Jonah 1: To be in the presence of God (or not) (Jonah 1); Patrice Berger
Résumé : It is better to be where God is waiting for us, even if it is beyond our understanding. To be where the Lord awaits us is to be in the presence of the Eternal.
Sermon: Jonah Chapter 1
Cliche on Jonas
If I tell you about Jonas
What does this remind you of?
Jonah not only in the book of Jonah
Indeed, it is a question of Jonas particularly in the book which relates a rather significant event of his life.
But it is also about
2 Kings chapter 14
Reign of Jeroboam II over Israel
23 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Amaziah the son of Joash over Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash the king of Israel became king in Samaria. He reigned 41 years. 24 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebath, who had caused Israel to sin. 25 He restored the borders of Israel from the entrance to Hamath to the Dead Sea, according to the word which the LORD, the God of Israel, had spoken through his servant Jonah the prophet son of Amithai, of Gath-Hepher. 26 For the LORD had seen that the calamity of Israel was at its height, and that there was no one, neither bond nor free, to come to their aid. 27 Now the LORD had not spoken of blotting out the name of Israel from under heaven, but he delivered them through Jeroboam the son of Joash. 28The rest of Jeroboam’s deeds, all that he did, his deeds in battle, and the manner in which he brought back Damascus and Hamath, towns that had belonged to Judah, to Israel, are recorded in the records. of the kings of Israel. 29 Jeroboam slept with his ancestors, with the kings of Israel. His son Zechariah became king in his place.
Prophesies the return of the borders
Jonah is therefore the prophet who prophesied the restoration of the borders of the northern kingdom.
Excellent: when you are a prophet, when you love your country, your nation, your people, to have to say that you are going to find your lost territory; it changes from the prophets who announced the deportation!
But when you are the prophet who announces the excellent news of the return to your borders, it is much less exhilarating for the national feeling, when you have to go and announce repentance to the sworn enemy.
Jew / Nazi Germany
The story of Jonah could be compared to a Jewish prophet, who in the 1930s-40s, who was asked by the Lord to go to Berlin in Nazi Germany to announce repentance…
We would do the same as Jonas
If that happened to you, you would do the same as Jonas, you would have taken the first liner to go to… Antarctica!!!
Repentance among the Assyrians
Indeed, the Eternal will ask Jonah to go 800 km from his triumphant Samaria to go to the Assyrian capital, Nineveh (not far from Mosul) to announce repentance.
The Assyrians, in terms of cruelty, have absolutely nothing to envy the Nazis or the EI (Islamic State)!
In the archaeological documents, which you will easily find on the internet, by doing a search for « Assyrian cruelty », we have this little « nice description » written by their hands because they are proud of it:
I built a pillar in front of the city gate and I flayed all the chiefs who had revolted against me and I spread their skin on the pillar. Some of them I immured in the pillar, others I impaled on stakes. […] I cut off the arms or the hands; to others , I cut off the nose, the ears. I gouged out the eyes of many soldiers. I made a pile of the living and another of the heads .
This is what the Eternal asks of Jonah: to go and preach repentance to these “very nice” people!
Interest of this book of Jonas
And what we are going to see today is that it is better to be where the Lord is waiting for us, even if it is beyond our understanding…
To be where the Lord awaits us is to be in the presence of the Eternal.
Reading and before reading
So we are going to read the first chapter of the book of Jonah
Veracity of the Book of Jonah?
I take advantage of reading the book of Jonas to immediately erase a shadow that frequently hovers over the book of Jonas:
Is it true or not ? Or is it a fable?
Because this story with the big fish, anyway!!!
The scientific track
I am not a great specialist in big game fishing and big fish.
Better than the Gospels
Still, we have a massive attestation in the Gospels from Jesus himself:
Matthew 12 / 38
38 Then some of the scholars and Pharisees spoke up and said, « Master, we would like to see a miraculous sign from you. » 39 He answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign; no other sign will be given to them except that of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the earth. 41 At the judgment, the inhabitants of Nineveh will rise up with this generation and condemn it, because they have changed #### their attitude to the preaching of Jonah.
Now, there’s more than Jonah here.
True: fish / resurrection
Jesus sites the story of Jonah as true and, in particular, the passage with the fish to relate it to His resurrection: either Jesus is telling nonsense, or He is telling the truth!
True: two extraordinary events
Personally, I give full credit to someone who announced and experienced His resurrection, which may sound just as crazy as someone who spends three days in the belly of a fish!
Read Jonah – Chapter 1
Chapter 2/ 1
The Lord brought a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish.
Before we stop on the central subject of this text, we can observe 2 or 3 things:
The location of Tarsis is not certain: one thinks of Spain (3000 to 3500 km away), Tunisia or Sicily; the fact remains that, of course, it’s completely the opposite of where he was supposed to go! He had to travel 800 km in the other direction, so Jonah left to be 4000 km from where the Lord was waiting for him!
God lord of the elements and Jesus
God is sovereign over creation: starting and stopping a storm is within His power!
We better understand the impact of what Jesus did in the Gospels when He stopped the terrifying storm for the disciples: it is to tell us that God alone is master of the elements, so if Jesus is master of the elements, Of course Jesus is God…
The sailors, obviously, are professional and they know how to do it when there is a storm. Only, it does not seem usual and they can only consider the inaction of the deities they invoke!
This text shows us again that there is something obvious between
the sterility of all beliefs other than that in the Eternal.
It’s all well and good tradition or culture, but when we are in the concrete, only the Eternal is real, alive and active.
And here, when they understand what is at stake with the Eternal, they do not discuss hours of theology, they rely on Him.
In short, professionalism, traditional beliefs and our energy to try to get out of it are useless when it’s serious and when we’ve finished talking about it: only the Eternal allows us to get out of it!
Nothing resists against God
Ditto for our lives: in front of God, what we have been able to capitalize on, our experience, our traditional beliefs, what we have tried to do well, all this will not get us out of the storm of God’s judgment on our life ! Only He can do it and He did it through Jesus Christ.
Jonah true prophet
Jonah is not a “sub-prophet”, he is a true prophet!
Good understanding of God
He has an understanding of the Eternal which is just: God is gracious and the risk is that He will be gracious to the Assyrians if they repent; sovereignty in his creation, he knows very well that the storm is directed by God and he also knows that to stop it, he must remove the one who is the cause!
But it’s also a hell of a mule’s head: you still have to have a hell of a coat of it so that in the middle of a storm (the cause of which we assume), it goes down in the hold, « to take a snooze » while everyone else is in panic mode on board!
It is this same head of mule which also leaves more than 4000 km from where the Eternal sends it, while knowing the Eternal well!
The heart of the problem with Jonas
The heart of Jonah’s problem was that he didn’t want the Lord to forgive the Assyrians if they repented ( Jonah 4:2 ).
You see, last time we were talking about the idols that stay in our lives and interfere with our relationship with God.
For Jonas, the love for his country or the hatred for his enemies was stronger than everything and even than the Eternal, while he was very aware of the greatness of the Eternal!
In this, it’s really good to take stock of what we are really, really attached to.
The heart of this chapter
But what impressed me the most in this text is to consider what Jonah fled.
What is Jonas fleeing from?
3 Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish, far from the presence of the LORD.
He went down to Jaffa, and he found a boat going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and sailed to go with the passengers to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
The presence of the Lord
He fled from the presence of the Lord. Putting this in context, to be where the Lord awaits is to be in His presence.
The presence of the Eternal is not mystical
We often expect something a little mystical, an experience identical to that of Moses with the tabernacle. The repetition in this verse points to the fact that Jonah did not flee from the Assyrians, but went away from the presence of the Lord!
I’m in the presence of the Lord, when…
If I am where the Lord wants me, I am in the presence of the Eternal.
The Presence of the Eternal SPECIFIC
So, it can be specific when God indicates in a precise way the direction He asks for our lives, as for Jonah.
But it can also happen nowadays. There are those who join the assembly of Renens because God has kindly asked them to do so…
The presence of the Eternal: usual
But in a more usual way, I am where God wants me when I live what He desires for every man and me in particular.
What He desires is recorded very well in His word, the Bible. I know exactly what is essential to be in the right place: to be in the presence of the Eternal is magnificent! My life is in the presence of God, when I am where he wants me: regardless of my age, my activity, no need to sing « I come into your presence, Lord of the universe » : I am already there, if I am where He wants me!
2 Kings 14:23-25
He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which he spoke by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gath-hepher.
But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
Related Links / Notes
Series : The book of Jonah
Study Notes are translated from the original French version prepared by the pastor Patrice Berger. The orginal French notes are in « note » form, and are not a direct transcription of the video, however they are quite close the original text preached at the church. The notes provided here follow that form, and are detailed enough to help provide a deep understanding of the texts of the parables.
All services as well as some of the bible studies are streamed on the channel YouTube église AB Renens-Lausanne. Also visit the You Tube channel of the Swiss Action Biblique Youth Groups (JAB Suisse Romande).