I'd like to tell you all what we at The River are learning thus far from the book of Jonah, and encourage you to listen to the first two weeks online, if the content seems like something that would be beneficial to you. In this first blog I want to deal solely with the content of week one.
The first week we talked about why I believe the book of Jonah is a completely factual, authoritative book:
1. Jonah was a real person who was written about in a book that is historical in nature, and respected by Biblical and non-Biblical scholars alike. We know Jonah's father's name (Amittai), where he was from (Zebulun near Nazareth), what his occupation was (a prophet) and even when he lived and served (under Rehoboam II in the time of Amos 800-750BC). Jonah did not just show up in the book bearing his name, before that he had rightfully prophesied the restoration of Israel's borders and therefore proved himself to really be a prophet (if what prophets predicted didn't come through, they would lose their job and even their life).
2. If God is truly God -- having created oxygen, water, depth, mammals and all life -- could he not also keep a man alive in a fish (or His Son alive from the dead)?
3. Jesus spoke about Jonah, the fish and the repentance of the Assyrians as a historical and reliable event, comparing our belief in it to our belief in His death and resurrection (Matthew 12).
So if we can trust that God actually DID this historically, what may God have for us to learn from this event? First, like Jonah, we all run from God. I told a story of when I was running down my street, tripped on a curb with my hands stuck in my pockets, unable to stop myself from face-planting into the cement. Similarly, it is VERY hard for us to stop our momentum when we're running from God; we often face-plant into many situations in life that God never wanted us to and that could have been avoided had we kept close to Him. In that way, we're not much different than Jonah.
Secondly, the first week of Jonah reminded us that God obstinately pursues us, the lost objects of His love. God pursued Jonah and even manipulated the oceans to reach him. Would he not, and does He not also NOW change circumstances in our lives to reach us? I believe so. God not only loved Jonah, He also loved the Assyrians, as brutal and sinful they were (historically they were notoriously barbaric); this is why He sent Jonah to preach to them. Finally, God in His mercy pursues us. He not only pursued the world by sending Jesus Christ as a reliable, historical event (even Josephus and other non-biblical scholars validate the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth) ... God sent HIs Son -- as the Image of the Invisible God -- to point you and me to Him. Even today God pursues us with His Spirit, leading us into fellowship with Him and one another. The question of course is as we read this, will we run TO God, or AWAY from God...
What a glorious message this is to us as we watch -- spectators to the Jonah story; both uplifting and convicting! Hear the full sermon (at www.therivernrv.org/sermon-archives) and may God take all of us, when we sprint away from Him, to the dry land of His grounding Presence.