A Sovereign God, A Stubborn Prophet

"A Sovereign God, A Stubborn Prophet" Jonah 1:1-3


Jonah 1:1-3

The Word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amattai 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.


Even people with little knowledge of the Bible know of the story of Jonah. It is short, but full of excitement to most readers, especially the story of the so-called whale. It reads like a “once upon a time…” type story.

It is the only prophetic book of its kind. It actually reads more like a biographical historical narrative. That means a story about someone’s life where real details are recorded.

Most prophetic writings are focused on the oracles or the messages from God. Consider Isaiah—very little is written about Isaiah’s life, his goings in or coming out… most of the book focuses on the message he proclaimed.

But just because Jonah is a historical record of what happened in Jonah’s life doesn’t mean we can’t learn a great deal from it.

Even though it is a narrative it is designed to be instructive. There is a specific arrangement of information… this can be clearly seen from the details given and left out. Some lengthy amounts of time are skipped over, and other times one conversation is given a great deal of attention.

We get to observe all of that together.

The opening scene is a faceoff between YHWH, the covenant name of God, and Jonah—they are the primary two characters of our story.

Others will come and go along the way, but these two are where the primary learning is going to come from. We hit the conflict right off the bat in Scene 1. This conflict is a showdown that highlights the distance between the character of God and the pride of the human heart.

We will see God’s unchanging mercy and compassion highlighted, His sovereign power, His ability to conquer the hearts of sinners, His power to save, the fact that you will not sin and get away with it.

The mission of Jonah was a fact of symbolical and typical importance, which was intended not only to enlighten Israel as to the position of the Gentile world in relation to the kingdom of God, but also to typify the future adoption of such of the heathen, as should observe the word of God, into the fellowship of the salvation prepared in Israel for all nations.[1]

This is the worst light a prophet is ever put in. But as we will see Jonah is intended to be an example of the nationalistic heart that reigns throughout Israel.

The author uses the art of representative roles in a straightforward manner. In this story of God’s loving concern for all people, Nineveh, the great menace to Israel, is representative of the Gentiles. Correspondingly, stubbornly reluctant Jonah represents Israel’s jealousy of her favored relationship with God and her unwillingness to share the Lord’s compassion with the nations. The book depicts the larger scope of God’s purpose for Israel: that she might rediscover the truth of his concern for the whole creation and that she might better understand her own role in carrying out that concern.[2]

3 Part Introduction to Jonah

  1. Jonah’s role (1)
  2. Jonah’s responsibility (2)
  3.  Jonah’s rebellion (3)


[1] C. F. Keil and Delitzsch F., Commentary on the Old Testament, Accordance electronic ed. 10 vols.; (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996), paragraph 30862.

[2] Introduction from the NIV Study Bible, http://www.biblica.com/en-us/bible/online-bible/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-jonah/