Salvation Belongs to the Lord: Jonah, Part 1

Brian Mahon - 5/14/2023


Call to worship: Psalm 3

Text: Jonah 1:1-16


God commissions Jonah to preach judgment against Nineveh, something it'd seem he'd love to do. Instead, for a reason explored in chapter 4, he tries, by all means, to run away from God's presence and ministry. For a prophet of God, he displays a shocking carelessness for the souls of others. While the mariners who gave him refuge are doing their best to keep from perishing at sea on account of his disobedience, he sleeps in the hull of the ship. A pagan captain asks a great question: what do you mean, you sleeper? Devoid of counsel, they take counsel together. God puts the spotlight on Jonah to illuminate the situation further than he has. At their asking, he then offers to be thrown overboard in order to spare the crew. The ungodly show more resolve about his life than the prophet does for theirs. When at last their extremities cannot calm God's judgment, they're pressed into prayer for themselves and for their actions with respect to Jonah. They do with him as he had originally suggested and, soon as he splashes into the sea, it calms for them. The mariners become God-fearers, vowing, as it were, to be living sacrifices. It's a moving beginning to a little book with a big message: salvation belongs to the Lord. This truth calls on us to be ready to go to whomever the Lord gives with the truth of the Gospel, the good news of another Jewish Man Who went as God directed to bring sinners peace with God.

Sermon Outline:

  1. The Lord's runaway prophet. (1:1-3)
  2. The Lord's revelatory providence. (1:4-16)
    • The storm and the only sleeper. (1:4-6)
    • The lot and the only Lord. (1:7-10)
    • The sea and the only solution. (1:11-14)
    • The result and the only (right) response. (1:15-16)


Discussion Questions:

  1. Read Jonah 1:1-16. Also Jonah 4:1-4; Exodus 34:6-7; 2 Kings 14:23-29.
  2. What is Jonah's response to the Word of God with respect to his life and ministry? What was the commission? Why would Jonah not want to carry it out? Why, in fact, would Jonah do all in his power to run away from it? How does the Word of the Lord relate to the presence of the Lord in these verses? In fleeing to Gentile-Tarshish by way of syncretistic-Joppa, what do we learn about this Israelite prophet? What does he believe about God (see 4:1-4)? Knowing Jonah, why might God have called him to this ministry instead of, say, Isaiah? (Why did Christ call Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles?)
  3. How does God prove He can't actually be fled? How does Jonah's disobedience impact others? When death draws near, what's a typical response of God-conscious people? What rebuke does Jonah receive from a pagan captain, and why? Are we equally asleep while all around us are perishing? Why do they cast lots? Who controls the casting of the lot (Proverbs 16:33)? Who directs the mariners to Jonah? What questions do they ask of him, and what does he answer? Why might this excite their fear even further? What are they learning by experience about fleeing the Word of the Lord?
  4. What does Jonah suggest they do with him? Does that seem like a righteous suggestion, or not? What do you think? How do the godless mariners show more concern for God's prophet than God's prophet for them? Can we, by the extremities of our exertions, save ourselves when facing the Lord's judgments? Where does the power of the storm finally place them (1:14)? What do they pray?
  5. What happens when they throw Jonah into the sea? What is their response to the Lord's mercy? If you could summarize the Lord's lesson for us and His runaway prophet, what would it (or they) be? Moving through the text, how does the Holy Spirit lead us to Jesus, the greater Jonah? Salvation belongs to the Lord. In this chapter, what does that imply for recipients of His salvation? What do we learn about God's heart for all peoples? Are we resonating well with His heart?
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