1. Jonah's Flight (verses 1-3)
2. God's Pursuit (verses 4-17)

I want to begin this morning by telling you a story. It's the story of Jonah, the prophet, although he is one of the minor prophets, and although his book is nestled deep into the Old Testament that you may find a little difficult to find, I know that this story is familiar to many of you. Even the children know about Jonah, as it is often a favorite story to tell in Sunday School. And thanks especially to the success of Veggie Tales, even the children know about the story of Jonah, although a few of the details are a bit difficult, those in Nineveh didn't really smack each other with fishes. And there was no talking worm. But I think that you will be able to follow what's going on.

(At this point, I would encourage you to take out your Bible and read the entire book of Jonah. It should take less than 10 minutes). [1]

The end of the story of Jonah ends with the following words, "Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?" (4:11). It really leaves us hanging, doesn't it. Recently, I went over the entire book of Jonah with my family. When I finished, my oldest son was shocked at how it ends. It ends by speaking about animals?

The book of Jonah ends with a question. Jonah had compassion upon a plant (4:10). Should not God also have compassion upon people, especially upon those who repent of their sins? (4:11). And the question comes with no answer.

Now, looking at it from our vantage point, how easy is it for us to say, "Yes. Of course God should have compassion upon Nineveh. Sure, they were a wicked people. But, they repented. Sure, they deserved judgment, but they turned from their evil ways. Isn't this always the plan of God? When people repent, God always forgives, doesn't He? Isn't this the truth of Jeremiah 18:7-8?

Jeremiah 18:7-8
At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it;
if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.

God never refuses to forgive any who are repentant of their sins. Why should we object at all to the LORD having compassion upon Nineveh?"

For us, such a question is easy to answer. But, for Jonah, it was difficult for him to answer this question. It all has to do with who the Ninevites were. Nineveh was the capitol city of Assyria. To us, Assyria is merely an ancient civilization that has faded into oblivion. But, to Jonah, the Assyrians were alive and well. In fact, they were the arch enemies of the nation of Israel. For years, Israel had lived under the threat of Assyria invasion. Several of their kings had paid tribute to the Assyrian kings so as to protect themselves against any invasion from Assyria.

During the days of Jonah, however, Assyria was in a state of relative weakness. This meant that Jeroboam II (who reigned in Israel from 793-753 B. C., during the days of Jonah) didn't have to pay tribute to them. In fact, during his reign, Israel enlarged their borders, briefly turning back the Assyrian domination. According to 2 Kings 14:25, Jonah was the major prophet who had prophesied that this would take place. In many ways, Jonah was a local hero. He had prophesied of how God would bless Israel, and his prophecies came true. But this didn't mean that the threat of Assyrian domination was over. Such success wasn't long lived. Some 30 after the reign of Jeroboam, Assyria came and destroyed the nation of Israel.

During the days of Jonah, Nineveh was still very much an enemy of Israel. In Jonah's heart was a deep-seated hatred for the Ninevites. He wanted nothing more than to see them destroyed and wiped off the face of the earth. And so, when the question comes in verse 11, "Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?" ... It was hard for Jonah to respond. He couldn't stand the thought of his arch enemies receiving mercy from the hand of the Lord. They were wicked. They had oppressed Israel for years. They deserved to be destroyed.

And yet, God (as we will see) showed them mercy. Jonah couldn't handle it. When God was merciful to Nineveh, Jonah was sick to his stomach. But further than that. Jonah wanted to die, because of his anguish over the thought of seeing Nineveh forgiven. To see the Ninevites forgiven was simply too much for him to bear. Consider the following verses, which appears in chapter 4, ...

Verse 3, "Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life."
Verse 8, "Jonah ... became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, 'Death is better to me than life.'"
Verse 9, "I have good reason to be angry, even to death."

So, why would Jonah be so angry? Why would Jonah want to die? Because He didn't love mercy. In fact, the book of Jonah is all about mercy. In chapter 1, we see Jonah fleeing from mercy, but God pursues Jonah, which is a pursuit of mercy. In chapter 2, we see Jonah receiving mercy. In chapter 3, we see God showing mercy. In chapter 4, we see Jonah hating mercy. Mercy is the question of verse 11, "Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?"

In recent days, we have picked up a short theme for the books we have been studying. For Jonah, I have chosen to phrase the theme as a question, in the spirit of Chapter 4, verse 11, "Do You Love Mercy?" Jonah ends with a question. It is good for us to ask the question as the theme: "Do You Love Mercy?" I'm not asking you if you like the mercy of God. I'm asking you if you love the mercy of God. I'm not asking about mercy shown to you. I'm asking about God's mercy to others. Nor am I asking about mercy shown merely to your friends. I'm asking about mercy shown to your enemies. Do you find great pleasure when God shows mercy to people? Even your greatest enemies?

At Rock Valley Bible Church, we are people who love the mercy of God. We know that it has come to us in the cross of Christ. We, who deserve God's anger and wrath, actually receive mercy instead. God has been gracious to us in Christ! This little message is the premise of Rock Valley Bible Church. The reason why we all gather week in and week out is because of Jesus Christ, and what he has done for our souls. His blood has washed away our sin. We believe it, by faith, and we rejoice in it.

Now if you are here this morning and don't believe it, I urge you today to repent of your sins and cal upon God. And experience the mercy of God upon your life. And you will find it incredibly easy to delight in Christ.

See, it's easy to love the mercy of God when it comes upon you. We love the mercy of God when it comes upon us. Jonah loved the mercy of God when it came upon him. But, do you love the mercy of God when it comes upon others? For some, it's easy to love when this happens. When God's mercy comes upon your friends, it's easy. But, what about God's mercy upon your enemies? What about God's mercy upon those who have hurt you? Do you love God's mercy, even when it is shown upon them?

Perhaps there are people like this in your life, towards whom you have a hard heart. They have hurt you. They have swindled money from you. They have physically abused you. They have sought to bring you down. They have spoken harsh words to you. They are your enemies. Do you love mercy enough that nothing would give you more pleasure than to see the LORD being merciful to them? Do you love mercy this much? This is the message of Jonah. Jesus said it this way, "Love your enemies." Do you love God's mercy enough that you would give all you have to see it poured out on your enemies?

In chapter 1 of Jonah, we are going to see God's love for mercy. He loves mercy so much that He will pursue it. He will pursue it hard. The title of my message this morning is, "God Pursues Mercy." This is what we will see in Jonah 1. Technically, in this chapter, God isn't pursuing mercy. Technically, God is pursuing Jonah. But, when you remember that Jonah is the path that God had chosen to show mercy to Nineveh, then, any pursuit of Jonah is really a pursuit of mercy. Let's look at my first point this morning, ...

1. Jonah's Flight (verses 1-3)

The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me." But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, so he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD (Jonah 1:1-3).

As I said earlier, Jonah was a local prophetic hero to the people of Israel. He had prophesied that Israel was going to have a measure of success against their enemies. And his prophecy came true (see 2 Kings 14:25). But now, God called Jonah to preach to another people: the Ninevites. Though Jonah had been a prophet to his own people, God was now calling him to be a missionary. But, not a missionary to anywhere, a missionary to his enemies. Jonah was called as a missionary to some wicked people.

God said in verse 2, "their wickedness has come up before Me." Now it's not that God had any special insight to know about their wickedness. On the contrary, Nineveh was known far and wide for their cruelty. Archaeologists have discovered some writings of the leaders of Assyria, describing their cruelty in war.

One of their kings, Ashurnasirpal II (883-859) boasted, "I stormed the mountain peaks and took them. In the midst of the mighty mountain I slaughtered them; With their blood I dyed the mountain red like wool. The heads of their warriors I cut off, and I formed them into a pillar over against their city; their young men and their maidens I burned in the fire." [2]

Shalmaneser II (859-824) described his cruelties with these words, "A pyramid of heads I reared in front of his city. Their youths and their maidens I burnt up in the flames I cut their throats like lambs. I cut off their precious lives [as one cuts] a string. Like the many waters of a storm I made [the contents of] their gullets and entrails run down upon the wide earth. Their hands I cut off." [3]

Ashurbanipal (669-626) wrote about how he treated a captured leader, "I pierced his chin with my keen hand dagger. Through his jaw I passed a rope, put a dog chain upon him and made him occupy ... a kennel." [4] He also boasted of the Egyptian corpses that he hung "on stakes and stripped off their skins and covered the city wall(s) with them." [5] It is with little amazement that Nahum identified Nineveh as "the bloody city." (3:1)

Beyond this, the Assyrian king was extremely arrogant. Ashurbanipal demonstrated egotistism with these words, "I [am] Ashurbanipal, the great [king], the mighty king, king of the universe, king of Assyria......The great gods.....magnified my name; they made my rule powerful." [6] As self-centered as this was, Esarhaddon topped it. He said, "I am powerful, I am all powerful, I am a hero., I am gigantic. I am colossal, I am honored, I am magnified, I am without equal among all kings, the chosen one of Asshur, Nabu, and Marduk." [7] On top of this, idolatry and immorality was rampant in Assyria.

No doubt, Nineveh was a wicked city. Even the king of Nineveh acknowledged the wickedness of the Ninevites, as he called on each man to "turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands" (3:8). All in Israel were aware of their wickedness. They had seen and heard about their violence, especially toward those whom they had conquered. Jonah was aware of their wickedness. And God was aware of their wickedness. It was to these people that Jonah was called to preach. But Jonah refused the divine call upon his life.

In verse 3, we read, "But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD." Rather than obeying the LORD and traveling to Nineveh to "cry against" them, he "rose up to flee to Tarshish." Scholars aren't exactly sure where Tarshish is, but the best guess is that it was on the southern tip of Spain, more than 2,000 miles west on the Mediterranean Sea. To get to Tarshish, he first had to travel to the coastal town of Joppa. There, he found his boat that would take him to Tarshish. This is the exact opposite direction of Nineveh. You get to Nineveh was north-east of Galilee (where Jonah was from). Tarshish was in the far west.

Jonah couldn't have made a greater statement with his travel plans than he did. He wasn't going to obey the LORD! He wasn't going to travel across the land to Nineveh. He was going by sea to Tarshish. He was running from the LORD!

Should you know nothing about the geography of these locations, verse 3 makes it clear what Jonah was doing. He was attempting to flee as far away from the LORD that he could. Twice in verse 3, it's mentioned that Jonah was going to Tarshish, "from the presence of the LORD." He's trying to flee from the LORD.

Now, we know that that's something ridiculous to try. And Jonah knew that it was impossible to flee from the LORD. He lived around 750 years before the birth of Christ. This was two hundred years after David penned these words, ...

Psalm 139:7-10
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me."

Certainly, Jonah knew these words. But, sin clouds our thinking. Isn't this true? Have you ever sinned in secret? Have you ever gone to a place where you thought no one was looking, and sinned, thinking that nobody saw what you did? I've done this. I have cursed a storm when nobody was able to hear. I have spoken curses upon people with whom I was angry. I have made effort to do things behind closed doors, that I ought not to have done. Why have I done this? Didn't I know that I can't flee from God? I know why, sin clouds our thinking. And Jonah's sin was clouding his thinking. His sin was that He didn't love the mercy of God.

In chapter 4, we read why it is that Jonah fled. After Nineveh repented and God forgave them, Jonah became angry at God. We read, ...

Jonah 4:2-3
He prayed to the LORD and said, "Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life."

The reason that Jonah didn't go to Nineveh was because he knew that God was "gracious and compassionate." He was fully away that God was "slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness." He knew full well that God is "one who relents concerning calamity." Jonah knew that God would be disposed forgive Nineveh of their great sin. And Jonah hated the thought of them receiving mercy at the hand of the Lord. In other words, Jonah hated mercy when it would be given to his enemies. And so he fled, so that Nineveh wouldn't taste the mercy of God. But God loves mercy. And so God pursued Jonah to bring him to Nineveh. We see this pursuit in verses 4-17.

2. God's Pursuit (verses 4-17)

As we go through the rest of chapter 1, I do think that you will be amazed at the efforts that the LORD goes through to bring Jonah on his mission of mercy to Nineveh. I think that it shows you how much the LORDloves mercy! We see the first expression of God's pursuit in verses 4 and 5,

a. God sent the storm (verses 4-5).

"The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep" (verses 4-5).

This was an obvious display of God's sovereignty. God is the one who brought the storm upon the sea. "The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea." His hand was on the matter. God is sovereign over the weather. As Psalm 135:7 says, "He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; Who makes lightnings for the rain, Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries." And He brought this storm.

This wasn't a small storm. This was a big one. "The sailors became afraid." These are experienced mariners on the sea who know a big storm when they see one. The size of the storm is seen in the fact that they "threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them." You don't jettison your cargo, unless you are convinced that it's the only way to survive the storm, by making the ship lighter.

Furthermore, these sailors were scared enough to begin praying to their gods, in hopes that one of them might have enough power to still this sea. But, the one whose God could save them was down below, sleeping like a baby.

But, God continued His pursuit of mercy. ...

b. God sent a preacher (verse 6).

"[So] the captain approached him and said, 'How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish'" (verse 6).

The captain of the ship asked Jonah a great question: "How is it that you are sleeping?" The storm was casting the ship high and low. The ship was tossing it too and fro. How Jonah could sleep in this storm is difficult to know. It may have been that he was so depressed that he was attempting to escape reality, not really caring whether or not he lived or died. In verse 12 we will see Jonah willing to be thrown overboard, preferring to die than to go to the Ninevites. Or perhaps Jonah could sleep because he had drunk himself into a deep sleep.

Perhaps the best explanation is that Jonah was continuing on in his rebellion against the LORD. He was deep down in the ship, because that was where He thought that he could flee from Him. He was down below, out of sight.

Then, the convicting words come from the captain, "Get up, call on your god" (verse 6). Those are the same Hebrew words that God used when He called Jonah to Nineveh, "Arise, ... cry against Nineveh" (verse 2). I'm not sure why the translators used different words, but they are the same. "Get up, ... call" are the same as "Arise, ... cry." This is more than a mere coincidence, that I don't think was lost on Jonah. I believe that Jonah heard the word of the Lord ringing in his ears, "Get up, ... call."

Have you ever experienced a dream in which shortly before you wake up, something that is taking place surrounding you becomes a part of the dream? For instance, shortly before you wake up, you dream that you are being pelted with small pebbles by a monkey who is throwing them down upon you in the tree (Aren't dreams often this bizarre?). When you awaken, you find that it is hailing outside hard enough that you can hear their constant pounding upon the roof of your bedroom. Such may have been the case with Jonah. Shortly before Jonah woke up, he was dreaming about the call of God upon his life, "Get up, ... call." And then, as he becomes conscious, he sees (and hears) the captain telling him the same thing, "Get up, ... call."

The captain was bringing a rebuke to Jonah, which went far deeper than the captain ever knew. It was a demonstration of God's sovereignty. It was a demonstration of how far God went in His pursuit of mercy.

c. God controlled the lot (verse 7).

"Each man said to his mate, 'Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.' So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah" (verse 7).

These superstitious sailors believed that the storm could be explained by someone. They didn't know who it was, so they cast lots. Now, we have no detail regarding the specifics of how they did it. They could have drawn straws, the shortest straw indicated the lot. They could have taken marked stoned out of a container. They could have manipulated some sticks. They could have thrown some rocks. We don't know exactly how it was done. But, we do know that "the lot fell on Jonah."

Again, like the arising of the storm and like the words of the captain, this was no accident. Proverbs 16:33 says, "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD." Through the lot God was communicating with these sailors to tell them, "Jonah is your man." And so, they confront him, beginning in verse 8...

d. God exposed Jonah's sin (verses 8-14).

First of all, these sailors approached Jonah. In verse 8 we read, "Then they said to him, 'Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?'"

Five questions come rapid fire and upon Jonah. They want to know all about what's up with Jonah! The lot had fallen upon him. Perhaps there might be some clue as to why this storm had come upon them. Perhaps they could figure out how to calm the storm. Perhaps Jonah held the key.

Jonah's response (in verse 9), was really an answer to all of their questions, "He said to them, 'I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.'"

Jonah set it straight. He was a Hebrew, from the land of Israel. He knew the God of heaven! He knew the God who created the sea and the dry land. Now, certainly, the creator of the sea was able to calm the sea. If a sailor's god was the god of plants, it wasn't going to be of much use now. But, Jonah's God was of use to them. The sailors responded rightly.

In verse 10 we read, "Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, 'How could you do this?' For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them."

Verse 10 shows that there was more to the dialogue that merely what is recorded for us in Jonah. Apparently, Jonah had told them his story. He told them that he as a prophet in Israel. He told them of how he was called by the LORD to preach to Nineveh, but had fled his presence. That's why he boarded the ship. That's why he was headed to Tarshish. That's why he was sleeping in the hold of the ship. That's why the storm came upon them. It was all because of Jonah.

Upon hearing Jonah's explanation of the storm, the sailors were "extremely frightened!" In verse 5, we learned that they were afraid of the storm. But, now, their fear was magnified. They were "extremely frightened." The Hebrew literally reads, "Then the men feared a great fear." Now, it wasn't merely the storm that gave them fear. Instead, they were afraid of Jonah and his God.

It is ironic here that Jonah, who claimed to fear the Lord (according to verse 9), wasn't acting like it. But, those who made no claim to know the LORD, actually feared the LORD greatly. I think that this is God in his mercy exposing Jonah's sin, that Jonah would be persuaded to go to Nineveh after all.

At this point, the sailors wanted a plan. They didn't know anything about the LORD! They didn't know how to appease this god? They wanted to know what should be done. This is what we read in verse 11, "So they said to him, 'What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?'--for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy."

Picture it, as the waves came crashing higher, and as the wind was whipping stronger, and as the sea was getting darker, as the ship was being tossed to and fro with greater force than ever before, they were looking to Jonah, the prophet of God for help. At this point, Jonah should have realized this and fallen on his face in repentance. He has acknowledged his sin already to the sailors, "I'm fleeing from the LORD." But, it seemingly never got to a point of repentance.

You can look long and hard in these verses for any sign of repentance, but you get no sense that Jonah is anything but still maintaining his heart of rebellion against the LORD. When the summons came to call upon their gods, Jonah was no where to be found. I don't think that Jonah called upon the LORD. His sin was being exposed. He was being pressed by these sailors to do something. Jonah knew that God was "a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity" (4:2). Jonah knew that he needed to repent, but his heart was still hard.

In verse 12, you get the sense that Jonah said to them very stoically, "Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you." Jonah was willing to die, rather than repent. He would rather be thrown in the sea and drown, than confess his sin and return to Nineveh to preach to them. This is a hard-hearted missionary, refusing to accept his call to missions. He would rather drown.

The reaction of the sailors aboard the ship further expose Jonah's sin, because they responded in a godly way to the things that were before them. We find them refusing to throw Jonah into the water. We read in verse 13, "However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them."

Think about it for a moment. If Jonah had been a sailor, and if the lot fell on a Ninevite, and if the Ninevite confessed that it was his doing that brought the storm, do you think that Jonah would have had any difficulty at all throwing the guy overboard? I don't think so. He hated the Ninevites with a passion. He would love to see destruction come upon any of them. And yet, these "ungodly sailors," were unwilling to do the same thing to Jonah. Instead, they attempted to row ashore. But, try as they might, they were unable to do so.

The storm was "becoming even stormier against them." The storm was bad to begin with. It was fierce enough that the sailors threw the cargo into the sea. In verse 11, we find that the sea was becoming "increasingly stormy." But now, in verse 13, we see that it was more violent than before. It was "becoming even stormier against them."

Notice the last two words of verse 13, "against them." God's hand was moving the storm against them. God is blowing them away from the land. I believe that God wasn't going to let them get to shore. Rather, God was going to further convict Jonah of his sin.

These ungodly sailors again do a very godly thing. They prayed to the LORD. This comes in verse 14, "Then they called on the LORD and said, 'We earnestly pray, O LORD, do not let us perish on account of this man's life and do not put innocent blood on us; for You, O LORD, have done as You have pleased.'"

When we first meet these sailors, they were each crying to their own gods. But, now that they realized that it was the LORD, Jehovah, who brought the storm upon them, they were praying to Him, the only true God. Perhaps these men knew something about the LORD. They may have heard of the story of the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. They may have heard of the dynasty of King David. They may have heard about the prophets, Elijah and Elisha, who were only a touch older than Jonah. But, I don't think that they knew much. And yet, they were praying to the LORD in faith, believing that He was the cause of the storm.

Please notice the elements of their prayer. First of all, they plea for mercy. "We are going to throw this guy overboard, but please don't hold us accountable. It was his idea. He is accepting full responsibility. Please be merciful to us. We are throwing him overboard. But, we are desperate. We have nowhere else to turn. Please be merciful to us!" This is a plea for mercy.

But, not only was their prayer a plea for mercy. It was also an acknowledgement of the sovereignty of the LORD over all of these circumstances. They said, "For You, O LORD, have done as you have pleased." They may as well have quoted from Psalm 115:3, "Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases." They may as well have quoted from Psalm 135:6, "Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all the deeps." They could have quoted from these things, but I would be surprised if any of these sailors knew the Scriptures. They believed in the sovereignty of God, not because they had read it, but, because they had experienced it.

But, Jonah, who should have known better, was still willing to drown, rather than repent. "So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging" (verse 15). Here is yet another display of God exercising His sovereign hand in dealing with Jonah.

e. God calmed the sea (verses 15-16).

The sea, which was becoming more and more stormy was suddenly stopped. I'm sure that everyone on that boat knew what happened. For those who didn't quite see the events take place in all of the chaos of the storm, in the quietness of the sea waters, they would have been told, "Jonah was thrown overboard and immediately the sea became calm."

The direct relationship between these things was certainly enough for the sailors. We read in verse 16, "Then the men feared the LORD greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows." The storm had put a healthy fear into these sailors (verse 5). Jonah's confession that he was running away from the LORD put an even greater fear in these men (verse 10). But now, seeing the connection with their own eyes, that God is able to calm the storm, put the ultimate fear in their hearts: the fear of the LORD.

These sailors then "offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows." Their sacrifice may have been superstitious. Their vows may have been an expression to appease the LORD for the next time there is a storm. Next time there is a storm on the sea, I bet that these men invoked the name of Jehovah in their prayers. However, at least their efforts at worship were directed rightly. They were directed toward the one, true God.

Jonah may well have witnessed this take place. As he was thrown into the sea, he didn't have to fight the raging tempests of the sea. He had a calm sea to navigate. Perhaps he was treading water, watching these sailors respond appropriately to what they had seen. It may have convicted his heart more deeply to Jonah's sin.

But, anything that he saw happen upon the boat was short-lived. Because, as verse 17 says, "And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights." This was yet another demonstration of God's pursuit of mercy. See, the fish didn't come out of nowhere, and just happen upon Jonah. Rather, ...

f. God sent the fish (verse 17).

You can see it right there in verse 17, "the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah." This fish actually became Jonah's salvation. Jonah was headed for a death by drowning, but God saved him through the fish. He spent three days and three nights in the stomach of the fish. This was for his preservation. At the end of chapter 2, Jonah was spit up onto the dry land (verse 10) presumably back in Israel after a three day read-eye swim, so that he might continue east to Nineveh to accomplish that task that God had assigned him to do.

Again, I want to make the point that God pursued Jonah. God pursued him, because God loved mercy. God had a heart for the Ninevites and wanted to send Jonah to them. And God would do whatever it takes to turn his heart around. Do you love mercy?

A few weeks ago, several of us men from Rock Valley Bible Church traveled to Minneapolis. to the Desiring God Pastor's Conference. One of the speakers was a man named Michael Oh. He is a missionary from Korea to Japan. Now, we may not think much about this. But, it is really quite remarkable. Here are his notes from the talk he gave, ...

I'm not Japanese. I'm Korean. But my father was born Japanese -- or at least he was forced to take a Japanese name Hideo Matsuyama as a subject of the Japanese Imperial Government which controlled Korea from 1910 to 1945. As a child he would be beaten if he used his Korean name Sung Kyu Oh or spoke Korean. And now I his son serve as a missionary among the people he was trained to hate.

And there is perhaps good reason humanly speaking to hate the Japanese. We talk about the horrors of the holocaust, when Nazi Germany killed 6 million Jews and 20 million Russians. According to Historian Thomas Chalmers the Japanese slaughtered as many as 30 million Koreans, Chinese and other Asians. There was a holocaust in Asia -- but no one has seemed to notice.

In Asia, Japanese scientists tested various chemical and biological weapons such a bubonic plague and anthrax on human victims. Human vivisection was performed without anesthesia; body parts were cut off and blood loss tested. Women were impregnated by soldiers and doctors; their bellies sliced open; their babies removed and then tested upon leading to their death. Nazi scientists who visited Japanese medical experimentation facilities vomited from the horror of what they saw.

200,000 Korean women and girls as young as 12 years old were forced to be sex slaves of the Japanese Imperial army, subject to rape upwards of 100 times per day. They are known today euphemistically as the "Comfort Women." Many of them ended up dead. ...

Undergirding all of these medical and sexual atrocities was a racist ideology that sought to subdue, civilize and subject lesser races and people. On tope of all of this, many Japanese leaders today STILL do not admit to fault during Japan's Imperialist past.

It should come as no surprise then, that the question that people most often ask me about our mission work is, "WHY JAPAN? Of all the places in the world, why would you, a Korean, choose Japan." The answer that I give is quite simply, "Jesus says, 'Love your enemies.'" [8]

Loving your enemies is precisely what Michael Oh is doing. When you listen to him speak, you detect that he has a huge heart for the Japanese. He, himself, acknowledged that on the outside, the Japanese have a veneer of politeness. But, he sees them as a nation that is "so DESPERATELY LOST WITHOUT CHRIST." So, he has gone to Japan and has proclaimed the gospel in the hard mission field of enemies. Michael Oh has the heart that Jonah didn't have.

You may not be a missionary in some far off place where your enemies are. But, God calls you to have the same heart that Michael Oh has. You are called to have the same heart as God. Do you love mercy? Do you have a heart that beats for mercy? [9]


This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on March 1, 2009 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.

[1] When I originally preached this message, I recited the entire book of Jonah from memory.

[2] Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, 1:148 as quoted in Walvoord and Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 1494.

[3] Ibid., 1:213, 127.

[4] Ibid. 2:319.

[5] Ibid. 2:295.

[6] Ibid., 2:323-4.

[7] Ibid., 2:226.

[8] You can read, listen to, or watch this message at http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByConference/43/3575_Missions_as_Fasting/ (emphasis his).

[7] Ibid (emphasis his).