Setting: Assyria is crumbling some due to civil unrest (Nineveh), and Israel is actually growing in political power, but regressing in spiritual power (God sent Hosea and Amos). Jeroboam II is the king. Jonah is politically affiliated prophet in the nation that God has just called a prostitute.
Timothy Keller’s Breakdown of Jonah: (Prodigal Prophet)
PRODIGAL: Reckless; Extravagant
Good People = Mercy & Bad People (Prodigals) = Judgment
Jonah 1:1 The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”
God’s “Arise & Go” became Jonah’s “Arise & No”.
This is a story of a prodigal God & a sinful world.
3 But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.
4 But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. 5 Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.
But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. 6 So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.”
7 Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit.8 “Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”
9 Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
10 The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the Lord. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned. 11 And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?”
12 “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”
13 Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, Jonah’s God. “O Lord,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.”
15 Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! 16 The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.
17 Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.
Is Jonah a story of judgment or a story of mercy?
God’s mercy is a raging sea.
God’s mercy is a warning.
God’s mercy is a question.
God’s mercy is failed effort.
God’s mercy is a calmed sea.
Is the fish God’s extravagant, reckless mercy, or is it punishment for Jonah’s extravagant, reckless sin?