Jonah – The Reluctant but Penitent Prophet (2 of 4)

Focus Text: Jonah 1.1-3

“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.’ But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” (Jonah 1.1-3).

Jonah might well have written a chapter in his autobiography which began, “Well, all the trouble began when I decided to disobey God’s instructions.” That, in fact, is precisely what happened. We don’t know much of Jonah other than what is presented in the book that bears his name; we don’t know what Jonah was doing when he received the Divine instructions nor do we know what he did after he completed his assignment. What we do know is that he went beyond being reluctant and went directly to rebellious as indicated in today’s focus text. However, God was not through with Jonah just because he happened to have a rebellious streak in him; God continued to pursue Jonah in the same manner and motivated by the same love that moved God to pursue the Ninevites.

The sea raged violently with a storm raised by God’s power; so severe was the storm that it appeared that the ship upon which Jonah was traveling was about to be broken up. The sailors who worked aboard the ship were terribly frightened; they prayed to their heathen gods and cast out the ship’s cargo in order to avoid sure disaster. Meanwhile, Jonah lay fast asleep in the hold of the ship. Jonah was awakened by the ship’s captain and instructed to pray to his God if perhaps his prayers for deliverance might be heard. With this, the shipmen cast lots to determine the cause of their problems and the lot fell on Jonah!

“Then they said to him, ‘Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?’ So he said to them, ‘I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’ Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, ‘Why have you done this?’ For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them. Then they said to him, ‘What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?’ —for the sea was growing more tempestuous. And he said to them, ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.’” (Jonah 1.8-12).

Whatever else one may say about Jonah, he would have to be commended for his truthfulness before the mariners. He did not have to confess his wrongs; they could not have known. Yet, Jonah forthrightly said, “I know that this great tempest is because of me.” Some men are rebellious and deny their sins while others are of Jonah’s disposition; they go into sin but unequivocally confess their wrongs when faced with the truth! Reluctant – but penitent!


1. What did the sailors do to try to save themselves? What was the effect upon the storm?

2. What was Jonah doing while the sailors were working to try to save themselves?

3. By whom was Jonah awakened? For what purpose?

4. What was Jonah’s attitude when confronted with his wrong?