Introduction to Jonah

These sermons were originally preached in 2015.

We could assign many titles to a study through the book of Jonah. The Reluctant Prophet would be fitting since Jonah was just that. Perhaps The Compassion of God would be more suited, considering the fact that the great love of God is on full display throughout the book. Nevertheless, I have chosen to call our study Heart to Heart.

My thought behind title lies within the elements of a heart-to-heart interaction. We use that phrase because it describes the meeting of two people who are both baring their hearts, the very essence of one’s self, to one another. The implication of such an encounter is that the two must be different. The two cannot have identical emotions and mindsets because the heart to heart would not be needed.

In the book of Jonah, we find two very different hearts that repeatedly come into contact with one another: God and Jonah. The interaction and the contrast between God and Jonah is the focal point of the entire book. The heart of God is shown to be loving, gracious, merciful, and slow to anger. This gracious love becomes clear throughout the book. God mercifully saves Jonah from death in the sea by appointing a great fish to swallow him. God graciously spares the pagan sailors the fury of His wrath in the storm, even though we know that (by being human) they were just as deserving of it as Jonah was. God is slow to release His anger upon the violent city of Nineveh but relents instead. God lovingly protects Jonah from the sun with the plant and then kills it to teach Jonah more about Himself.

Jonah, on the other hand, runs from God’s presence specifically because he knew God to be all of those qualities listed above. Jonah has a bitter hatred for the people of Nineveh. He would rather see God wipe them off the face of the planet than to see them repent. This bitterness produces in Jonah a hard heart. Throughout the book, Jonah is often the focal point of satire because of his ridiculous actions.

Nevertheless, while it is easy to laugh at Jonah for being angry at the attributes of God that we sing about every Sunday, we do well to remember that our hearts are often more like the heart of Jonah than the heart of God. We poke fun at Jonah’s foolishness for, after receiving grace, becoming furious that God shows grace to Nineveh, and we do so rightfully. It is foolish behavior, and therefore, it is a good source for satirical laughter. However, we must never forget that satires are meant to present a message as well, and the message of the book of Jonah is that we are just like Jonah. Like Jonah, we happily embrace the grace of God offered to us, but honestly we would rather God not give it to some people as it would be far less messy for Him to just wipe them out. The gospel of Jesus Christ, however, compels each believer to love the unlovable, to give grace to the disgraced, to show mercy to the merciless, to be patient with the quickly angered. The gospel moves us to love everyone, even the people that we never thought would repent. May the LORD, through this study, drive us to be more like Himself and less like Jonah.


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