"The Twelve"

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Jonah means "Dove." This is the only prophetic book of the Old Testament that revolves around a Gentile nation. The title given to this book is God is Gracious and Merciful. Jonah was the only directly disobedient prophet in the latter prophets. The book contrasts the disobedience of God's covenant servant to the obedience of the legendary Ninevites, who are plainly outside of the covenant of the Lord. In sum, the book masterfully teaches a lesson concerning God's forgiveness and plans for the nations.

Jonah was Contemporary of Jeroboam II (782-753). The placement of this book in the canon is profound. By this time, the judgment upon the nations has been mounting in the writings of The Twelve and a question such as the following is sure to arise: “Does God care more about Israel than the other nations?” Jonah answers with a resounding, "no!" Unlike any other prophet, this book revolves around a Gentile nation.

Now, by this time, Assyrian cruelty had become legendary. Graphic accounts telling of the cruel treatments that they inflicted upon their victims are recorded in Ancient Near Eastern discoveries.

God's Sovereignty

The disobedience of Jonah is accentuated by the striking illustrations of God's sovereignty. The book portrays that everything is appointed by God. Behind the events of Jonah is the sovereign command of the Almighty Creator, who demonstrates power and authority over the courses of men and even the fish of the sea and the plants of the earth.

Consider also the Lord's sovereignty demonstrated over:
  • the storm
  • the casting of lots
  • the Gentile sailors
  • the great fish
  • the plant
  • the worm
  • the east wind

Everything obeys the voice of the Lord... except Jonah!

Jonah the Disobedient Prophet

This is an interesting demonstration of “rebellious obedience!.” Jonah might go on the outside, but not on the inside. The prophet uniquely reveals, by his own personal testimony, the tragic enmity between people groups. Even the chosen people of God are prone to fragrantly aerate arrogance and fail to apprehend grace.

A key verse illustrates Jonah's knowledge of the Torah (expected as a prophet), which only increases his guilt of sinful arrogance and rebellion:

ESV  Jonah 4:2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, "O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

What can we say about Jonah? - His rebellious disobedience demonstrates that God used him in spite of Him and that the joy of a servant of the Lord will be robbed by pride. He started and ended with the wrong attitude (cf. Jonah 4:9). The first segment should have taught Jonah first-hand the compassion of God toward sinful men, in the wake of his own rebellion he should have been humbled and should have seen his undeserve.

The Gentiles in God's Program

ESV Genesis 9:27 May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant."

ESV Genesis 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

ESV Leviticus 19:33 "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

ESV 1 Samuel 2:10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the power of his anointed."

ESV Isaiah 2:2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it,

ESV Joel 2:28 "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. 30 "And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.

The Lovingkindness of the Lord

ESV Exodus 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation."

ESV Psalm 86:15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

ESV Numbers 14:18 'The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.'

ESV Nehemiah 9:17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.

ESV Joel 2:13 and rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.

ESV Psalm 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

ESV Psalm 108:4 For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

ESV Psalm 145:8 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

ESV Psalm 111:4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful.

ESV Psalm 116:5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful.

ESV Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

ESV 2 Chronicles 30:9 For if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him."

ESV Psalm 57:10 For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

ESV Psalm 86:5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.

ESV Psalm 138:2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.

ESV Lamentations 3:23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

ESV Deuteronomy 4:31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.

ESV Psalm 112:4 Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.

ESV Micah 7:18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.

Chapter Summaries

Ch. 1: Yahweh calls Jonah to go to Nineveh; Jonah rebels and flees; Yahweh sends a storm and a fish

Ch. 2: Jonah prays from the stomach of the fish

Ch. 3: The word of the lord comes to Jonah, Jonah obeys and proclaims the word, and Nineveh repents

Ch. 4: Jonah displeased over Nineveh's repentance, God displeased with Jonah's lack of compassion

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