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May 3, 2021 12:01 am
Jonah was a fugitive from God--not because he was an unbeliever, but because he was reluctant to fulfill the task entrusted to him. Today, R.C. Sproul shows how Jonah helps us recognize our own wayward hearts and the Lord's unwavering pursuit.
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Today on Renewing Your Mind. Jonah is the story not of a man who diligently pursued the presence of God. The story of a man who took flight from his duty from his calling from his responsibility and even thought to escape from the very presence of God. Probably remember Jonah's that Old Testament figure who was swallowed by a whale. At least that's what most of us took away from Sunday's good plasma we were children, as were going to see today there's four more to join that prophet has so much to tell us about God's providence's sovereignty and salvation.
And what happens when we disobey much join Dr. RC scroll now as he revisits the story of the reluctant prophet when I was a little boy, my mother made me sing and the children choir in the church and how they would laugh and Foss one on Sunday mornings. I had to dress up for the occasion with the black Castaic and the white surplus in this big black satin bow ties.
Huge big time start scholar and my uncle would look at me and several others. The Lord for right and I was so embarrassed to have to go outside wearing this outfit and we sang in the children's choir and once a year we would sing the same anthem called CQ the Lord while he may be for and the highlight of our experiences. Choir boys was the singing of that anthem because the solo was song by the lead soloist of the adult choir at a magnificent tenor voice and he would sing the lead in seeking the Lord while he may be found, and we would sing the background that even though I was, not a believer and this was just a rote exercise that I engaged in because my parents forced me something about that song captured seeking the Lord while he may be found, call E upon him while he is near what the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts for he will have mercy, and abundantly part.
I never tried to memorize the words to that anthem, which are taken directly from the Scriptures as you well know and yet I can't tell you how many times in my life, the words of that anthem have come back into my consciousness seeking the Lord while he may be found and when I think of that verse, I don't hear the words in my mind as if someone were reading them from the written page. I hear the voice of dots. The tenor from our adult choir singing those words seeking the Lord while he may be, and I think how often the Scripture calls upon us to come near to the living God, to seek his face to search out his presence. I know I realize now that the Bible says that by nature. No one seeks after God that the seeking after God as Jonathan Edwards taught is the business of the Christian we don't begin to seek God until God has first converted our hearts. The seeking of God is a lifelong pursuit of the believer, because by nature.
We are not seekers of God.
But we are fugitives from God. Ever since Adam and Eve fled from the presence of God. Recall that in paradise but when God would walk in the cool of the garden, his creatures would be filled with the light and enjoy a sense of anticipation to have fellowship with their maker until they sent in the first reaction to their sin was a reaction of flight they fled from the presence of God.
They fled from the open spaces of Eden and sought refuge in the trees. They became Dennison's of the forest they became people in hiding fugitives from the face of God. That's our nature to flee from his presence and that the psalmist declares where can we flee from his presence.
If we ascended to heaven he is there. If we make our bed, and seal. Behold, he is there and I say this for this reason, we are about to take a brief look at one of the smallest prophetic books in the Old Testament, which gives us the story of the ultimate fugitive, a man who fled from the presence of God, not because he was a pagan but rather he was a believer who was fleeing from the presence of God and so our message today is not directed to the unbeliever who is a fugitive and is involved in a relentless attempt at escape from God I'm talking to the Christian who must understand that that propensity to flee from God does not end at our conversion. How many times in your life. Have you had a sense of vocation, a sense of God's calling you to do something new ignored were you neglected or you denied it you put it off for in some way or another you sought to find a way to avoid your vocation to flee from doing that which God called you to do.
Isn't that common to us. Don't we all struggle with that problem. That's why it is of great importance and benefit to us from time to time to come back and read the little book that is called the book of Jonah because Jonah is the story not of a man who diligently pursued the presence of God. But the story of a man who took flight from his duty from his calling from his responsibility and even thought to escape from the very presence of God. Let's look now at the beginning of this little book of Jonah. We read in the first chapter of the book of Jonah. These words now the word of the Lord came to Jonah, the son of anti-saying, arise, go to Nineveh, that great city and cry out against it for their wickedness has come up before me. How many times have you wished that you could hear the audible voice of God. How many times have you said, my faith would be in numerous, if God would somehow communicate with me directly would perhaps it might depend on what he said he spoke to you because here we have an occasion where the word of the Lord came to a man and the word of the Lord that came to this man was a word of commandment by which God gave a mission to Jonah. Jonah arrives and go to Bermuda and be a missionary know they didn't call him to go to Bermuda. He said, arise, and go to Nineveh, that great city, where was Nineveh was the last capital city of the Assyrian Empire located in that part of the world which today is the nation of Iraq not the most popular tourist destination of modern America to go to her rock. Well, it wasn't all that popular of a destination wasn't a resort city in the sight of Jonah.
Either God said, arise, go to Nineveh, that great city and cry out against it.
Do you hear what God is calling Jonah to do Jonah. I've called you to preach my word not to Israel but to what almost pagan people on the face of the globe to a nation that is mighty to a nation that is the historic enemy of the Jewish people here in the eighth century BC. I want you to go to the very heart of the Assyrian Empire and I want you to preach my word to that city and call that city to repentance. Hardly an enviable task that God has given to Jonah. Jonah obeyed the first part of the call. The first part of the command that God had given him was to arise and so Jonah arose. We read in verse three, but he did not arise to go to Nineveh, but rather he rose up to run away from his the Bible says this in verse three. Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
So we went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish, so he paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
This is a willful premeditated act of disobedience. God said Jonah arise, go to Nineveh. Jonah says I will rise and I will flee from the presence of God.
I will go to Tarshish, but we don't know for sure where ancient Tarshish was but the best guesstimate of the scholars is that Tarshish was and what now would be called Spain, which in terms of the known world at that time and one's ability to travel by ship was virtually the further support to which Jonah could sail away from Nineveh. He made an effort to get as far away from his destiny as he possibly could. Like the prodigal son, of whom Jesus spoke, he went to a four country thinking that there he can escape the presence of God. How light Jonah. We are thinking that we can find some remote place in this world were God's presence is not there.
How foolish was Jonah to think for a second that there was any corner of this globe were God's presence did not extend to think that he could escape the all present all Seeing Eye of the God who had commanded him to do something. All Jonah wanted to do was to get as far away from his mission as he possibly could so he paid the fare and went down into the ship to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
Then in verse four of chapter 1 of the book of John we read this, but the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea and there was a mighty tempest on the sea so that the ship was about to be broken up and listen to this something that I find fascinating. This little narrative so often the people of Israel are compared to Russian say contrasted to the animal kingdom or the kingdom of flowers or nature for the stars, obey the course in which they were sent by God, and the eagle flies in the direction that God sends the Eagle and the plants go through their seasons and their cycles as they have been ordained by their creator and so often God says to the people to consider the rest of my creation, everything else in creation obeys my voice but you will man and you will look are in rebellion and in defiance to my commandments not notice this in the very first few verses of the first chapter of Jonah God sends two things. First, he sends a man does the mango demand is not co-were God sends them, but then in verse four we read and the Lord sent out a great wind of the sea man doesn't go where God tells them to go but those windows go where God tells the wind to go in the windows exactly what God commands the wind to do the wind is chasing after Jonah and so the windows out to see and there was a mighty tempest on the sea so that the ship was about to be broken up and the mariners were afraid says the Scriptures, and every man cried out to his God have not foxhole theists earbud pagans who are crying out to their pagan deities because they're about to perish in the city and they threw the cargo that was in the ship in the city to lighten the load, but Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship had lain down and was fast asleep. Just as Nero fiddled while Rome was burning so Jonah slept while his shipmates were about to perish deep in the bowels of the ship. He was impervious to the store and what we brewing and the threat that had arisen. How often like Jonah when the judgment of God comes and finds us slick, completely unconscious to what's going on, so the captain came to him and said to him what you mean sleeper arise call on your God. Perhaps your God will consider us so that we may not perish solicited one another.
Come on, let's cast lots that we may know for booze because this troubles come upon us, so they cast lots and the lot fell upon Jonah and they said to him, please tell us, for whose cause is this trouble upon us. What is your occupation where you come from, what your country what people are you to see what's going on here. These pagans they all believe that the world is somehow controlled by the gods that when adversity comes in tragedy comes. I have a strong view of Providence, even if it's a misguided poor theological understanding only. They have some understanding of problems they realized that these kinds of events do not happen by chance, so they cast lots to find out whose sin has provoked the wrath of the gods in the lot falls upon Jonah so they say to him who are you so he said to them, I am a Hebrew and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land while whoever these mariners were from whatever country they sailed everybody in the ancient world had heard the stories and the tales of the dreadful power and omnipotence of Yahweh, the Lord God of Israel, and now when Jonah reveals his identity thing I'm a Hebrew to see what this does to the rest of the sailors.
If we don't appease this God has brought the store were going to back if we harm this man who's a child of Yahweh that may make him even more angry and so there between a rock and a hard place, but they make up their mind and they make up their mind pretty quickly. They're going to risk Jonah rather than the storm and they said then the men were exceedingly afraid and they said to him, why do doneness for the men knew that he fled from the presence of God because he told them so they asked him what shall we do that the sea may be calm for us for the sea was growing more and more tempestuous and he said to them, pick me up and throw me into the sea and the sea will become calm for you, for I know that this great tempest is because of me have the expression ever since that episode when things go bad.
Perhaps there's an Jonah in the midst perhaps there is one among us who was so provoked the anger of God that all of us are being exposed to danger to his fury. It is to Jonah's credit that he acknowledges his guilt before these pagan people and he says them I and this I believe is the first instance that we read in Scripture of God's calming and angry.
See in the New Testament is accomplished by the command of Christ. Peace be still on the sea of Galilee, but here the Mediterranean is a cauldron we can only be call by a human sacrifice in Genesis throw me into the city. Nevertheless the men rode hard to return to land that they could not.
They didn't want to sacrifice one of them. They were sailors and throw people overboard, but they couldn't for the sea continue to grow more tempestuous against them.
Therefore, they cried out to the Lord and they said please, oh Lord. Do not let us perish for this man's life and do not charge us with innocent blood for you or Lord have done as it please do and so they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea and the sea ceased from its raging in the men fear the Lord exceedingly and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and to the house. They offer two sacrifices one was Jonah and then their own sacrifices and they took files to be obedient to this God who can bring the sea into such trouble is not the end of story. The phenobarbital's are like the old perils of Pauline and the serial stories of the movies and television with asteroid free to tune into the next to see what happens now.
At least the immediate dangers past the sea is called, we see the rescue of the sailors but one who is been into this and will look at that in our next session.
We hope you'll be with us over the next few days.
Your on Renewing Your Mind for Dr. RC Sproul series on Jonah and RC will be back shortly with some closing thoughts on today's lesson. Even though Jonah is one of the shortest books of the Bible. It has major lessons for us.
For example, it helps to see the height and breadth of God's mercy along with God's compassion for sinners just like you would be is all there, and Dr. RC Sproul's five-part audio series on Jonah and we be glad to send you an MP3 CD copy for your donation of any amount. Call us today at 1-800-435-4343 or go online to make your request and Renewing Your Mind.org is your gifts that help us continue this vital teaching ministry.
So in advance, let me thank you when you contact us today. Be sure to ask about our monthly magazine table talk. Each month has a different theme and it features daily devotionals and articles from today's finest reform thinkers be happy to start your free three month trial subscription to table talk when you contact us today again. Her phone number is 800-435-4343 or you can go to try table talk.com and before you know here's Dr. scroll with the final word on today's lesson I asked today how many of us have had the occasion in our lives.
A fleeting from the call of God's not all that uncommon. And there's a reason why we receive the story of Jonah from the mouth of God.
It is a sober warning to every believer to be diligent in one's openness and obedience to the call of God upon our lives. God does not always call us to glory, and he does not always call us to comfort. He calls us at times to go to uncomfortable places at inconvenient times. Great worldly cost and yet there is no higher privilege than to be called of God to be a minister in his name to be an agent of reconciliation to a dying world, and to fulfill that destiny may be extremely painful at times but yet when God places his hand upon us and his call upon our lives.
Beloved, we really don't have a choice. We have the choice in the sense that we can kick against it and we can stumble and we can flee. We can escape our vocation.
So when God calls you put the task upon you consider his servant Jonah, and be wise, don't wait until he throws you in the midst of the city before you awaken to your responsibility. Thank you again for joining us today and I hope you make plans to listen. Tomorrow you'll hear RC leave the passage from his favorite novel, Jonah's remarkable story next Tuesday on Renewing Your Mind