Walk The Line – scene 8 “songs that save”
Johnny Cash makes his first audition to the legendary record producer Sam Phillips with a couple of friends by singing a tired old gospel song from his childhood.
They aren’t allowed to finish.
“Hold on. Hold on. I hate to interrupt, but do you guys got something else?”
There’s a long, awkward pause. It’s obvious they don’t.
“I’m sorry. I can’t market gospel no more.”
Johnny then seems to mumble, “Is that it?”
“I don’t record material that doesn’t sell, Mr. Cash,” Phillips explains, “and gospel like that doesn’t sell.”
“Was it the gospel or the way I sing it?” asks Cash.
“Both,” Phillips answers.
“Well, what’s wrong with the way I sing it?”
“I don’t believe you,” Phillips replies.
“You saying I don’t believe in God?”
His friends see the confrontation coming and step in and say, “J.R., come on, let’s go.”
Cash won’t leave.
“I want to understand. I mean, we come down here, we play for a minute, and he tells me I don’t believe in God.”
“You know exactly what I’m telling you,” Phillips says. “We’ve already heard that song a hundred times, just like that, just like how you sang it.”
Cash pushes back.
“Well, you didn’t let us bring it home.”
“Bring it… bring it home?” Phillips says in disdain.
“All right, let’s bring it home.
“If you was hit by a truck and you were lying out in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing one song, one song people would remember before you’re dirt, one song that would let God know what you felt about your time here on earth, one song that would sum you up, you telling me that’s the song you’d sing? That same Jimmie Davis tune we hear on the radio all day? About your peace within and how it’s real and how you’re gonna shout it?
“Or, would you sing something different? Something real, something you felt? Because I’m telling you right now, that’s the kind of song people want to hear.
“That’s the kind of song that truly saves people.”
The song/life that truly saves people is one of authenticity.
- Do you truly believe what you’re saying?
It seems Jonah did not, or did not want to…(1:9; 4:1) until personally disciplined by God and then still had difficulty.
Sometimes God allows chaos for it to result in character
EXAMINE Jonah 1 – 2
The book Jonah is unique for its representative character (Jonah who disobeys God by great lengths) along with its context (Jonah’s storm and swallowed by a great fish then goes to pagan Nineveh/Assyria). Some historians treat the book as a fictional allegory or parable, as disobedient Israel failing to be a witness to the nations, yet it seems Jonah – the person and the book – have much more historical presentation from its own setting (specific details & dates, along with complex plots & themes of God’s sovereignty, human repentance, faith, etc.) along with outside interpretation (2Kings 14:25; Matthew 12:38-41, 16:4). The last point is not to be missed, referencing Jesus’ quoting and historical view of the person and book of Jonah.
Sidebar: Fishing Tale
For those who have difficulty believing Jonah as true because of its fascinating story of Jonah in the belly of a fish;
– What about Creation – God speaking world into existence?
– What about Exodus – God delivering Israelites and sustaining them with miracle provision?
– What about Prophets – God speaking to leading His people?
– What about Incarnation – God becoming human?
– What about Jesus’ miracles?
– What about Resurrection – God raising the dead?
– What about Jesus’ future return?
You see, the Bible is filled with fascination because it is a book about GOD! Or do you believe in a different, puny god that is unlike the one of the Bible?
Book of Jonah has 2 main goals:
1) Teach of God’s mission for every believer. God takes the initiative to save sinners and then send them out for His purposes. This is true for every believer, no one on the sidelines.
2) Teach of God’s compassion contrasting human closed-heartedness. Even more, it shows the coldness of religion apart from truly knowing God relationally. Cold religion does not have compassion for people the way God does; we see this in the NT with Jesus teaching the Pharisees.
God’s commands break us out of our comfort (Jonah 1:1-2)
Jonah 1:1-2 “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah… saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”
Jonah was a prophet. Before this book, his only recorded prophecy was that his nation’s kingdom would gain territory (2Kings 14:25-28). But, now Jonah is being called to prophesy against the Assyrians. This would have been before Amos & Hosea. God came to Jonah and commanded His word – that an unreached people group hear the message of salvation.
“Arise” – perhaps Jonah was lounging, not active in his prophetic calling
- Are you lounging in your Christianity or eagerly preparing & active for service?
“Go” – God had a place in mind for Jonah and it wasn’t at home
- Where is your place of service? It starts at home but it doesn’t end there…
“Call out” (“cry out” NKJV) (“preach” NIV/HCSB)
- The gospel is to be promoted through our lives but also proclaimed with our lips
“Nineveh” – God sent a prophet to redeem Gentiles.
- Who do you know that would make you uncomfortable if they came to church?
- How can you know when God is calling you to a specific witness opportunity?
After Jonah, what does God want you to do?
Nineveh was greatest capital of Assyrian empire (Iraq today). Jonah calls it an “exceedingly great city” and that its span was 3 days journey in breadth (Jonah 3:3). God speaks of Nineveh as a “great city” as well (Jonah 1:2, 3:2, 4:11) with a population of over 120K people (J 4:11) and place in world history. Further, Nineveh was guilty of evil plotters & counselors of wickedness (Nahum 1:11), idolatrous worship (N 1:14), extravagant wealthy without good use (N 2:9), predatory toward helpless (N 2:12), murderous “city of blood” (N 3:1), full of liars (N 3:1), lustful prostitution, witchcraft (N 3:4), and cruel in battle (N 3:19). Supremely, Nineveh was place God was calling to account through Jonah’s preaching (J 1:2, 3:2).
– JD Greear: Ninevites were cruel conquerors, took enemies and skin alive men & women, bury them up to their heads then only to drive stake through tongue to languish in pain. They raped women, impaled & beheaded men.
God’s commands break us from our contrariness (Jonah 1:3-17).
Jonah heard God’s call but instead of obeying he rebelled. He tried to run 1500 miles away from Nineveh, “away from the presence of the Lord” (1:3 twice; 1:10). He went down to Joppa, found a ready ship and paid the fare to leave, going down into the ship to lay down to sleep. Talk about escape!
– Jonah’s contrariness cost his fellowship with God. He couldn’t pray (1:6).
– Jonah’s contrariness cost others. They hurled expensive cargo (1:5); they feared for life (1:5,10, 14); and they even made vows (irrationally?) to the Lord (1:16) – don’t you wonder what they committed to do?
- Other people are in spiritual danger because God’s people are disobedient. Note the irony of unbelievers having a theological discussion (1:5-16) and yet Jonah is sleeping physically & spiritually.
- How do you see believers running away from God today?
Rebellion can be a simple ‘no’ or a significant defiance; but both are contrary to God’s Lordship. In fact, running from God can be comfortable but never without consequence. The enemy always has a ready ship to Tarshish; it is his role to make rebellion seem relaxing.
However, the truth is that you cannot outrun God’s omnipresence (Psalm 139:7-8). God sovereignly orchestrated circumstances to break Jonah of his selfish rebellion. God sent a great storm to stop Jonah and then a great fish to swallow Jonah.
God faces head on our rebellion. He does not side-step or overlook our sin; there is always an accountability. God expects obedience to His commands and when disobedience occurs He brings discipline or judgment. The blessing of God is a byproduct of trust & obedience to His ways.
James 1:22-25 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
- What does it make you think or feel that God sends storms that can swallow you for a season of life? How can you discover God’s intention behind these storms?
Jonah is broken over his contrariness. God’s discipline of being swallowed by a fish turns Jonah to repentance. Jonah had left God but God never left Jonah. Therefore, Jonah was able to pray to the Lord HIS (2:1) God from the belly of the fish. Jonah’s deep distress turned into digested truth
– God is God, Jonah was not.
– God is gracious, salvation belongs to Him, not Jonah.
- Why would Jonah turn to God since God was the reason he was in the belly of a fish?
- What do you think gave Jonah hope during those 3 days of darkness?
- What gives you hope in the midst of difficult & dark circumstances?
- What are ways we are like/unlike Jonah?
- What typically keeps you from doing something God wants you to do? (fear, peer pressure, lack of knowledge or resources, rebellion…?)
- Who or what is the “Nineveh” of your life? (difficult person; unfriendly place; unpleasant task; unresolved circumstances…?)
- Millions of people will spend more than 3 days in eternal darkness and departed from God’s presence. What can & should we do to take the gospel to unreached people groups?
- What insights or questions do you have in this introduction to Jonah?
 “went down” is also euphemism for death (Gen 37:35), suggesting each step away from God is closer to death.