Jonah 1:1-3

Dr. Steve Viars January 17, 1998 Jonah 1:1-3

- This morning we’re beginning a brand new series on the book of Jonah.
- We’ve selected this particular portion of Scripture for this particular time in the life of our
church for a definite series of reasons.
- We said to you last week that the area of our church life that we really want to emphasize
this year is the matter of outreach and evangelism.
- Many of us would say that we’re not satisfied with where we are when it comes to the matter
of telling other men and women about Jesus Christ.....
- about being faithful to the Great Commission....
- about being a good Ambassador for Christ....
- about clearly, and compassionately proclaiming the gospel....the good news of
salvation available to all who will repent and believe.
- and we’re not nervous, by the way...about saying that we believe we need to work on that....
- we don't think for a minute that we are a perfect church, or that we are perfect people...
- in fact, we don't even think that God expects that of us today....
- God doesn’t expect us to be perfect...instead He expects us to be? (GROWING)
- and we find growing in our relationship with God to be a thrilling thing....and we recognize
that you can’t take steps of growth....unless you’re willing to admit ways you need to do
- so admitting that we have areas we want to work on isn’t a bad thing....its a good thing.
- well, if we believe we want to emphasize “reaching out” to those the Lord has placed around
you....then one of the places we would naturally turn to in God’s Word is the book of
- this is the great OT missionary story.
- now, perhaps the first challenge is finding the book.
- I’ve heard pages rustling so some have already found it.....
- the bottom line is, Jonah is the 8th book from the end of the OT.
- if you need to look up its location in the index in the back of your Bible, please go right
- Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations,
Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah.....
- now, I hope the thought of improving your outreach....or of potentially having a positive
spiritual impact on someone the Lord has placed around you gets your motor running.
- God wants us to be the kind of people who have a personal relationship with Him......but then
who are helping others establish a personal relationship with Him.
- and few things are sadder than a person who either doesn’t care about those the Lord has
placed around them, or who doesn’t know how to help someone else establish a
relationship with God.
- Last Wednesday night we had our Annual Meeting, and then I had another meeting I got home around 10 o’clock.
- I sat down as I often do to look at the paper and I turned on the TV.
- The show that was on was Chicago Hope....many of you have probably seen that show.
- What caught my attention was that the episode was about heaven.
- it started with one of the surgeons, Kate Austin having a conversation about what happens
after you die.
- here’s this little girl, with big eyes, looking up at her mommy and saying....Mom, do we
believe in heaven?
- and Dr. Austin hem haws around....and then says....well, honey, I don’t really know....
- but I don't believe there’s a heaven.....what I think happens is that we die, and then we
become nutrients for the ground, and that feeds the grass, and then the cows eat the
grass....and the whole cycle repeats itself....
- in the next scene, Dr. Austin’s daughter gets trapped in an elevator with another Doctor’s
son, an orderly taking a dead body to the morgue, and Jack McNeil, who’s also a surgeon.
- the conversation pretty quickly turns to what’s going to happen to the man who’s body is in
the elevator.
- and of course Dr. Austin’s daughter announces....well, there’s no heaven....his body
becomes nutrients for the ground....the nutrients feed the grass, the grass feeds the
cows....and the whole cycle starts over again.
- the other doctor’s son becomes livid.....there’s no heaven?
- so here’s Jack McNeil...with those children in the elevator....a dead body....having to say
- so he finally comes up with this.....well, belief is a powerful if you believe
something hard enough, then it becomes true for you.
- as I watched that episode unfold, I was struck with how sad it face the ultimate
questions of life....and have no answers from the Word of God.
- and I realize that you may be here this morning and would say...but I don’t even have a
personal relationship with God myself could I have a positive spiritual impact on
someone else....we’ll talk specifically about that in a little bit.
- someone else might say --- well, I don’t know exactly what I would have said to those two
children....I probably would have done a little better than Kate Austin or Jack McNeil....but
not much better....this book of Jonah is for you.
- this book can help us have a positive spiritual impact on the lives of others if we will let it.
- with that in mind, let’s read the first three verses...READ
- now, I have to tell you something at this point that you may not like....
- in order to benefit from these verses we’re studying this morning, and really from this entire have to know a little bit of history, and a little bit of geography....
- now please don’t say...AhHaa, I knew it.
- I knew this was going to be boring, and irrelevant and way over my head.....
- hang on a minute...I’ve designed the next couple of minutes for the person who has never
been in church before, or who has never studied the Bible before....if you’re further along
than that...that’s a bonus...but everything I’m about to say can be understood by anyone
who really wants to understand it.
- now, would you like the history first, the geography first, or have it mixed together?
- let’s mix it together....its kind of like corn and potatoes, if you have to eat em you might as
well mix them together.
- now we need to take you to Israel...and since we can’t afford to fly everyone over there, we’ll
just transform the auditorium to Israel.
- now let’s assume the pulpit is north (that’s technically not true....but just play along)
- in Israel, there’s a big body of water in the south, a smaller body of water in the north,
connected by a river....
- what’s the big body of water in the south? (Dead Sea)
- what’s the river? (Jordan River)
- what’s the body of water in the north? (Sea of Galilee) --- repeat.....
- now, while we’re talking about water....there’s also a much bigger body of water to the west
which is called....the Mediterranean Sea.
- Many of the Biblical events, both old and NT, take place right here.
- here’s a very brief historical sketch.
1) The nation of Israel began in genesis chapter 12.
- God came to a man and made a three-fold promise/covenant to him.
- the provisions of that covenant were, “land, seed, and blessing”
- I will multiply your seed into a nation, I will give you a promised land, and I will bless you”
- What was that man’s name?
- Abraham, and that took place in approximately 2100 BC.
2) The rest of the book of Genesis tells about the next three great leaders, or patriarchs of
Israel...and their names....
- Abraham.....Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
3) At the end of the book of Genesis, the children of Israel found themselves living in a result of the famine.
- they were in bondage to Egypt for 400 years....
- and then God raised up a man to deliver them out of Egypt who’s name was....Moses.
- One of the key events during that time was the parting the Red Sea....and that took
place in approximately 1445 BC
4) The next leader after Moses was named Joshua......
- and he actually led Israel into the promised land.
5) Next came the period of the judges....and after that the period of the kings.
6) Who was the first king of Israel? Saul....and he reigned when approximately?...1040 BC
7) Who was the 2nd king of Israel? David....approximately 1000 BC
8) And who reigned after him?
- Solomon.
- very important...especially for what we’re studying in this series....was what transpired after
- because the Bible tells us that the nation of Israel divided.....into the northern and southern
kingdom.....about 930 BC
- the southern kingdom came up to the top of the Dead Sea...they were renamed Judah....and
they kept their capital in Jerusalem (also at the northern point of the Dead Sea)
- the northern kingdom kept the name Israel....and they set up a rival capital, and even a rival
system of worship in the city of Samaria (middle way between Dead Sea and Sea of
Galilee..a little to the left)....
- this is why in the NT times, the Jews hated the Samaritans....but that’s getting ahead
of the story.
- now what we have is this...God’s chosen nation....the one He made all these promises
to....was divided....was for the most part living in very sinful ways.
- you say...what did God do?
- 2 things.....
1) For one, He sent the?....prophets to encourage the people to repent.
- much of the Old Testament contains the words of the prophets....
- some of them ministered to the southern Isaiah and Jeremiah and
- some ministered in the northern kingdom, like Hosea, Amos, and Jonah.
- Ah Haa...Did someone say Jonah?
- Jonah ministered to which kingdom (northern or southern)...northern.
- and he served in the late 700’s BC.
- Now let me ask you a question that is critical for our study this morning....
- Is what we have recorded for us in the book of Jonah the first time Jonah’s name occurs in
the Bible....and is the first prophecy he gave?
- Yes or no?
- No.
- Do you know where the first place Jonah is mentioned in the Bible, and what kind of
prophecy he gave?....Would you like to?
- II Kings 14:24..please turn over there in your Bible (may want to keep you hand in Jonah)
- here’s the first prophecy recorded in the Bible from the lips of Jonah....and when we compare
this to what God tells him to do in the book of Jonah, we’re going to learn a very important
lesson about serving God.
- read II Kings 14:24-27
- now, here’s the short version of what we just read.....
- the king of the northern kingdom and the people of the northern kingdom, were behaving in a
very sinful fashion....
- but God chose to bless them allow them to recapture some of the territory
they had previously motivate them to repent and return to God.
- and the prophet God used to predict that great news to his people was....a man
named Jonah.
- so what does this tell us?
- Jonah’s first assignment in serving God was pretty cushy.
- go minister to your own people....and give them the message that good days are ahead....
- because God is a God of mercy, he is going to bless the nation in a phenomenal way in
order to help you to repent.
- that news would have made him the hometown hero...and that’s exactly what his early
ministry was like.
- I said earlier that when the nation divided....God did two things.....
- one was...send his prophets....
- but do you know what the second thing was.....
- he also allowed Pagan nations to rise up...that would have eventually be used as an
instrument of judgment on Israel if they didn’t repent.
- do you know who the emerging power was when Jonah was prophesying.....a nation named
- located north....up here by the organ.....
- the Jews hated them.....they were known for being cruel, and mean, and ruthless.....
- and interestingly enough, one of the PRINCIPLE cities of this godless nation was the city of
- now, with all of that in mind, let’s go back to these first three verses of the book, and look for
three lessons about serving the God of Heaven.

I. Sometimes Servants of God Must Do Things They Don’t Feel Like Doing.

- Any Israelite reading this book would only have to get to the word Ninevah before drawing
a very obvious conclusion.
- OhOhhhh......
- Clearly God is asking Jonah to do something that he doesn’t want to do.
- No Jewish prophet would want to go to Ninevah.....
- As I said a moment ago....they were known for being evil and wicked and cruel.....
- In fact, let me ask you to turn over a couple of books to Nahum.
- Jonah, Micah, will probably just be a couple of pages in your Bible.
- here’s an OT description of the city of Ninevah and her inhabitants.
- READ Nahum 3:1, 19.
[could develop --- should have been thankful for the fact that God was revealing His Word
to / through him -- cf. previous written notes]
- point of all this is --- Sometimes servants of God must do things that they don’t feel like
- and that leads us to an obvious question --- What is God telling you to do right now that
you don’t really feel like doing....and are you doing it anyway/
- now when you understand, when I say, What is God telling you to do.....I’m not asking what
He’s whispering in your ear....
- God speaks to us today through His Word....
- the days of special revelation are over...we don’t need more revelation from God because
He’s given us a book that is sufficient....
- But He has certainly given us plenty of instruction in His Word....and I’m asking....what has
God told you to be doing in His Word that you don’t really feel like doing...and are you
doing it anyway?
- do you that’s part and parcel of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.....
- Not my will, but thine be done....
- By this we know that we know Him if we keep His commands....
- the situation raised in the book of Jonah is a situation that God’s people face all the
time....and I’m asking you....How are you handling it?
1) For example, you may be a husband this morning....and God has told you some very
definite things in His Word about that role.....
- you are to love your wife like Christ loved the church....
- that means that you sacrifice for your wife....
- that means you seek to give to your wife....
- that means she’s the number one person, and the number one thing in your life
humanly speaking.....
- there’s not any question in your mind, there’s not any question in anyone else’s
mind about who or what you love the most.....
- that means your sports are secondary to her.....
- your job is secondary to her....
- your hobbies are secondary....
- and for the husband who would say....I’m not sure I like that....
- the response would be....welcome to the life of Jonah....
- Sometimes servants of God have to do things that they don’t really feel like
- are you willing to be that kind of servant?
2) Another example is the Christian wife.....
- God has ordained that a wife would submit to her husband’s leadership....
- it doesn’t mean that he’s smart and you’re dumb....
- it doesn’t mean that he’s spiritual and you’re not....
- it doesn’t mean any of those things.....
- it does mean that in a marriage, there has to be someone who has the ax over his
- someone who has the authority to make the final call....
- and God has ordained that the husband would occupy that position......
- now husbands have to be submissive to God, and submissive to their boss, and
submissive to policemen, submissive to their leaders at its not just a
ladies’ issue.....
- but every wife has to deal with this issue in the home....
- and every one of us struggles with this matter in the relationships in which we must be
- the question is -- do you understand that sometimes servants of God must do things they
don't feel like doing....are you willing to be that kind of servant.
3) For the young people here this morning....God says that there are two operative words that
describe the way young people are to function in the home....
- honor and obey.....
- it doesn’t matter what the world says about that.....
- it doesn’t matter what other young people are doing....
- it doesn’t even matter how you might feel about the matter...
- in fact that’s the very point.... What is God telling you to do right now that you don’t really feel
like doing....and are you doing it anyway?
- the second lesson that flows out of this text is.....

II. God Loves and is Concerned About People Who Are Sinning.

- the hardest thing to believe about the book of Jonah is not the part about Jonah being
swallowed by the fish.
- the hardest thing to believe is God’s patience and mercy and love for the people of
Ninevah, and his patience and mercy and love for his prophet Jonah.
- that is one of the central issues of this book.....
- God loves people....and Jonah, his servant didn’t.
- In verse 2, you may have noticed the way God described Ninevah to Jonah.
- What did he call it?
- that “great city”
- and apparently that description was important because it occurs several more times in
this short book....
- look at chapter 3, verse 1-2 -- READ
- we see it again in verse 3 -- READ
- what was the significance of God calling this city “great”?
- the answer comes in chapter 4 verse 11 - READ
- Ninevah was a great city in the mind of God because of the great number of people there.
- Were they sinful? Yes.
- Were they evil? Yes.
- Were they wicked? Yes.
- So did God want them wiped off the face of the earth? -- No
- Did God hate every last thing about them? -- No
- God wanted someone to love them enough to carry a message of repentance and
faith to them.
- God wanted them to repent and believe so they would not some day have to face His
- A great verse that goes along with this idea is Jeremiah 18:7-8
- here’s what it says.....
At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to
pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I
will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.
- Point is -- God loves and is concerned about people who are sinning.
- Now let’s pause there for a minute and try to make some specific applications.....
- I’m wondering about the person that may be here this morning who doesn’t know Christ
Jesus as Lord and Savior....who doesn’t have a personal relationship with God.....
- are you “latching on” to what we’re learning from this text.
- and you might have been thinking...well, God just hates me.....
- or I’ve messed up so bad that God can’t use me.....
- in fact I’ve viewed God as having His hammer of judgment of me and He can’t just wait to
let it fall....
- listen, I can prove to you that that view is wrong...and I can do it with one word.....
- Jesus.
- If God didn’t care and you, and God didn’t love you.....then explain why He sent His be born of a virgin, to live a sinless life, to die on the cross to pay for your sins
and mine....and then make the free gift of salvation possible for all who will repent and
- and its not a matter that He’s going to wink at sin, or overlook sin....He’s far to holy for
- but He’s made a way for your sin to be that you can have a personal
relationship with God.
- and I hope you’ll learn a lesson from the life of the prophet Jonah.....
- if God was patient and merciful and loving with a city like Ninevah....He’ll be patient and
merciful and loving with a person like you.
- and friend....isn’t it time you trusted Him?
- Isn’t time you established a personal relationship with Him?
- Isn’t time that you repent of your sin and place your faith and belief in Him as your Lord
and savior?
- I want to invite you to do that today.
- John 3:16-17 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the
world through him might be saved.
- now, for those who are believers here this morning....there’s a clear question that flows out of
all of this....
- when it comes to people who don't know the Lord...are you like God, or are you like Jonah.
- God loved them, and wanted the message to be communicated to them, and wanted them to
repent and that they wouldn’t be judged.....
- Jonah hated them, and thought he was better than them, and had no interest in carrying the
message to them, and would be happy if they were judged so they got what they
- I’m asking you....which one are you like?
- you know, believers, if we’re not careful....can really get off when it comes to our relationship
to those who don't know the Lord.
- Believers can be very antagonistic.....
- believers can be very proud....
- Believers can be very judgmental....
- believers can be very mean....
- believers can be very harsh....very unloving......
- very much like Jonah the prophet.....
- I’m better than those pagans and I don't want then getting me dirty.
- you know, we have some folks in our town who say they’re believers but who seem to like
nothing more than to get in a fight with the pagans.....and to keep things stirred up with the
- and I understand what the Scripture says about being salt and light....but some Christians
seem to want to be salt, pepper, garlic salt, and a little arsenic.
- people are not won by antagonism.......they’re not one by being talked down to....they’re not
won by harshness, or pride.....
- and that’s not certainly not the way God views unbelievers or treats them.
- in fact, as you read the Bible, God’s harshest words re reserved for people who say they are
His children but walk in ways that are hypocritical, legalistic, and self-righteous.
- It wasn’t the tax collectors and sinners that bore the brunt of Christ’s was the
self-righteous pious Pharisees....and if we’re not careful, we can be like them.
- this year marks the 25th anniversary of Roe V Wade.....or the legalization of abortion in our
- and its a terrible thing to think about that evil practice and the millions of precious lives that
have been taken.
- But some believers seem to be more worked up about what the unbelievers are doing with
their children than what we ought to be doing with ours.
- or more worked up about what the unbelievers are doing with their hands than what we are
doing with our hearts.
- Let me ask you this.....if you had the opportunity to talk to someone involved in the abortion
in our town about the blood of Jesus Christ, and the free gift of salvation that was available
through trusting Him.....
- if it was in your power for that to happen and that person becoming one of your
brothers or sisters in Christ and sitting in the pew right next to you in church....
- would you share the message with a person like that or would you just as soon they
went through life without hearing the message so they could face the full force of
God’s wrath in a terrible place called hell?
- friend, are you like God, or are you like Jonah.
- what about the issue of homosexuality.
- we’re against that practice because the Bible says that its sin.
- but does that mean we can hate homosexuals?
- does that mean we can sit around and make jokes about them?
- does that mean we can beat them up at school?
- does that mean we can laugh at them at work?
- see, is it OK to despise people because of a particular lifestyle that you find repulsive?
- if you had the opportunity to talk to someone involved in homosexuality in our town about the
blood of Jesus Christ, and the free gift of salvation that was available through trusting
- if it was in your power for that to happen and that person becoming one of your
brothers or sisters in Christ and sitting in the pew right next to you in church....
- would you share the message with a person like that or would you just as soon they
went through life without hearing the message so they could face the full force of
God’s wrath in a terrible place called hell?
- see, are you like God...or are you like Jonah?
- and I wonder if some of us have not been as faithful as we could have in evangelism
because we have not cultivated the love for lost people that the God of heaven possesses
and calls us to possess?
- Friend, are you like God, or are you like Jonah?
- Now you might say...I’m not sure I like this assignment.
- I’m not sure I like the fact that God wants me to love those He’s placed around me, and to tell
them the good news about Jesus Christ.....
- I think I’m going to run away from this....
- well, that brings us to the third principle of the morning:

III. You Can’t Get Away From God By Running

- God told Jonah to go to Ninevah....and Jonah started heading the other way.
- and the text makes it very clear because its repeated twice in these first three verses....
- Jonah was going to run so far that he would be away from the presence of the Lord.
- you say---that’s irrational.
- rejection of the Word of God makes one irrational.
- many men and women today are trying to run from God.
- they run from job to job.....
- from relationship to relationship....
- from town to town....
- sometimes even from church to church.....
- but God is omnipresent.....
- running from Him in rebellion and unbelief doesn’t work....
- running to Him in repentance and trust does.
- isn’t it interesting, by the way, where Jonah ran to?
- Joppa....
- Do you remember where the city of Joppa is mentioned again in the Bible.....
- cf. Acts 10 -- Peter -- vision that communicated that the gospel was to be taken to the
- develop --- the doctrine of the omnipresence of God can also be a great comfort....especially
to those who seek to implement what we’re studying today.

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and five grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video