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Jonah 2 The Running Man

Jonah 1:1-10

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: (Jonah 1:1)

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2)

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. (Jonah 1:3)

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. (Jonah 1:4)

All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. (Jonah 1:5)

The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.” (Jonah 1:6)

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. (Jonah 1:7)

So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” (Jonah 1:8)

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” (Jonah 1:9)

This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.) (Jonah 1:10)

Book of Jonah – Small / extremely famous.

Book of Jonah – Small but extremely famous.

And of course on the surface, just like we talked about last week, it’s about this man who is a prophet, but a bad one, the Danny DiVitto of the phonetic world who doesn’t want to forgive him enemies.

So he gets swallowed by a whale, and then finally goes and delivers the message to his enemies, God forgives them, and Jonah is so mad that he says to God ‘Just kill me!’ And that’s essentially how the book ends.

Well there’s also something else going on in the book of Jonah. It’s also this beautiful progression of the life of a believer in God.

Title: Jonah : The Running Man.

We just read the first 10 verses in the book of Jonah, where we learn that Jonah is a prophet. And Jonah gets his instructions to go to Nineveh, his mortal enemy’s capital city and prophesy, and says ‘Yeah, I’m not gonna do that.’ And instead of traveling 500 miles east like God told him, he gets on a boat headed 2000 miles west.

And so right off the bat, we encounter a biblical concept that modern people don’t want to talk about. So they avoid it, the rename it, and minimize it. But you can’t. Not if you want to be someone who takes the Bible seriously.

So this passage is talking about ‘sin’.

And let me just say that theres a good reason that we don’t like to use the word. And the reason is this: Words like sinner and heathen, and heretic has been used for centuries to exclude people, to oppress people. The dehumanize and depersonalize groups.

So a lot of people just think: “Let’s get rid of the word and the concept. It’s outdated.’ But you can’t.

Ernest Becker wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book, a still very, very prominent book. It’s called The Denial of Death. Ernest Becker was a therapist. He was a brilliant man. He was a secular man. And an outspoken atheist, which actually makes what he says he more interesting.

“Thus the plight of modern man: a sinner with no word for it”

Maybe you could say it like this: You can divide people into 3 possible categories:

1. People who feel like sinners & have a word for it.

Think about the ancient civilizations where people felt like sinners, and they understood the idea of being a sinner, and so there were things like rituals and sacrifices and repentance, and cleansing.

So they feel like sinners, but they have a way to deal with it.

2. People who don’t feel like sinners.

Life is simple for these people. They have no need of things like rituals, and repentance, and sacrifice. All is good.

Becker in his book would say essentially : Despite how many people pretend to be in this camp, I’ve never actually met one.

Where most people are in modern times:

3. People who feel like sinners with no word for it.

So they sense that something is broken on the inside of them. They have a feeling of guilt, or shame, or inadequacy. But they don’t have a word for it. So you know what happens? Nothing. They have no way to deal with it.

So that’s where the book of Jonah comes in. The book of Jonah shows us beautifully, the concept of sin without ever using the word. And it gives us a concept of sin in a way that you can’t use to oppress people.

And so if you’re thinking ‘Well I guess I can just check out this week b/c I already believe in sin.’ – So did Jonah. But even though Jonah was a prophet, there was a sin in his heart that was at a level that even he didn’t see.

It’s one thing to understand the concept of sin. It’s another to understand your own heart. And to recognize the sin in your own life instead of just being on the never ending cycle of self-justification.

Jonah missed his own sin until it blew up. And so maybe we can avoid that, and that’s why the book of Jonah is important.

4 places the book teaches about sin:

The: Coming Word / Running Man / Deathly Sleep / Stormy Hope

1. The Coming Word

(Jonah 1:1) “The word of the LORD came …”
(Jonah 1:3) ‘But Jonah ran’.

Keep in mind that Jonah is a prophet. That’s what he is. His whole life was centered around this incredible calling. So you can see this is not just a simple act of disobedience, this is Jonah running from his calling, his vocation, his gifting. He’s running away from all of that.

He’s essentially saying ‘I’m going to go live my life how I want. I’m going to do what I want to do.’ Really he’s saying “I’m not gonna live my life centered around what God wants from me.” “I’m going to decide for myself who and what I am. I’m going to forge my own identity apart from God.”

Many theologians would tell us that this is the essence of sin. That sin isn’t just about ‘breaking the rules’ but it’s about trying to live apart from God. It’s sin at it’s most potent. And as the story of Jonah teaches us, nothing but disaster comes of it.


Cool word.

‘The Stranger’

I don’t know how many of you guys are familiar with the idea of ‘existentialism’ but it’s a cool word to impress your friends with at a party.

This past week I finished kinda the quintessential existential novel ‘the stranger’ by Albert Camus.

For those of you who don’t know, existentialism is an idea that basically says ‘You find yourself within yourself.’

“Look inside yourself Simba.”

‘Bridget Jones Diary’. New Years resolutions.:

I’d like to illustrate Existentialism with ‘Bridget Jones’.

Who here has seen the movie ‘Bridget Jones Diary’?

Who here has read the book?

Well I’ve done neither. But I’m familiar with it, but it’s like a modern book about existentialism. No really.

For example: In her ‘diary’ she has some New Years resolutions. Here are 3:

  1. “I will not waste money on books by unreadable literary authors to put impressively on shelves.”
  2. “I will develop inner poise and authority and sense of self as woman of substance, complete without boyfriend, as best way to obtain boyfriend.”
  3. “Be an assured, receptive, responsive woman of substance. My sense of self comes not from other people, but … from … myself? That can’t be right.”

Bridget has bought into the whole post modern thing: You create yourself. You don’t need other people. No one can tell you who to be or what to do. No, you create yourself. ”

And here’s the truth, are you ready?… You can’t.

You can’t validate yourself.

It’s like proof-reading your own novel. You need someone else to proof read your writing, b/c you don’t have clear vision when it comes to your own writing. You can’t see your strengths and you can’t see your weaknesses.

No, you need a word from the outside.

College will teach you : “You get to decide who you want to be. And you validate yourself.” That’s ridiculous.

We all have a desperate need for validation. And if you don’t get that validation from God, well then you’re going to be deeply dependent on the opinions of other people. You’re going to have to get other Gods. You’re gonna have to make your boyfriend God. Or your success

B/C you have the need to hear ‘Well Done’.

And the existentialist says ‘No problem, I’ll just say it to myself.’ ‘Good job self.’ That’s ridiculous. It’s like telling yourself a joke. Doesn’t usually work, because you see the punchline coming.

Like Bridget Jones says “My sense of self does not come from others but from … myself? That can’t be right.”

You need a word from the outside. And so anyone who tries to build an identity apart from God, like Jonah did, will experience destruction.

Soren Kierkegaard in his book “The Sickness Unto Death” : “Sin : The despair of seeking to be oneself without God.”

2. The Running Man

The Running man is Jonah running from God.

The book of Jonah is an interesting book b/c you’d expect in a book like this for the good guys to be God’s people, the Israelites, and the bad guys would be the heathens sailors. But Jonah makes the heathens look good.

You’d expect the bad guys to be the Nineties, those big city heathens with their sex, drugs, and roll’n’roll. But Jonah makes them look good. Jonah even makes the fish look good.

So who’s the bad guy? It’s the preacher. It’s the religious man.

This teaches us that sin is more than just breaking the rules. It’s building your identity apart from God.

You can be very moral.

You can cover yourself up with all kinds of morality and religion, and keeping all the rules, but underneath all that, you’re still a self-made man.

You still have an identity that blows up.

And so you might be thinking “How can you run from God?! He’s omnipresent. He’s everywhere. Well Jonah knows this too. In fact in verse 9 he says “… I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” He knows he’s everywhere.”

Jonah knows he can’t escape God’s presence. So he’s not running away like that. He’s not running away ‘spatially’. He’s running away from having a LOOK at God. He’s running away from what God wanted for his life. – Which is Jonah’s case was to go to Nineveh.

“They use their talents to amass wealth, to carry on enterprises. They try to make a name for themselves, but themselves they have not become. Spiritually speaking, they have no self.” (Soren Kierkegaard)

What’s he saying? He saying that if you don’t have a self before God, you don’t have a self. You sell yourself for something else: For career, for money, for sex, for success. You lose yourself, and instead you become a slave.

Jonah shows us that under a mountain of church attendance and giving and bible reading and prayer, it’s still possible to create an identity not based on God but based on something else. Which is the essence of sin.

Augustine, one his most famous ideas is that : Sin is wrongly ordered loves. It’s loving something too much compared to your love for God.

3. The deathly sleep

In verse 5, we see Jonah during this horrible storm asleep, and he can hardly be awakened.

This is not regular sleep.

This is ‘escape sleep’. You know what I mean by that? Escape sleeping is when you’re so sad you want to escape, so you just go to sleep.

It’s interesting that the same word the Bible uses for Jonah’s sleep is the same special word the Bible uses in Genesis 2 when describing what God did to Adam to take a rib from him.

This isn’t a nap, this is anesthesia. He’s OUT.

When you have an identity apart from God, and it doesn’t work out, and it all blows up, you experience something more than just sadness, more than just simple depression. You experience an identity implosion. (Tim Keller)

Here’s an example: Imagine there is a kid with 2 parents, and something goes wrong with the kid. The kid rebells, and gets a blue mohawk, and gets a girl pregnant, and does other wild things. And one parents gets discouraged, and gets very sad. And the other one experiences heart sickness to the point of death. Their whole identity implodes. Why? B/C one parents loves the child because it’s their child. The other parent loves the child to get an identity.

‘The reason I’m a worthwhile person is b/c I’m a good parent.’ And when the son goes bad, she doesn’t just experience pain, she experiences death sleep. She has a psychological break down. See her parenting isn’t about her son, it’s about her. It’s about her having an identity.

And so the Christian solution to that isn’t : “Don’t do that to your kids.” No, it’s “Find your identity in God, and you won’t need to do that to your kids.” – God is your inspiration, the center of your life, the joy of your heart. He’s the reason you know you’re valuable.

You can see this is the life of Jonah when he runs from God and doesn’t want to go preach in Nineveh. On the surface, you might think ‘He doesn’t want to b/c it’s so dangerous.’ Which is true. Imagine going to preach in the center of Berlin in 1942 and tell the germans to repent on their violence. That seems a little dangerous, don’t you think? So at first it would seem like he doesn’t want to b/c he’s scared. But when we jump ahead like we did last week, we find that he’s not so much scared that they won’t repent, he’s scared they will. Because he hates them. These are his bitter enemies. But there was another reason.

We learn in 2 Kings that Jonah is essentially an advisor to the King (Jeroboam the 2nd, of the northern kingdom of Israel). And the King loves Jonah, and Jonah loves being recognized by the King. It’s easy to get an identity like that. ‘Hey look at me, I’m a big shot, advising the king.

Well if their mortal enemies of Nineveh repent and God spares them and their nation continues to grow, well Jonah’s gonna look like a failure. He would lose his identity.

Do you know your own heart? What is it that for you, competes for the center of your life. I think it’s something different for everyone. Success, money, fame, career. Even good things: your marriage, your kids, your ministry.

I can’t tell you how many people I can think of right now that used to be fairly decent Christians. Come church service, reading their bibles, praying. And then out of nowhere, they embezzle money and now they’re in jail. They have a affair and now their marriage is ruined. Why? B/C something began to come between them and the source of their identity. God. And so they started trying to find themselves in other things.

4. The Stormy Hope

How does God save Jonah?

Does Jonah start obeying the 10 commandments or something? No, it would appear that he already was. It’s not he was here committing adultery. His life was already clean as a whistle.

No, Jonah needs a new identity. You could say that this is the ‘conversion’ part of the story.

He needs to get to the place where the love of God, the grace of God, are the driving force of his whole life.

It’s not about Jonah becoming a nicer person, it’s about Jonah becoming a new person. A person with God at the center of his life.

How does God do that?

First: God sends a storm. Don’t read too much into that, I’m just saying that exactly how the story goes. He doesn’t give Jonah cancer. But he does send a storm to the sea.

I wonder if you’ve noticed: It’s not often that people are just walking along and everything is going great, and they’re rich and they successful and they’re happy and then all of a sudden they stop and they say ‘You know what I just realized? That without God, my life is meaningless. I need to be converted” – That doesn’t often times happen. I’m sure it DOES happen, I’m just saying it doesn’t OFTEN happen. No, when does life change USUALLY happen? During a storm.

There’s a lot I could say here that I don’t have time to say. I am NOT a person who believes God gives you sick and twisted diseases or takes away your loved ones to teach you a lesson. Believe me, I’m not.

But I DO believe that God is this great artist, that can take really sad, broken things, and turn them into something really beautiful.

Have you ever seen one of those shows where people take trash and make beautiful stuff out of it. That’s a great picture of God.

That sometimes we have a way of really mucking up our lives, only to have God comes and bring something so beautiful out of it.

Possibly Melinda story here. How she got pregnant as a teenager and how this beautiful son came out of it.

2nd: Jonah obeys God in – storm.

So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” (Jonah 1:8)

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” (Jonah 1:9)

So here you can see Jonah starting to remember his identity. Who he is.

And what does he do? He tells the men to throw his into the sea. And in the sea is his salvation.

What an amazing paradox. That only by diving into the storm is he saved from the Storm. But so long as he was running FROM the storm, the storm was going to kill him.

And it’s the same for us, so long as we are running from God, we’ll always be experiencing death, and only by ‘jumping in’ to God, will we be saved.

People might tell you ‘Ahhh, you’re becoming a Christian, you’re gonna lose yourself.’ But they’re wrong. The only way to find yourself, to save yourself is to jump in to God.

God sends this fish as you know, which I would think based on how long humans can survive under water, had to essentially be waiting there for him.

So under the stormy sea, there is love waiting for you. If you just stop running.


Which of course brings us to Jesus.

Jesus was the one who was thrown into the sea, when he was killed for us. And only when that becomes real to you do you start to find your real identity. You don’t get ‘identity transformation’ just by trying to be a better person, no you have to see what Jesus did.

Soren Kierkegaard says at the end of his book that the sin underneath all the other sin is that you don’t have the courage to accept how loved you are by Jesus. That he would die for you.

So maybe tonight you feel like you’re life is a big stormy sea. Listen, there’s love underneath the waves. And the only way you’re going to find it is to stop running. But instead of dive in, head first into a God that really truly loves you.

Closing statement: Jonah is not just a man running from God but running from himself. Running from who God created him to be.

He sets sail to forge his own identity. But instead of finding his life, he ends up losing it. That is, until he stops running. But the moment he stops running and instead dives into the love of God, his salvation comes.

Those who try and save their life will lose it. And those we lose their life, for the sake of Christ will find it.

And so maybe you find yourself on a stormy sea. Don’t run from God. Run to him. And have the courage to accept how loved you truly are.