June 27, 2021 Jonah, The Model Prophet


The Model Prophet

June 27, 2021




Read Jonah 1:1-2; 2:1-10.


I am entitling this message, “Jonah, the Model Prophet.” By using the adjective, model, I do not mean “an exemplary representation.” That is one definition of the word. As in, “Johnny is a model student.” I mean model as a pattern. As in, “We visited that model home yesterday.” A model home may be inadequate. It may be too small for your purposes or it may even me constructed with inferior materials. But it shows you what the houses in a particular development will be like.


Jonah was a prophet from the Northern Kingdom. Ninevah was one of the largest cities in the world. It’s people were violent and wicked. They were ruthless. Archaeological research has shown that they impaled their enemies. Other time they beheaded them. They would peel the skin off of them! They likely did this while they were still alive in order to torture them. Thus, we can understand why Jonah was not inclined to preach to them. He may have been fearful. However, what we know for certain is that the main reason he refused to preach to them is because he knew that, if they repented, the Lord would be gracious to them and forgive them (4:1-2). Because they were a wicked and violent people, Jonah did not want them to be shown grace or compassion.


Most of us know the story. Jonah was on the ship headed towards Tarshish. Tarshish was the furthest known city from Israel at that time. It was located in what is now Western Spain. Jonah was trying to get as far away from Israel and Israel’s God as he could…and far from Ninevah which was in the opposite direction, east. Of course, one can never escape God. He is a spirit and he is in all places.


David said this:

Where shall I go from your Spirit?

Or where shall I flee from your presence?

8    If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

9    If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

10    even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me.

11    If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

and the light about me be night,”

12    even the darkness is not dark to you;

the night is bright as the day,

for darkness is as light with you. [1]


Jonah would have been familiar with this Psalm. He knew that he could not escape God. But he was at least going to try and escape his calling.


It was God who created the storm which was about to capsize and sink the ship that he was on. Of course, storms have physical causative factors. But behind the physics there is a divine hand. The sailors knew this. Those sailors from the 8th century BC knew more than many today who presume that all that there is are physical causes. Reluctantly, they threw Jonah overboard. As soon as they did, the sea stopped raging. Then we read this:


Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. [2]


See how God even used the disobedience of Jonah to turn people to Himself. This is God’s specialty. He takes our weaknesses and sins and brings about something good. Have you failed the Lord? Don’t remain in your failure. Rise up! But, also, do not think that good things cannot come from your misery. They can and they will, if you belong to him.


Those sailors feared the Lord exceedingly! I tell you, it is a good thing to fear the Lord! The fear of the Lord keeps us from sin and keeps us from evil (Exodus 20:20; Proverbs 16:6). The Bible teaches that the fear of God is something good about 1,000 times! Show me someone who does not fear God and I will show you someone who falls into sin often.[3] The fear of the Lord is healthy (Prov. 14:27; 19:23; Luke 1:50).


Then the Lord appointed a fish to swallow Jonah! He appointed it! Oh! Things do not happen by chance! Even the bad things are appointed by the Lord for a purpose. When Jonah was swallowed, what were his thoughts? He thought he was going to die.


Chapter two records Jonah’s prayer to the Lord. But Jonah did not pray this prayer until he was already in the belly for three days! In verse 2 Jonah says that he called to the Lord, but verse 7 tells us that he didn’t do that until he was about to die.


From Jonah’s prayer and from our experience of human nature we can get a good idea of  what happened to him. When he was cast overboard his thought was that he would very soon drown. He knew that a man cannot last long in the open sea and his time would be even shorter since the waves were large. He says in verse 3: “Your waves and your billows passed over me.”


I am just an average swimmer, but I have always been able to tread water for a long time. I remember when I was living in Hawaii I went with a men’s group from church to a retreat along some sea cliffs. These were small cliffs – only about ten feet high or so. The ocean was rather choppy that day. There were all these little waves that were swells about three feet high. I saw them and thought nothing of them. I jumped in. Once I came up from the plunge, I took a breath but one of those waves hit me and I swallowed some water. That was unpleasant. I tried to time my breathing with the depression of the waves, but every now and then a wave would come from another direction and just about drown me. So, I got out of that liquid turmoil as quickly as I could. It was scary!


As Jonah experienced these waves going over his head, he also would feel weary of treading water. Eventually, he just gave up. We read in verse 6:


      I went down to the lbottoms of the mountains;

The earth with her bars was about me for ever:[4]


When he says he went down to the bottom of the mountains, he means the mountains of the sea. The “bars” in Jewish thought were the gates of Sheol - the gates of the realm of the dead. He took a last breath and gave up treading. He sank and sank towards the bottom of the sea. When he says the bars were “about me forever,” he means that he was at the very point of death…he was about to gulp the water into his lungs and drown.


Then, in the last few seconds when he could no longer hold his breath, the Lord had a great fish swallow Jonah. As he went into the fish’s belly he found air. It would have been putrid and smelly, but at least he could breathe. The belly of that fish was a miserable place. It would have been full of water and decomposed fish. He would not have been able to rest, otherwise the liquids in the fish’s stomach would drown him. He would have experienced pain because the stomach acids of the fish would begin to dissolve his skin. He felt a burning sensation.


By the third day, he probably wished he had drowned! It took almost drowning in the ocean, then three days of misery in that belly, before Jonah finally turned towards the Lord and repented. He again thought that he was going to die in that fish:


When my life was fainting away,

I remembered the Lord,

       and my prayer came to you,

into your holy temple. [5]


For the Israelite, God’s presence was known most acutely in the temple. So, Jonah prayed with the temple in mind.


He thought fondly of the temple and looked forward to meeting the Lord there once again:


Then I said, ‘I am driven away

from your sight;

       yet I shall again look

upon your holy temple.’ [6]


This is interesting and reflective of many experiences even today. Jonah had run away from God and from the temple. As was already stated, Tarshish was as far away from the temple as one could go. But, after the Lord’s discipline, Jonah longed for the temple for it was there that the Lord Himself could be experienced!


The church is the Lord’s temple today (Eph 2:21; 2 Cor 6:16; 1 Tim 3:15). I do not mean the building. I mean the gathering of God’s people. Is this not our experience? We may run away from the Lord. Then he disciplines us. If our hearts are tender, we will cry out to him as Jonah did. And, we will miss the church. We know that the presence of the Lord is there. We say, “I shall again look upon your holy church!” Those who don’t care much for God’s temple today give evidence that they do not actually belong to Christ, although they may think they are saved (I John 2:19).


Jonah’s prayer in chapter 2 shows his repentance and the Lord restored Jonah into his grace. He experienced the Lord’s salvation (vs. 9). Like Jonah, we need more than one salvation. Jonah was already in a covenant relationship with God before he ran away. But, because of his sin, he needed to experience salvation from his circumstances and from his own rebellion! We are saved from eternal death one time for all time (Heb. 5:9; John 10:28-29). This is when we trust in the Lord and repent of our sins the first time.


Like Jonah, when we go our own way we need to repent and experience salvation from our own rebellious hearts.


This is why Jonah is a model prophet. He is a pattern for all prophets. But, I tell you, in this age – the age of grace, the age of the church – everyone who has committed to follow Christ is a prophet. Not all have the gift of prophecy but all are called to speak forth on behalf of God. (This is the most basic meaning of the word prophecy.) Prophecy is like giving in that respect. Not all have the gift of giving (Romans 12:6-8), but all are to give to the work of God on earth (I Cor. 16:1-2). Not all have the gift of prophecy, but all are to speak on behalf of God.


For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged,[7]


This verse in Corinthians has to do with the meetings of the church. Here, in church, everyone should be speaking, not just one of the elders. Yet, more to the example of Jonah, we have all been called, each one, to make disciples. And the very first thing we do to make a disciple is to proclaim the gospel. Every disciple begins by hearing and receiving the gospel!


We all know this passage. We have either read it or heard it a hundred times. But many are not doing it!


“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [8]


The Great Commission is not just for the original twelve. Neither is it only for evangelists of church leaders. It is for every follower of Christ!


We are all prophets. We are all charged to call the wicked Ninevites to repentance. But some are like Jonah. Instead of obeying the Lord, some have gone the opposite direction. They haven’t gone to Ninevah. They have gone to Tarshish. Do you know where Tarshish is today? Tarshish is just your living room. It’s your bedroom. It’s wherever the wicked are not!


Jonah was just sleeping in the ship peacefully while the storm raged! This is how some of us are! There is a storm that is already here. And some are sleeping when they ought to be speaking to others about the Lord.


The waves will come upon you one day. The stomach acid of the great fish will sear your skin one day. It may be in this life or it may be at the Judgment Seat of Christ, but these experiences will come to every disobedient prophet. Every Christian is a prophet.


Are you on your way to Ninevah or on your way to Tarshish? Like Jonah, some need to repent. When you do you will experience thanksgiving and a willingness to cheerfully sacrifice your time to the Lord as did Jonah!



[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 139:7–12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jon 1:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The exception to this would be a person who walks in perfect love. How many are there who do that?

[4] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Jon 2:6). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jon 2:7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jon 2:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 14:31). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 28:18–20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.