AUTHOR: Jonah
DATE: 760 B.C.

Although some consider this book to be an allegory, according to 2 Kings 14:25, Jonah was not only a real person but a proven prophet from Gath-hepher near Nazareth. The book is also written as a historical narrative.  Furthermore, Jesus validated Jonah’s experience in the belly of the fish as factual (Matt. 12:39-41).

In 2 Kings 14:27 Jonah is identified as having lived during the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (793-753 B.C.).  In writing the book, Jonah was honest about his reluctant and even disobedient response to God’s commands to go Ninevah to warn them of judgment.  Jonah did not want the wicked city of Ninevah to repent, but God’s mercy is magnified in His desire to bring revival and His grace exalted when the whole city repents.

A number of miracles are recorded in the book: the calming of the sea before the crew lost their lives (1:15); the provision of the great fish and the preservation of Jonah in the fish (1:17); the disgorging of Jonah on land (2:10); the preparing of the plant (4:6), the worm (4:7), and the wind (4:8); and the salvation of many Ninevites.

The story is quite simple.

Chapter 1:  God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach coming judgment. Jonah didn’t like the Ninevites and didn’t want God to spare them from judgment, so he fled in the opposite direction by boarding a ship heading to Tarshish. A storm arose and Jonah slept.  The sailors cast lots and determined Jonah was the cause of the storm. Jonah told them to throw him overboard and they did so.  Then they called out to the LORD.  God prepared a great fish (whale?) and it swallowed Jonah.  Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish (1:17).

Chapter 2-3:  God caused the fish to vomit up Jonah and three days later Jonah obeyed God and went to Nineveh.  He preached coming judgment and the whole city repented (3:5).

Chapter 4: God not only cared about saving Ninevah, He also cared about changing Jonah’s heart. So God taught Jonah about His love and compassion.

Jonah is the only book in the Bible that ends with a question.  We are not really told whether Jonah fully understood God’s love and compassion, but we might think that he did.  He authored this book and told the details of his disobedience as well as God’s grace and love for all people.  The lessons from Jonah are even greater than the great fish event.  And, it certainly seems the reluctant prophet was not reluctant when it came to preserving this historical record for all ages — so we might better understand our gracious and merciful God.

OUTLINE OF JONAH

I. Jonah Fleeing, 1:1-17
A. The Reason for His Flight, 1:1-2
B. The Route of His Flight, 1:3
C. The Results of His Flight, 1:4-17
1. To the sailors, 1:4-11
2. To Jonah, 1:12-17
II. Jonah Praying, 2:1-10
A. The Characteristics of His Prayer, 2:1-9
B. The Answer to His Prayer, 2:10
III. Jonah Preaching, 3:1-10
A. God’s Command to Preach, 3:1-3
B. The Content of Jonah’s Preaching, 3:4
C. The Consequences of Jonah’s Preaching, 3:5-10
IV. Jonah Learning, 4:1-11
A. Jonah’s Complaint to God, 4:1-3
B. God’s Curriculum for Jonah, 4:4-11

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Do not be anxious about anything.  (Phil 4:6)

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must rightly remember who is in control.  Our God is sovereign over all things, including COVID-19.  As Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) said, “The sovereignty of God is a soft pillow on which weary people lay their heads.” 

Remember also God’s gracious promise, and that it is true and He is faithful to keep it:  Hebrews 13:5 …”I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”  The next verse remind us of the power that comes in trusting God and how we can live:  Hebrews 13:6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man [or COVID-19] shall do to me.

God loves us, and in Christ we find confidence and calm in times of uncertainty and trouble.  When we trust in God, fear is replaced with faith, stress is replaced with strength, anxiety is gone and hope abounds, problems become opportunities, and we are able to receive the blessings God has for us in the midst of difficult circumstances. Turn to Jesus. He will lead you to the still waters and give rest for your troubled soul.  

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…Hebrews 6:19

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