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    by Gino Geraci

Jonah Introduction
Date Posted: September 27, 2007

Jonah is probably the most familiar of the twelve Minor Prophets. You likely remember from Sunday School stories of Moses and the bulrushes and Daniel and the lions’ den, and every child knows the story of Jonah and the whale. This book will look at an old story in a fresh way and glean not new principles, but principles that have always existed since before the book was even written.

The book of Jonah was written by the prophet Jonah. His name means dove, but he is more like a hawk. A man with a chip on his shoulder, he is anything but a dove. Imagine that your name means peace, and your parents send you off to the war colleges of America. It would be like naming General Norman Schwartzkoph, “Dove.”

As mentioned in Jonah 1:1, Jonah was the son of a man named Amittai. Although we don’t know for certain whether or not it’s true, an interesting Jewish tradition identifies Jonah as the son of the widow of Zerephath whom Elijah raised from the dead in 1 Kings 17:8-24.

Jonah prophesied about the eighth century A.D. around 782-753 B.C, during the rule of Jeroboam the second. His name is mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25 where we read the words,

“He restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher.” Gath Hepher was a town about three miles north of Nazareth in the lower Galilee.

It’s significant that Jonah was a prophet of the Northern Kingdom from Galilee, because as you may recall, in John 7:52, the Pharisees claimed that no prophet had ever come from Galilee. They were wrong. There was a prophet from Galilee; his name was Jonah. This is important because just like the Pharisees claimed to know the Bible and yet were wrong in this fact, Bible teachers today can also be wrong. They can be wrong factually, or in their applications and interpretations. Because of this it is important to always test everything you hear or read against Scripture. In fact, as you read this book, I would encourage you to extend the same courtesy to me as you examine everything I write in light of God’s word.

In Jonah’s day, Israel, the Northern Kingdom, was strong. There was political and economic prosperity. Nineveh, the capitol of the Assyrian empire, was located where the Tigris River joined the confluence of the upper Zab. Although Assyria had weak rulers and was in a mild state of decline, they remained a threat. Famous for her cruelty and torture, graphic records describe in detail the atrocities committed by Assyria against her enemies. Significantly, Assyria’s number one enemy was Israel.

Jonah is one of the few books in the Old Testament where the focus is not so much on the message, but the messenger. In fact, there are forty-eight verses in the book of Jonah, and only five Hebrew words of the message, which essentially says, “Yet forty days and judgment.” The rest of the book is devoted to the emotions and character of Jonah.

Jonah was the first Hebrew foreign missionary sent to the Gentiles with a message from God. It’s true that prior to Jonah, other prophets talked to Gentiles. For instance, Moses talked to Pharaoh, Elijah talked to the widow of Zerephath, and Elisha spoke to Naaman, the leprous general, who came and washed in the river seven times. But Jonah was the first to conduct a full-blown foreign mission outreach to Gentiles.

Jesus is in every book of the Bible, and Jonah is one of the few prophets that Jesus likens to Himself in the New Testament. Matthew 12:39-41 says, “But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.” Jesus believed that Jonah was a real person, and He believed that a great fish literally swallowed Jonah. He saw in the story of Jonah an illustration of His own death, burial, and resurrection.

Mercy is the outstanding theme of the book of Jonah where we read of the mercy that God shows to Jonah and the Gentile people. God’s love, mercy, and His generous offer of grace to all who turn to Him in repentance are evident throughout the book. People often say that in the Old Testament God is a God of judgment and vengeance, but in the New Testament He is a God of love. A study of the Old Testament reveals that God is a God of love everywhere, in every book and in practically every chapter of the Bible.

Although the book of Jonah can be divided various ways, for the purpose of this book, it is going to be broken into four main parts:

Through the book of Jonah we’ll learn the following five lessons:

  • You can’t run from God
  • There is no limit to what God will do to get your attention
  • Failure doesn’t disqualify a person from service to the Lord
  • Disobedience to God creates turmoil in the life of a believer
  • Patriotism, nationalism, political leanings, or prejudice should never stand between a believer and the plan of God

The question you will need to ask yourself throughout this series is, “What is it that you are running from?”

© 2007 by Gino Geraci

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Biography Information:
Gino Geraci is the founding Pastor of Calvary South Denver.

He has served as a police chaplain for several police departments and currently serves as a Police Chaplain for the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department. Gino has provided emergency service support in many national tragedies. He was a first responder at Columbine High School, Ground Zero in New York, and Platte Canyon High School.

Gino has appeared on scores of national and local radio programs as a guest, including television appearances with Lee Stroebel's Faith Under Fire. He currently hosts a daily radio program with Salem Media in Denver, Colorado area.

Gino is a much sought after conference speaker. He has conducted leadership conferences, Bible conferences, and emergency service support conferences with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Samaritans' Purse, Gospel for Asia in India and Sri Lanka, the Bible League in Africa, Food For The Poor in Jamaica, Mike McIntosh Crusades in Mexico, Somebody Loves You Bible Conferences with Raul Ries in Chile, Columbia and Peru, and pastor's conferences in much of the continental United States.

Gino is currently the pastor of Calvary South Denver where he continues to minister, preach, teach, and serve.
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