Jonah 1:3 says, “But Jonah rose up to flee from the presence of the Lord.” God had commanded Jonah to arise and go to Nineveh and preach coming judgment upon that city. Jonah arose alright, but did exactly the opposite. As a Jew, he could not bring himself to preach a message to the Gentile city that would bring repentance and God’s favor upon them. Instead of going east, he headed directly west.
Here is a picture of a prophet of God out of communion with God. Jonah is an eloquent type of various aspects of the Christian life and faith:
- He is the perfect picture of a backslider.
- He is the type of a sinner for whom Christ died.
- He is the type of the death and resurrection of Christ.
Notice how sin blinds the eyes of God’s servant and twists his reasoning. [Mention the fact of sin being in a believer’s life and the sin of disobedience. Consider Peter’s disobedience.]
Jonah was a prophet. He knew he had been called of God; he knew he had been given a message from God. Yet foolishly, he allowed himself to be sidetracked. “He rose up to flee from the presence of the Lord.” Take Lot, for example. Lot lost everything for forsaking God. The way of transgressors is hard.
Jonah knew better than that, but his disobedience so twisted his judgment and blinded his eyes that he imagined he could get away with it. In all likelihood Jonah was familiar with the words of David in Psalm 139. [Quote this] What fools God’s children can become when they live in disobedience to God’s will and Word. Consider Elijah and David. Backsliding is a common disease in the church today.
Notice where Jonah went - “He went down to Joppa.” The path of disobedience is always down. Jonah first went down to Joppa. He went down into the ship, then down into the sea. He went down into the gullet of a great fish and then down into Sheol itself. There is no standing still in the path of disobedience. The backslider either stops and returns to God or keeps going further and further down.
Even though Jonah was trying to forget the Lord, God’s eye was on him all the time. In Jonah 1:4, the statement, “But the Lord…” is majestic. Jonah refused to admit that God’s command was an absolute. God’s will is going to be accomplished, no matter what the cost, either by willing submission or by painful constraint.
Jonah ultimately went to Nineveh, in obedience to God’s command, but only after a terrifying, dreadful, and appalling experience. What trouble Jonah could have saved himself had he obeyed and said, “Lord, here I am, send me.” Note that Jonah’s disobedience brought disaster not only on himself, but upon others as well. Another example can be seen through Abraham’s sin. The ship’s crew and the ship were in danger (see Jonah 1:4-5a).
Now comes the shocker: “Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and was fast asleep” (see Jonah 1:5b). Sin is a narcotic, a spiritual anesthetic, which beclouds reason, stifles conviction, twists character, and perverts our will. The storm was raging, the winds howling, the waves dashing, and the ship creaking. “Jonah was asleep,” oblivious to the danger, and unconcerned that men were perishing. The captain of the ship woke him up (quote Jonah 1:6), “What meanest thou, O sleeper?”
Some of us here profess to believe the Word of God. We say we believe that men and women are lost without Christ and on the road to hell. We believe this to be a place of eternal darkness and suffering for Christ rejecters. We say we believe (see 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, Revelation 21:8). The tragedy is that we say we believe these truths and inviolate, but at the same time we make little or no effort to warn people. Like Jonah we are asleep, though the signs of the last days are shouting at us from every direction. The storm is raging, the winds howling, the ship is creaking. “Awake thou that sleepest.” It is high time to awake out of sleep.
- Moving a red-hot coal from the fire - it becomes black.
- Peter . . . tears.
- Going out from the presence of God, (the sinner as a type).
- Cain in Genesis 4:16.
- The prodigal son.
- Judas - “He went out immediately…and it was night.” (John 13:30)
- Revelation 20 and the Great White Throne.
- Jerusalem rejected the Lord (see the consequences).
- Going into the presence of God (see 2 Timothy 4).