Thoughts come to mind about Jonah, his ordeal and discussion with God about the Gourd. He did what he could to avoid doing what God wanted him to do and warn Nineveh of impending calamity. Our problems, it seems become worse than all the world’s problems and of deepest concern to us.
Jonah the Reluctant Prophet
What is important to us? How many have lost a pet - a cat, a dog, tropical fish, rabbits or something similar. Years ago I loss some tropical fish because the water heater went out of control. The fish tank became a slow cooker and killed 90% of the fish.
Not long ago I found our precious cat, Tigger had died. We had her for about 10 years. It upset me very much to lose such a delightful cat. In my anguish and distress the thought came to mind about Jonah, his ordeal and discussion with God about the Gourd, or vine as some may call it.
All too often, though we are aware of our calling, our lives get filled with so many things such that we can readily lose track of our calling or it gets put on the back burner.
1. Jonah the Reluctant Prophet
Often thoughts of Jonah has brings many of us to Matthew 12:39-40 Matthew 12:39-40  But he answered and said to them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
American King James Version×where Christ speaks of His being in the heart of the earth, even as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish, for 3 days and 3 nights. But why then are there 4 chapters to explain the story of Jonah? Is there something more?
Let’s take a stroll through the Book of Jonah to see what other lessons we can learn from this man who was called by God.
Let’s begin reading in Jonah 1:1-3 Jonah 1:1-3  Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.
 But Jonah rose up to flee to 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 to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
American King James Version× Jonah was commanded to go to Nineveh an important city of the Assyrian empire, 550 miles to the East but he tried going to Tarshish[i], away from the presence of the Lord. Nineveh was to the East, but Jonah decided he wanted to go West. Hypothetical conversation between God and Jonah: Tarshish –Spain & the Costa Brava currently called the Spanish Riviera (ala 1962).
Do we too flee the presence of the Lord? Luke 14:28 Luke 14:28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
American King James Version×For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— Have we truly counted the cost of our calling? Did Jonah count the cost early in his calling by God?
Do we get wrapped up in the cares of the world? We read in Mark 4:19 Mark 4:19And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
American King James Version×and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
Jonah said he was afraid and hired passage a ship at Joppa to go West to Tarshish –just the opposite of what God wanted. Hypothetically, why was Jonah afraid? The Ninevites were a terribly evil people? Like sticking ones head in the jaws of a lion? Had he be wrong many times in the past? Was he overly preachy as a youth? The Bible does not record his early history.
Jonah 1:4-5 Jonah 1:4-5  But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.
 Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man to his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.
American King James Version× A storm came and threatened destruction of the boat. And notice the hardened but terrified seamen (as Navy and Merchant Marines are portrayed) prayed to their gods. But what did Jonah do? Jonah fell asleep even as all the others called on their gods; He fell asleep despite his calling. In Jonah 1:6 Jonah 1:6So the shipmaster came to him, and said to him, What mean you, O sleeper? arise, call on your God, if so be that God will think on us, that we perish not.
American King James Version× The captain asked Jonah what are you doing? Pray to your God! How many of our nation’s Christians fall asleep even as the Nation faces impending doom and calamity? Reminds me of the 10 virgins in Matthew 25:1 Matthew 25:1Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
American King James Version×.
Sleep Analogy: Carbon Monoxide poisoning in 1962 while in the Army.
Let me make something perfectly clear. These men DID NOT worship the same god as Jonah. Sometimes we think that if a person merely mentions the name of God or Jesus we all pray to the same God. This has become a very popular AND FALSE concept in religious and political circles in recent times. Many people in and out of the Church can say “Lord, Lord” and not do the things of the Lord as they take on the religions of the world around them.
Recently, I was speaking to a number of people with a strong Christian background. We, Christians and non-Christians often complain and bemoan financial disarray of the Nation, the other political problems, how politicians do their own will rather than the will of the people, let alone the right things. As a so called Christian people we forget our problems may actually be a reflection of the moral disarray and confusion of the Nation and its rejection of very fundamental Godly principles. We play lip service to godliness. We think all we need do is say the name of Christ, but forget repentance and obedience to the Laws of God.
Jonah 1:7-8 Jonah 1:7-8  And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is on us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.
 Then said they to him, Tell us, we pray you, for whose cause this evil is on us; What is your occupation? and from where come you? what is your country? and of what people are you?
American King James Version× The unconverted and uncalled crew wanted to know who offended god to bring on such an impending calamity. They cast lots at a time to make a discernement of God’s will when God’s Spirit was not yet given to many people. In the NT this was replaced with the giving of the HS in Acts on Pentecost 31 AD. That is another subject for another day.
Jonah admitted his guilt of running from the face of the Lord in order to fill his time with his own pleasures – He took passge on a ship going from Joppa (or Jaffa) to Tarshish (or Spain)!
How many of us fill our days with pets, hobbies, computers, wide screen TVs, birthdays, walks in the park, Disneyland, the internet, financial news and what ever. Not that we can’t do these things, but do we fill in our time to the exclusion of the things God wants us to do. This is not speaking of emergency types of situations.
Jonah 1:9 Jonah 1:9And he said to them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which has made the sea and the dry land.
American King James Version×, 10-12 Jonah declared he feared God and knew he should do God’s will, but did not. Are we not sometimes the same way? Jonah told them to throw him overboard after realizing the calamity came on the ship because of his own failure to obey God.
Jonah 1:13-16 Jonah 1:13-16  Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea worked, and was tempestuous against them.
 Why they cried to the LORD, and said, We beseech you, O LORD, we beseech you, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood: for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.
 So they look up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.
 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the LORD, and made vows.
American King James Version× But the hardened seamen recoiled in horror at the suggestion and wanted to show Jonah mercy more than what he had shown later in the book of Jonah.
Then we read in Jonah 1:17 Jonah 1:17Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
American King James Version× that he was in the belly of the great fish (or “dag”) for 3 days and 3 nights. Ironically, on of the god’s of Nineveh was a great fish god!
Jonah 2:1-6 Jonah 2:1-6  Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God out of the fish's belly,
 And said, I cried by reason of my affliction to the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and you heard my voice.
 For you had cast me into the deep, in the middle of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all your billows and your waves passed over me.
 Then I said, I am cast out of your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.
 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet have you brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
American King James Version× A repentant Jonah pictured in the fish turning white from the gastic juices, the stench of seaweed, digesting fish and other foul odors. Did Jonah really die? Some say yes some no. Even if he did die he was resurrected back to physical life to do the job God had for him.
Jonah 2:7-10 Jonah 2:7-10  When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in to you, into your holy temple.
 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
 But I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.
 And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah on the dry land.
American King James Version× He lost hope- his soul faints? He had good intentions during a severe affliction. Isn’t that also like us? Salvation is of the Lord, not a multitude of gods! Every knee shall bend toward and worship Christ!
2. Jonah Finally Preached the Message to Nineveh:
The old time theologian, Charles Spurgeon (~1885) said, Let it never be forgotten that Jonah was a man of God. I often hear great fault found with him, and he richly deserves the condemnation; he was not at all an amiable person; but, for all that, he was a man of God. When he was in the very depths of the sea, when he appeared to be cut off from all hope, he prayed as none but a man of God could pray. … But he did still believe in his God;” though …” he tried to run away.”
Jonah 3:1-3 Jonah 3:1-3  And the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,
 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the preaching that I bid you.
 So Jonah arose, and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey.
American King James Version× Jonah finally did what God told him and he went to Nineveh and did Not try to take his “vacation” to Spain. Nineveh was 3 days journey 60-120 miles in circumference or was it 60 miles long.
Jonah 3:4 Jonah 3:4And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
American King James Version× Jonah gave the warning message of destruction coming in 40 days!
Jonah 3:5-10 Jonah 3:5-10  So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
 For word came to the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:
 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God: yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.
 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do to them; and he did it not.
American King James Version× But what happened to Nineveh? It repented and was saved. Later we will see Jonah bemoaned it (Was I like that in 1974 when Europe did not strike at the arabs during the oil crisis?)
3. Jonah was Angry
Jonah became angry, pouty and sullen. Let’s continue in Jonah 4:1-4 Jonah 4:1-4  But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
 And he prayed to the LORD, and said, I pray you, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before to Tarshish: for I knew that you are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repent you of the evil.
 Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech you, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.
 Then said the LORD, Do you well to be angry?
American King James Version× He would rather be dead than wrong. He wanted to be right so bad, he wanted Nineveh to be destroyed. This is unlike the Apostle Paul centuries later who grieved if only he could die to save those on the verge of being lost. What a contrast!
Jonah 4:5-11 Jonah 4:5-11  So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.
 And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.
 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.
 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.
 And God said to Jonah, Do you well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even to death.
 Then said the LORD, You have had pity on the gourd, for the which you have not labored, neither made it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:
 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more then six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
American King James Version×5So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. 6And the Lord God prepared a plant (Heb=Kikayon = gourd or something like acastor bean plant tht could grow 8-15 ft tall like I had in AZ) and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant (gourd) 7But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, (maggot or larva, possibly a crimson grub) and it so damaged the plant that it withered. 8And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, (Years ago I prayed I would die since my asthma was so bad – and a local minister told me he expected me to die within a few years of coming in the Church) and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” 10But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”
Charles Spurgeon also declared years ago, “Jonah could not escape the fury of the wind, especially when his gourd was withered.… the fierce rays of the sun beat upon Jonah's head, where he seems to have been weakest, though he probably thought himself to be strongest just there.” At this time he was in his special comfort zone.
Jonah was an ordinary man like each of us. He was a “reluctant prophet” who tried to flee to Tarshish when God sent him on a mission in the other direction towards Nineveh.
4. A People of Compassion With a Job to Do
Consider the life of Jonah, but also consider God wants us to do His Will!
We need to Finish the Work:
In John 4:34 John 4:34Jesus said to them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
American King James Version× Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.
Jonah had his weaknesses like each of us. He in a sense lacked proper compassion, but we are not to be that way.
Jonah was wrapped up in the cares of his age but we read this of Christ in Matthew 9:36 Matthew 9:36But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
American King James Version×But when he saw the crowds he was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed, and cast away as sheep not having a shepherd.
Also, in Mark 6:34 Mark 6:34And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.
American King James Version× And on leaving [the ship] [Jesus] saw a great crowd, and he was moved with compassion for them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. They in a sense were like Nineveh not knowing their left from their right.
Let’s briefly look at Ezekiel 18:31 Ezekiel 18:31Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby you have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will you die, O house of Israel?
American King James Version× Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?
Ezekiel 33:11 Ezekiel 33:11Say to them, As I live, said the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn you, turn you from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?
American King James Version× Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’
In conclusion, we like Jonah have a commission from God. Jonah was an example of a reluctant prophet who cared more for self. We at times are like reluctant Christians concerned about self image, desires and what other people would think of us or have us to do. Soemtimes we can’t say, “No!” For the world wants us to go along with them or say we should do things their way or our own way!
We forget we were called as a kingdom of priests to teach the God’s ways to the world and a give a warning message from God in a humble and compassionate manner.
Finally, Christ had this to say in John 17:4 John 17:4I have glorified you on the earth: I have finished the work which you gave me to do.
American King James Version×, I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.