Calvary Road Baptist Church


Jonah 4

This morning I will be preaching from the Old Testament book of Jonah, so you can begin making your way to that small prophetic book at this time. Usually considered to be one of the so-called Minor Prophets because of its small size, the book of Jonah is only four chapters long. Despite the fact that the book of Jonah is known to most children who hear about him being swallowed by the specially prepared fish and then spit out on the beach three days later, most people who attend church donít know much about the man Jonah himself. The book of Jonah is very easy to read, and not difficult to understand. Yet most people still have little awareness of Jonah himself.

There is little doubt that Jonah was a historical figure. He is specifically named as a prophet of the LORD in Second Kings 14.25, as well as being referred to as a historical figure on several occasions by the Lord Jesus Christ when rejecting demands by His enemies that He show them a sign. In Matthew 12.38-41, for example, we read,

38     Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.

39     But he 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:

40     For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whaleís belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

41     The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

As well, in Matthew 16.1 to 4 we also read,

ďThe Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said . . . A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.Ē

So you see, in addition to strength of the book of Jonah itself and the inspiration of scripture, our confidence that Jonah was certainly a historical figure is guaranteed by the mention of him elsewhere in the Old Testament and by the Saviorís repeated mention of Him in connection with His Own anticipated resurrection from the dead.

This brings us back to the man Jonah himself. What was he like? We know that Godís chosen mouth pieces known as the prophets were not always consistently spiritual. Remember, Jeremiah became so discouraged by the stubbornness and refusal of the people to heed his prophetic warnings that he complained loudly to the LORD, who then reprimanded His servant.[1] David was a prophet of God, and we know his failings. Finally, there was the notorious Balaam, who sold his services to the Moabites in their opposition to the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings . . . before God allowed the Israelites to slay him.[2] Therefore, we conclude that while most of those who were called to be prophets of the most high God are shown to be truly godly individuals, we have seen that among the best of them there may be shown in scripture some to have had personal failings, with one of them being downright despicable.

To understand this, it must be remembered that the Spirit of the LORD is recorded as having come upon Balaam, as He later came upon the judges named Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, and even King Saul on the occasion that he prophesied.[3] Thus, the Holy Spiritís relationship with those men is somewhat different than Godís Word shows it to be with New Testament era saints and servants of God. Again, I raise the question about Jonah. What was Jonah like?

We will not read the whole of the book of Jonah, this morning. You can easily read the book yourself when you get home in about fifteen minutes. Therefore, allow me to make just a few more comments before zeroing in on the prophet Jonah. In broad strokes, the book of Jonah can be understood as a record of the events recorded in the passing of time, in first the passing of days, second the passing of minutes, third the passing of days, and finally the passing of hours. Within all this are recorded three miracles: The miracle of Jonah being swallowed and spit up by a great fish three days later, the miracle of the city of Nineveh repenting, and the miracle of the castor oil plant (translated gourd) growing over a single night.[4] The question I am interested in is Jonah. What about Jonah? Let us not become so concerned with the big picture issues of the book of Jonah, the miracle of being swallowed by a great fish and being spit out three days later (a wonderful type of the Lord Jesus Christís resurrection), the repentance of an entire city without any evidence of Jonah preaching anything but impending judgment, and the miracle of the shade tree springing up overnight, that we overlook the drama of this manís life.

Three things about Jonah unfold over the span of this short book:


The conflict is as obvious as it is common. Godís will is for Jonah to do one thing and the prophetís will is to do the opposite thing. Whose ought to prevail when there is conflict, Godís will or Jonahís will? God wants him to go overland to the East to Nineveh, so he goes to the West by ship. We will read about it shortly.

But first, we consider the matter. When has the conflict between Godís will and manís will not been the dominant feature of any human beingís life? It was the dominant feature of Adamís life, and of Eveís life. God granted permission for them to do anything they chose to do, save one thing. However, the one thing God forbade was the one thing they each chose to do, with the conflict between Adamís will and Godís will resulting in the catastrophic fall of all mankind into the sinful condition we now find ourselves in. Even before that, it was the conflict between the will of God and the will of His servant the beautiful angel Lucifer. God wanted his service to be rendered here, while Lucifer wanted to serve where the bright lights shined, in glory. You know how that turned out.

Consider every mother who has delivered a child into the world and ask that mom if she has experience with a conflict of wills. The newborn infant, long before anyone can reason with the unreasonable child or train the child whose faculties of sight, sound, speech, and coordination have not yet developed, almost immediately engages the mother in a contest of wills. Tragically, most unconverted women have not the wisdom to recognize the rebellious tendencies of their prized newborn for what they really are, because they are blinded by their own stubborn rebellion against God. The result? Too often the mother ends up yielding to her newborn in such things as sleep cycles, meal times, fits of temper, and other demands upon mom as a means of manipulating that large, comfortable, nurturing slave to do whatever the helpless but stubborn and strong-willed child wants her to do.

Where does this conflict of wills not reveal itself? The conflict can be seen in every school, especially with children whose parents are unconscious of the issue in the home. That is why, the first day I arrived as the pastor of the church and school, when asked what policy principles I wanted enforced, insisted on only one: The child must never be allowed to prevail in a contest of wills. I must say that in my 28 years here, as I look back on the departures of students prior to their graduation, there seems to me to almost always be some indications of surrender by parents to the childís will, for the purpose of attending a school that can be negotiated without doing the work prescribed in the PACEs. As well, the conflict can be seen in every work place, with many adult employees engaging in rules violations, quality assurance infractions, and even personal safety hazards that are little more in most cases than acting out on the decided determination to not do what the boss wants you to do, even if by doing so you add to your own risk of accident and injury.

Please recognize that Jonahís actions seem so very dramatic only because he is a prophet of God who has previously served God. However, now God directs him to do something he simply does not want to do. Therefore, finding himself in direct conflict with the will of God, he does what he chooses to do instead of what God has directed him to do. Jonah 1.1-3:

1      Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,

2      Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.

3      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.

This drama plays out in one way or the other in everyone elseís life, just like with Jonah. What comes next?


In the case of Jonah, the LORD acted some days after Jonahís rebellion, while he was at sea, by first sending a powerful storm and so frightening the sailors that Jonah was cast overboard, verse 15: ďSo they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea.Ē

At this point I must interject that for reasons found only in the mind of our sovereign God, He does not always conquer the will of someone who rebels against Him during the course of his lifetime. He certainly conquered Jonahís will, by subjecting him to drowning in a violent storm. He conquered the will of Saul of Tarsus, when the glorified Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus.[5] Abramís will was conquered, if I may use that term, by means of two events. He first appeared to him in His glory in Ur of the Chaldees and spoke to him.[6] Yet he was not justified by faith for another decade, when in response to his fear God appeared to him in vision, ďAnd he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.Ē[7] In the case of someone who is a believer in Jesus Christ, his will is usually subdued by means of a variety of experiences, with the preaching of Godís Word factored in in some way, as well as the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, all being useful to God to create in him a desire to be delivered from his sins through the salvation that only Jesus Christ provides. Then, when he wills to yield to the will of God and comes to faith in Christ, he is made a new creature and his sins are forgiven.[8] Some are saved from their sins during their childhood, while some are saved from their sins in adulthood. Some are saved from their sins with much time left in their life here on earth to serve God, while some are saved from their sins with little time remaining to serve God. On each occasion when God graciously works to deal with the sinful conflict of someoneís will the result is a great blessing to him.

It must be noted, however, that God does not always deal with the contrary will of someone who oppose Him. At least, not in this lifetime. Can it be said that while God has not yet addressed the contrary will of Satan to this point, He most certainly will? I think we can agree on that. After all, there is ďeverlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angelsĒ to keep in mind, Matthew 25.41. Remember, also, that those sinners who throughout their lives resist, oppose, and are contrary to the will of God ďshall go away into everlasting punishment,Ē Matthew 25.46.

As well, do you suppose there is any correlation between the way a childís will is dealt with by his parents when he is growing up and Godís dealings with his will regarding his attitude toward the gospel? I bring this up because of what we find in Proverbs 23.13-14. Let me read it to you and then make several comments:

13     Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

14     Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

First, may I point out that the beating of the child with a rod does not here refer to bullying or beating up a kid? Rather, it refers to administering chastisement with a slender rod that cannot cause actual harm, but does cause actual pain. This is the old fashioned spanking administered by a loving father or mother that makes a foolish and disobedient child cry. Notice that the intent, according to the first phrase of verse 13, is correction. The parent is correcting the attitude and conduct of the child, imposing the parentís will on the childís will. One thereby imposes compliance by bringing the child to tears, while at the same time not bringing anything remotely approaching physical harm to the child. This is not a belt buckle, a wire coat hanger, an extension cord, a hand, or a fist wielded in anger. The rod is an instrument of authority, calmly wielded by one in authority over the child as a means of exerting your will upon the will of the child. My friends, unless it is your desire to raise a self-centered, egotistical, domineering know-it-all brat, you will make use of calm, assured, determined, yet compassionate and steady-handed discipline of a disobedient child who will not otherwise comply with your directions. Notice that the final phrase of verse 14 reads, ďand shalt deliver his soul from hell.Ē Many commentators indicate their opinion that this refers to deliverance from the place of the dead, exactly parallel to verse 13. However, I am of the opinion that these two verses are not perfectly parallel, but feature an argument from lesser to greater, with physical death referred to in verse 13 and spiritual death referred to in verse 14. This is because a child raised by indulgent and permissive parents will have been trained by their ineptitude to yield his will to no one, to submit his will to no one. How, then, will such a child (or later, as an adult) come to yield his will to Almighty God? Some parents are unknowingly preparing their children for eternal Hellfire by the way they raise them, to be self-centered, to be stubbornly obnoxious, and to be rebelliously strong-willed even to God-ordained authority.

For most people who go overboard in a violent storm, it is the end. For Jonah, however, it was the means by which God conquered his will. Want your own way, even if it costs you your life? My goodness, how far God was willing to go to bring about a change in Jonahís mind and heart. In the main, Jonah chapter two is a record of Jonah changing his mind to conform to Godís will. Look to Jonah 2.9, where there is every indication that, losing consciousness and in the belly of the great fish, Godís will was embraced by Jonah:

ďBut I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD

Why three days and three nights in the fishís belly? It probably took that long for the fish to swim from where Jonah was thrown overboard back to the coast line where he could be safely puked out, verse 10: ďAnd the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.Ē More importantly, however, was Godís plan, from before the foundation of the earth, from eternity past, to raise His beloved Son from the dead on the third day.[9] It is so wonderful that Jesus Christ died an atonement for my sins. However, had He not risen from the dead, it would have all been for naught.


Supposing that Jonah 2.9, when he spoke the words of repentance, or thought them while losing consciousness in the belly of the great fish, show us the conquest of his will, then what proceeds after verse 9 is compliance. God delivers him alive on the beach, verse 10. Then he is recommissioned, Jonah 3.1-2:

1      And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying,

2      Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.

So, the prophet of God, having been thoroughly disciplined, probably looking like death warmed over from 72 hours in the stomach bile of the fish, does precisely what God told him to do. However, when you think of it, isnít that what a prophet is supposed to do? A prophet is a human mouthpiece for God, speaking the words God tells him to speak, when, where, and to whom the LORD tells him to speak. It is not required that the prophet of God be clever, particularly intelligent, or in any way creative with his message. He is supposed to simply tell it like it is. Jonahís problem was that he did not want to. Not any of it. Not the words, or the place, or the time, or the people. That is why he ran away.

Such is the reason, I suppose, that although Jonah did precisely what God directed, and the results were stupendous by any measure, Jonah ended up angry. Jonah 4.1:

ďBut it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.Ē

Quite possibly the greatest miracle of revival in the entire Word of God, certainly in Old Testament times, and the prophet was furious. In verses 2-3, he prays and tells God of his anger for dealing so graciously with the Ninevites, which was the reason he first fled as he did, and now he wants God to just kill him. He is so angry over God blessing Israelís enemies that he just wants to die. Notice how God talks to him, in verse 4:

ďThen said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?Ē

So Jonah leaves the city, finds a vantage point to see what is going on in the city, makes himself some shade, and sits down, verse 5. Apparently, the terrible heat of that region in the summer was affecting Jonah, and provided occasion for the LORD to address his anger. Thus begins a round of events that takes us to the end of the book.

Key to understanding Godís dealings with Jonah, in my opinion, is to recognize and identify what is really taking place. First, understand that Jonah is pouting. He is mad and feeling sorry for himself for not getting his way. He has recently been miraculously delivered by God, recommissioned by God, and most wonderfully used by God, for which he pouts because it is not what he wanted. God deals with him by means of a plant that He grows up overnight to provide shade from the hot sun. Jonah likes that plant God miraculously gave life and vigor to that shades him. He is happy for God to get His way in that instance, verse 6. However, when God decided to use a worm to wither Jonahís shade, to then send a strong east wind under the hot sun that caused him to faint, once more he wanted to die. He ďsaid, It is better for me to die than to live.Ē Sounds like we may have a man here whose mommy let him always get his way, doesnít it? In verse 9, God asked him about his anger once more,

ďDoest thou well to be angry. . . ? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.Ē

If I may sum up verses 10-11, the LORD then drew a comparison for Jonah, between the shade tree He had grown and then withered, and the city of Nineveh, and how invested Jonah was in the welfare of a plant and how callous he was concerning the welfare of a whole city populated by people with eternal and undying souls. All this adds up to Jonah pouting. However, notice that the reason he pouts is the reason everyone who pouts resorts to pouting, he didnít get his own way about something. Happy when God was pleased to provide him comforting shade, he was thoroughly disgusted when God did not give him his way, even though it was the salvation of huge numbers of people.

Let me bring this home to the pouter, and to the crybaby, as well to the person who lives in a constant state of depression and discouragement. Pouting is not a disease. Being a crybaby is not a disease. Neither is discouragement or depression a disease. Clinical depression, so-called, is not a disease. These various things are really improper responses to sinful behavior.[10] You heard me. Pastors and mature Christians have been successfully dealing such issues as these for 2000 years, more than 1800 years before Freud and his cohorts came along in their attempt to trade personal responsibility and the feelings that result from misconduct for a medical model approach to such things that enables the guilty parties to blame others for their condition, be it other individuals or whole segments of society.

Jonah was engaging in pouting, pure and simple. I am surprised he didnít hold his breath, or fall down on the ground and throw a fit. I can imagine him pushing out his lower lip, if there was anyone about who could see what he was doing. God, who looks on the heart, could certainly see what was going on with His prophet, and He graciously challenged him about it to show him that he was completely off base, and totally unjustified. Did Jonah care? Of course not. Pouters donít care. If they cared about anyone else other than themselves they wouldnít be pouters. Another thing that shows Jonah didnít care, was his utter lack of concern about the souls of the men, women, and children in that great city Nineveh.

And isnít that just like pouters? Pouters donít care what influence they have on other people. They have no concern about the effect they have on others who are exposed to the truth of Godís Word, the pitiful example they set for others to follow, the tragic doubts that fill the minds of those who love and live with gospel rejecting pouters. We know the prophet Isaiah was married.[11] We know the prophet Ezekiel was married.[12] We know the prophet Hosea was married.[13] We know God specifically told Jeremiah not to marry.[14] Was Jonah married? Did he have children? Possibly, to both questions. If he had a wife, how do you suppose his pouting affected and influenced her spiritual condition? He didnít care. Pouters donít care. If he had children, how do you suppose his selfish and childish antics when he didnít get his way affected his kids? Iím telling you, pouters donít care.

What Jonah should have done, and what pouters, crybabies, the discouraged, and the depressed need to do is repent of their wicked sin of thinking they ought to get what they want and also thinking they have a right to throw a tantrum when they donít get their way. And while you are at it, repent of the wickedness of daring to get angry with the all-wise God. Then, when you realize who you are and who God is, just maybe you will end up saved from your sins and in a position to begin undoing some of the terrible damage you have inflicted on others by your pouting.

[1] See footnote for Jeremiah 15.19 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1085.

[2] Numbers 22-24; 31.8

[3] Numbers 24.2; Judges 3.10; 6.34; 11.29; 14.19; 1 Samuel 10.10

[4] Fauna and Flora of the Bible, Second Edition, [New York: United Bible Societies, 1980), pages 106-107.

[5] Acts 9.6

[6] Genesis 12.1-3; Acts 7.2-3

[7] Genesis 15.1-6

[8] John 5.40; 6.44; 16.8-11; 1.12-13; 2 Corinthians 5.17

[9] 1 Corinthians 15.4

[10] A convincing treatment of this subject of the Medical Model approach to mental illness as opposed to the Biblical approach to addressing personal sin and its consequences is found in Jay E. Adams, Competent To Counsel, (Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library, 1970).

[11] Isaiah 8.3

[12] Ezekiel 24.18

[13] Hosea 1.3

[14] Jeremiah 16.2

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