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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources
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"The People of Nineveh Believed" -- Jonah 2:1-3:10

Sermons on the Minor Prophets:  The Book of Jonah (3)

It is impossible to imagine the misery Jonah endured for those three days and nights he spent in the belly of a huge fish–both his tomb and his salvation.  Jonah’s distress is great–it is that of a dying man.  Yet, Jonah is not dying.  Beyond all human expectation, YHWH sent a huge fish to rescue the “reluctant prophet” from certain death in a watery grave.  Jonah’s entombment in the fish is neither the end nor even the high point of the Jonah story.  But it is the literary hinge upon which the story turns from Jonah’s flight from YHWH to the fulfillment of his prophetic mission.

The Prophecy of Jonah opens with YHWH commissioning Jonah to go and preach to the Ninevites, something which Jonah refused to do.  Attempting to flee from YHWH’s call, Jonah boarded a ship bound for Tarshish.  But YHWH sent a great storm which threatened both Jonah’s ship and its crew.  Realizing that his own sin was the cause of the storm, Jonah was confronted by the pagan crew–whose own gods were of no help in calming the storm.  Unless the storm ceased and soon, all onboard would be dead.  Jonah told the crew who he was, what his mission entailed, and that unless the crew threw him overboard, they would not be spared.  The frightened crew did exactly that–they threw Jonah into the sea where he was certain to drown.  The moment Jonah was off the ship, YHWH relented, calmed the storm, and delivered the crew, who witnessed YHWH’s great power.  The grateful crew offered YHWH sacrifices of thanksgiving.  But unbeknownst to them, YHWH miraculously rescued Jonah.  At this point, Jonah’s story turns from an account of his flight from Nineveh, to a time of prayer and repentance (chapter 2), which are the preparation for the fulfillment of YHWH’s greater purpose that the gospel be preached in Nineveh (chapter 3), Jonah’s ultimate mission.

As we have seen in previous weeks, the Book of Jonah is neither an allegory nor a moralistic fable designed to teach the reader that opposition to the will of God is futile.  No doubt, attempting to run from God is one of the most foolish things we can do, but the underlying message of Jonah is not the usual moralizing object lesson–obey God’s call or else suffer the consequences.  The Prophecy of Jonah reveals that it is YHWH’s redemptive purpose to save Gentiles who are outside of his covenant with Israel.  While dwelling in Canaan (the promised land) YHWH intended his people (Israel) to serve as witnesses of his holiness and righteousness to the neighboring Gentiles nations.  Once the unified nation of Israel (as in the days of David and Solomon) was divided by a Civil War and the Northern Kingdom became more and more apostate and disobedient to YHWH’s covenant, Israel was no longer a faithful witness, but became a sad illustration of happens to those who reject YHWH’s gracious covenant promises and protection in exchange for a mess of pagan porridge.

As Israel failed in its role as YHWH’s witness, covenant judgment came upon the nation as foretold by the prophet Amos and described by Hosea (the next Minor prophet in our series, and the last of the prophets YHWH sent to the Northern Kingdom).  During the days of Hosea’s ministry (he appears shortly after Amos and Jonah) the Assyrians invaded and conquered Israel, decimating its people.  Since Israel failed to be YHWH’s witness to the nations, YHWH calls Jonah to serve as a prophetic witness to the Gentiles–Jonah is to preach in Nineveh, the very heart of the pagan Assyrian empire.

To read the rest of this sermon:  Click Here

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