Given at the Feast of Tabernacles 2014
Nathanial, Age 19
How’s everybody doing today? We’re going to have fun today. This is going to be nice.
If you will turn to the Book of Jonah, I’m going to be talking a lot from this book today. I’m sure everyone here is pretty familiar with the story so … Yahweh called Jonah to go to Nineveh and speak to the people about repenting for their sins, but he did not want to go, so he decided to go to a different city. Yahweh got mad, there was a storm, threw him overboard, he ended up in a whale, fish—something like that—for three days and three nights. The whale threw him up and he went to Nineveh and talked. People ended up repenting.
The story of Jonah is very interesting and it has a lot to say to people. A lot of people have a hard time swallowing the story of Jonah and it’s because their concept of Yahweh is way too small. If you have a small concept, you are going to have a hard time understanding the story of Jonah. So, I’ll tell this story real quick.
There’s a girl and she was preaching, she was in public school and it was during lunchtime and she had her Bible out and she was talking to some of her friends and the teacher came up and he’s an atheist. He’s like, well, “So you actually believe that Bible?”
She goes, “Yes, I do believe the Bible is true. I believe everything that is in it.”
He says, “Do you believe the story of Jonah?”
She says, “Yes, Jonah is in the Bible. I do believe that.”
He said, “What did Jonah eat for three days and three nights?”
She said, “I don’t know, but when I get to heaven, I will ask him.”
“Well, what if he’s not going to heaven?”
She said, “Well, then, you can ask him.”
Bad joke, bad joke….
Seriously, though, a lot of people have a hard time thinking that Yahweh can do something like this.
Who here knows about submarines? Everyone is familiar with submarines. So, try telling the story this way:
There’s a little boy who was in Bible class one day and he came home and Mom wants to know what he learned that day.
He said, “Man, I learned the craziest story. There was a man named Jonah and Yahweh called on him to preach and he didn’t want to. He was on this ship going the other way and he got thrown overboard. Then a submarine popped up and he got into the submarine and he was in the submarine for three days and three nights. Then the submarine drove over and dumped him off by Nineveh.”
His Mom said, “Now is that really what the teacher told you?” He says, “Noooo, but if I told you what she told me, you would never have believed it.”
Like I said, a lot of people have a hard time getting it. But, if you can believe the submarine story, but not the story of Yahweh and the whale or fish, there is a problem. That is saying that man’s capacity is greater than Yahweh’s. If we can do it, then Yahweh can do it a hundred times over. Yahweh can do everything we can do times a lot.
There’s definitely a lot of miracles in this story, the biggest one probably being Jonah 1:17,
Now Yahweh had appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah 2:10, Then Yahweh commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah on the dry land.
That’s a pretty big miracle.
And then, Jonah 1:6, this is when Jonah is on the boat, headed to Tarsus and the captain says, How is it that you are sleeping? I think that is a pretty good miracle because those ships back then were not like the ones we have today that can pretty much withstand anything. It’s like this little wooden ship, rocking in these waves and Jonah is in there sleeping—I think that is a pretty good miracle.
If you turn to Chapter 3—I think this is the biggest one in the whole story .
Jonah 3:4, Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, 'Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.'
The people repented. There was no hope in the message Jonah gave. There was no promise that if they repented, Yahweh would save their city, Yahweh would forgive them—there was no hope. He did not mention any of that because Jonah was pretty grouchy. I think he probably said it with a smack on his lips like, “good riddance—you guys will be out of here!”
If you keep on reading with me, in verses 5 through 8, it says,
Then the people of Nineveh believed in Yahweh; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. He issued a proclamation and said, 'In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on Yahweh earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands.'
I think that’s a very big miracle that these people in Nineveh repented when there was no promise of hope.
But even after Jonah got done preaching his message, we see in Jonah 4:5,
Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city.
Jonah wanted to see the city perish. I think it’s probably because Jonah was like a true patriarch. He loved the country he was in, he loved the nation of Israel and Nineveh was the capital of Assyria and he knew how ruthless these people were. When the Assyrians would come and take over the land, they would do nasty, nasty things to the people they conquered and they were some bad people. So, Jonah knew that Yahweh was merciful and he knew that he might be successful in preaching to these people and that’s why he wanted to go to Tarsus, which—if anybody knows where Tarsus is, it’s pretty much the other side of the world as they knew it; like past the Strait of Gibraltar, around today’s Spain. So, he wanted to go to the other side of the world—he didn’t want anything to do with them.
John 3:10, When Yahweh saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then Yahweh relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.
Jonah 4:1, But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.
I think it’s kind of weird that Jonah was angry about his success in the ministry. That’s kind of weird to me, but Jonah learned an important lesson.
If you look in Chapter 2, I’m bouncing all over the place here, but
Jonah 2:8-9, Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness, but I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from YAHWEH.
Jonah was believing a lie and if you’re believing a lie, you are only forsaking what is best for you. What other lies did Jonah believe? Jonah believed he could run from the call of Yahweh in his life. Yahweh said go to Nineveh, but Jonah went to Tarsus—the last outpost of the known world. It’s a lie to think you can escape from the call of Yahweh in your life.
He also believed he could escape from the presence of Yahweh. He thought Yahweh was localized—“If I go over there, I’ll be free from Him.”
Psalm 139:7-12, Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, 'Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night, even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.'
Another lie that Jonah believed was that he thought he knew what was best for himself. He thought his plan for his life was better than Yahweh’s plan for his life and Yahweh definitely knows what’s best for us, every time.
I’ll tell you—I can’t believe how stubborn Jonah was. He decided he wasn’t going to obey Yahweh. He was going to go as far away as possible. He even said, pick me up and throw me into the sea (Jonah 1:12). He would have rather drowned than to have gone to Nineveh!
But, Yahweh was not done with him and He prepared the whale or fish or whatever to come pick him up. I’ll tell you what—the conditions in there must have been horrible! If it was a whale, it was a mammal, warm-blooded, that’s like 93-107 temperature range—so it’s pretty toasty in there. I’ll bet it smelled horrible, the humidity was probably really high. I’ll bet he was sea-sick and you know, salt water because the whale keeps on diving and bringing in more water and stuff. It says he had seaweeds wrapped around his head. Jonah 2:2 says, "I called out of my distress to Yahweh and He answered me." He cried pretty much from his deathbed. At the end of Jonah 1:17, it says he was there for three days and three nights and THEN Jonah prayed (Jonah 2:1). Jonah was so stubborn, he waited three days and three nights before he prayed. He did NOT want to go to Nineveh.
Pretty much, if you are believing a lie, you are only making it harder on yourself. Do you think you can run or hide from Yahweh? Or, do you think your plan for your life is better than Yahweh’s plan for your life? If you do, you’re only making it harder on yourself. You are headed for misery. You are inviting trouble into your heart and you are the one who is going to struggle the most from it because you are running from your ultimate good. Yahweh’s plan for you is the best thing that could ever happen to you.
Yahweh said to Jeremiah, “I know My thoughts toward you, they’re not evil, they are good. I have a great future for you.” Yahweh is speaking to all of us there. Yahweh is telling all of us that He knows His thoughts toward us, they’re not evil, they’re good and He has a great future set up for us. The wisest thing any of us can do is just submit ourselves.
We may not understand Yahweh’s ways or what Yahweh is calling us to do. At the time, it may not look like that is what’s best for us. It is like you are rafting down the Grand Canyon and Yahweh sees you there. There’s some rocks so I’m going to push them over here. But at that time, it looks like you’re headed for the rocks, but you’re not. We can’t see the whole picture, but Yahweh sees the whole picture. Yahweh can sit and direct us toward the best path.
We read about the mercies of Yahweh and how they endure forever. We have a song, “I will sing of the mercies of Yahweh forever.” It’s a good song.
Maybe you are running from Yahweh and you are hiding from His calling in your life, but if you just surrender and let Yahweh use you … Yahweh can use anybody. Even the worse of you who can be good examples of what not to do, Yahweh can use. It will be a blessing for us. We will discover that the best thing that could ever happen to you is following Yahweh’s will.
So, we can learn from the story of Jonah by just believing it or you can learn the hard way. You can have your own whale experience if that’s what it takes. I like to say, make it easy on yourselves.
In conclusion, it just amazes me how there are still people out there that don’t believe in Yahweh. If you see a nice house, it’s like, yeah, someone built that. If you read a good book, someone wrote that. Then, people look around at this beautiful creation and say, “Chance.” It’s like two computers debating on whether or not man exists. It doesn’t make any sense.
Believe in Yahweh—His plan is always best for us. Have a good Feast!