Grace-Sized Surprises

Series: This is My Father's World: Ethics for Daily Living from the Minor Prophets
July 10, 2022
Jonah 1:1-17
George Robertson

Big Idea:

The book of Jonah shows numerous miracles of God’s sovereign grace. From the outset, we encounter a God whose tenacious redemption creates joyful ironies of sovereignty. From chapter one, we must believe that God loves sinners (ourselves and others), because he proves it through the perseverance of his sovereign grace.

I. Finding while Fleeing (vv. 1-6)

The first irony exposed is that we will find God to be everywhere we are trying to flee from him.  The climax of this first irony is found in v. 3, “But Jonah ran away from the Lord.” It is important to realize that the ironic elements in this little book are not mere literary flourishes.  They illustrate a theological maxim that must be learned in life; disobeying the Lord is always personally irrational because God is sovereignly redemptive. What is God calling you to do?  Whatever it is, however great or small, if you are his child, you will not run away from it successfully.  He is already in that place—a vocation, person, relationship, addiction, comfort— you are trying to run to or hide in.  He has found you and we will see that there is nothing he is unwilling to do to call you back to obedience.  Your soul is more precious to him than any of your comforts, enjoyments, even your health. And his Kingdom agenda is infinitely more important than your personal one.     

II. Evangelizing while Rebelling (vv. 7-10)

Next, God’s sovereign grace is proven through the sailors’ conversion.  God used an angry rebellious prophet to lead pagans to faith in and worship of the one true God!  And they knew he was rebelling, because for some reason he told them when he boarded the ship.  It was not as if they embraced his faith not knowing the hypocritical life underlying his testimony.  God brought them to faith despite the suffering they experienced as a result of Jonah’s sin and despite Jonah’s personal testimony which contradicted his verbal profession.

III. Confirming by Denying (vv. 11-17)

The final irony is that Jonah’s denial confirms the steadfast lovingkindness of God. Jonah is so set on fleeing God that he would rather be tossed into the sea to his death than call on God from the ship and repent and go to Nineveh. In a stunning display of his grace, God still saves Jonah by having a fish swallow him and save his life.  

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Can you think of an example in your own life when God called you to something that you did not want to do? Can you think of an example of a time God turned your course around to set you back on the right path? What does Jonah and your experience reveal about God?
  2. It can often be the case that we think God can only use us when we have been faithful recently. When we are feeling angry, rebellious, depressed, or ashamed of falling into sin, we assume we cannot be used by God. How does God subvert this notion in Jonah’s story? What does this reveal about how God works?
  3. What is one particularly powerful and memorable way God has revealed his grace to you? How might your life look different if rather than thinking God’s grace was too good to be true, like Jonah, you readily received it, like the sailors?

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