to shake the man to his senses.
God pursues us when we least deserve to be
In Lk. 15v1ff Jesus illustrates this quality of
persevering grace in the story he told of the
shepherd who discovered that although he had 99
sheep safely in his fold one was missing. Did
the shepherd think, "Why should I bother going
out in a dark wild night to recover one stupid
sheep, 99 are safely home and that enough? No!
He trekked over hills and valleys until he found
it and brought it safely home. He didn't give
As a child on his mothers knee God began to
speak to John Newtons heart. But Newton had no
interest in God. He went to sea and eventually
became the captain of a ship engaged in slave
trading. He became a drunkard and blasphemer.
Then his ship was broken up in a storm. As he
clung on to a piece of driftwood he cried to God
for help and sought the forgiveness of his sin.
His life was saved and years after his conversion
he looked back upon God's perseverance with him
and wrote the famous hymn, "Amazing Grace".
How did Jonah respond to Gods persevering grace
which clearly should have shaken him to his
senses? While heathen sailors prayed v5 Jonah
slept the drugged sleep of the indifferent. God
was pursuing Jonah through a violent storm and
all he could do was yawn and turn over. He would
quickly stifle any thought that God was behind
the storm. Do we not also quickly rationalise
the storms of life and find perfectly logical
explanations for them rather than ask, 'What is
God trying to say to me through this?'
Jonah refused to face up to the danger he was in.
It took a pagan captain not only to confront him
with the realities of the storm but also to call
him to his spiritual duties v6. How often the
children of God are exposed to the shame and
indignity of having unbelieving heathens instruct
them, cf. Gen 12.17ff, 20.8ff. In their
backsliddenness the people of God can easily
lose ALL spiritual perception.
The methods God uses to pursue us in our
rebellion cause many to gasp. Was a frightening,
storm of this intensity really necessary and does
it reflect the gracious heart of God? God's grace
is a disciplining grace. Grace and discipline
are not mutually exclusive. We must never
confuse grace with indulgence! If a father
permitted his children to break all the house
rules and terrorise the neighbourhood , greeting
them only with an indulgent smile would we think
that he loved this children? Of course not!
God loves us too fiercely to allow us to
shipwreck of our lives unchallenged, cf. Heb.
12.7-11. The storm was God's discipline for
Jonah. It was the operating table upon which he
intended to perform corrective soul surgery on
his wayward prophet. Many of lifes painful
experiences, are Gods way of gaining our
attention, in order to change the direction of
our life and shape our character.
In Jonah's case God was seeking to deal with the
prophet's pride and prejudice and produce
compassion in his heart for the people of
Nineveh. In v7 we read that the sailors cast
lots to find out who had been responsible for the
storm the lot fell on Jonah, who then became the
focus of their attention and questioning.
Notice, that Jonah does not tell them, why he was
running away from God or confess his rebellion of
heart. Why? Because he is not yet ready to return
to a place of obedience. He knew he was
responsible for the storm but at this stage there
is no evidence of repentance or genuine sorrow.
Had Jonah said, "Turn the boat around I must
preach at Nineveh", surely the sea would have
immediately calmed! But Jonah refused to allow
the discipline of the storm to work submissive
obedience in his heart. And, by asking to be
thrown into the sea v 12, he revealed a
perversity of heart that said, "I would rather
die than be obedient". Many backsliders say to
God, "Id rather be a castaway than obedient".
One might expect God's grace to give up on Jonah
and let him drown in the sea of his rebellion.
But Gods grace has an irresistible quality about
it. For without violating man's freewill God is
able to create circumstances that cause him to
capitulate to God. The provision of the great
fish in v17 provides the circumstance for Jonah's
capitulation. This great fish, possibly a sperm
whale, is certainly the most criticised fish to
swim in the Mediterranean.
In Encyclopaedia Britannica we read that in 1891
while a group of harpooners were pursuing a
whale, one of them was thrown overboard and
disappeared. Some days later the whale was
caught and when it was cut open, James Bartley,
the lost seaman was found alive inside. We must
not be distracted by the great fish, lest we fail
to see the hand of God. For the true miracle
took place not in the stomach of the fish but in
the heart of the prophet. Not in the realm of
nature but in the realm of grace. God's fish
simply provided the background against which the
prophet was brought to repentance.
There is a remarkable irony in this passage,
which records the conversion of the heathen.
God's grace triumphs in the pagans hearts before
it does so in the prophets heart. Perhaps
Jonah had despised the heathen seamen earlier
when they called upon their false gods for help?
But the seamen are the first to respond to the
living God and his chastening storm cf v16
Jonah had unwittingly been instrumental in their
conversion! As they submit their hearts in
worship, Jonah continues to rebel.
The sailors did not commit themselves to God in
the panic of the storm but at a time of calm when
they were conscious of their safety. At the
point of Jonahs greatest stubbornness God works
in the hearts of the heathen sailors. Jonah knew
nothing of their conversion. It is sobering to
think that God often finds a readier response in
the hearts of the heathen than in the hearts of
those who profess his name.
Ponder the richness of the grace of God. The
storm may not have brought about an immediate
change in Jonah, though it served its purpose in
Gods ultimate triumph. It touched the lives of
others and led to their salvation. Might the
same be true of the storms that touch our lives?
Do unbelieving men and women recognise the hand
of God more quickly and respond more positively
to it than we do?
How many of us can look back with gratitude in
our hearts to a God of grace who has pursue us in
our waywardness? But we must not allow the
irresistible character of God's grace to lull us
into a false sense of security in our
disobedience causing us to say, God's grace
will find a way to draw me back to himself For
this very reason the N.T. warns against,
receiving the grace of God in vain (1 Cor. 6. 1),
and of frustrating the grace of God (Gal 1.2),
and of missing the grace of God (Heb, 12.15).
God's grace is there to be engaged and responded
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