Rebellion & Repentance (Jonah 2-4)



  • It’s January, so we have all kinds of goals with choices…
    • Diet (Romaine salad is safe again)
    • Exercise
    • Bible Reading – #1 means of spiritual growth & joy / E50 after Easter
    • Work hard and smart but less
    • Educational pursuits
    • Relationships healthy

You are free to make any choice, but you are not free from the consequences of your choices; even making no choice will cost and create consequences.

Jonah made choices that he learned the consequences were consuming.


EXAMINE    Jonah 2-4

Jonah 1 review

Rebellion is personal.

Rebellion is progressive.  

Rebellion has public implications, even generational.

When we rebel, God reproves… sometimes a stop sign and sometimes a storm.

Reproof is an indication of relationship with God.

  • The Lord hurled the storm (1:4) the Lord appointed a great fish (1:17) the Lord spoke to the fish and it vomited Jonah out (2:10) – all indicate God was pursuing Jonah and had a plan with his circumstances. Further see Lord appointed a plant to shade, worm to eat plant, and wind on Jonah (4:6-8),
  • It’s not God being mean but merciful. The storm and fish were not God paying back for sin but His means to bring him back to salvation.
  • living in belly of a fish… is it possible?
  • “The author’s portrayal of this most peculiar event is very low key; it has certainly not been included in order to heighten the dramatic quality of the narrative. This being so, why should the author have invented it, if it did not really happen?”[1]
  • Scholars have suggested types of large fish capable of swallowing a human, such as a sperm whale.[2]
    • Temperature inside whale was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Gastric slime washing over skin would bleach white.
    • Smell like porta-pots on a hot day at a county fair
    • Ultimately, the events are a God miracle.
      • Fish was present at right time Jonah thrown overboard.
      • Jonah stayed alive for 3 days
      • Jonah vomited onto dry land
      • While some reported historic examples, supremely this was a miracle of God.[3]


God’s reproof is intended to result in our repentance.

  • “Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish… I called to the Lord out of my distress” (2:1)
    • Jonah should have prayed before fleeing to Tarshish, or during the storm on the ship while the sailors prayed, or any other number of times. It took God’s reproof to swallow Jonah with a fish to get his attention to be desperate enough to pray.
    • God wants your attention… what will it take?
      • Removal of pleasures, possessions, people… even good things can become an idol.
      • Telling God “no” even when you’re close to Him is still rebellion.
    • Jonah was taking into the belly of a fish in the depths of the sea. He was in the underworld of parts few will every go and even fewer live to tell the story. Yet, the reminder is there is no pit too deep where God is not deeper. Sometimes God allows us to hit rock bottom, so we can see He is the only rock foundation our feet can stand without being overwhelmed by the waves and storms of life.
    • Jonah’s solitude resulted in prayer to the Lord. The belly of a fish is not a happy place to live but is a humble place to learn.[4] Jonah learned God’s power is great and His mission expands far beyond Israel.


Jonah’s prayer

  • While in the belly of a fish, Jonah considered himself as dead.
    2:2 “Sheol” referred to a place of the dead. It was spoken as located under the earth (Amos 9:2). Normally those who were in Sheol were seen as separated from God (Ps 88:3; Isa 38:18), yet God was shown to have access to Sheol (Ps 139:8). Sheol was used as an expression for being in the grave (Ps 18:6; 30:3; 49:14; Isa 28:15). With this imagery Jonah here described his experience of being “at the very brink of death.”[5]
  • 2:3, 5 flood surrounded me… weeds wrapped about my head. A starting suspicion to never eat sushi!
  • 2:6 Jonah went down to the land whose bars closed forever. Jonah felt abandoned by God because of his disobedience and believed he deserved separation from God’s heaven. The underworld, Sheol, was conceived as a city fortified with walls (Ps 9:13; Isa 38:10) and with bars/gates that closed, remaining fully shut.[6] In contrast, the walls and gates of heaven were personalized with names inscribed on them (Revelation 21:12), and they were colorful being made from every kind of jewel: jasper, sapphire, agate, emerald, onyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, amethyst, pearls, gold and transparent glass (Revelation 21:18-21). It would appear the kingdom of God’s walls were made to attract people because later the Bible says the gates will never be shut but always open, bringing into it the glory and honor of the nations (Revelation 21:25-26). So, the invitation to enter the gates of God’s kingdom is extensive and embracing to all who will receive the grace of king Jesus, whose grace no one deserves with the citizens’ only boast is far removed from self but solely belonging to God. All the citizens hosted inside the city of God will be people from every tribe and nation, giving glory to Jesus and singing His praise alone (Revelation 5:9-14).
  • 2:4-10 Jonah felt driven away and abandoned by God. However, Jonah was not forsaken, and God was faithful to rescue Jonah and restore his prophetic ministry.
  • 2:8-9 Jonah’s prayer echoed the Psalms 18:6; 118:5; 120:1.[7] He was able to recognize God’s hand in his difficult circumstances and respond to God’s hesed a psalmist with thanksgiving, praise, and faith.
    • In fact, these verses are center turning point of the book – 48 verses with 2:8 as the twenty-fifth verse.
    • Jonah is thanking God for rescue and salvation before he is actually out of the fish belly. The idea Jonah thanking God for deliverance of his idolatry even though his circumstances are unchanged. This is how we can begin to know our faith in God is genuine and not just manipulating God toward our own end – when we can have contentment in difficult circumstances because we trust God’s sovereign plan, and His love is better than life (Ps 63:3). In feasting or in famine, God is faithful.
    • “Salvation [yeshua] belongs to the Lord!” Jonah knows salvation not by works but grace.
    • It’s better to be in the belly of a fish with God than on a beach vacation without God. Being separated from God is the bleakest outlook for any person. Do you believe this?


  • Jonah’s in a fish but his prayer reaches heaven! Your circumstances should motivate your prayer life, not encumber it. Sometimes we don’t pray bc of negative happenings but shouldn’t that make us pray more!?


  • It’s quite possible Jonah was vomited back at the land of Joppa where he first strayed and fled.[8] We miss out and waste time when we don’t follow God’s plan… regret is real but it can be redeemed.


God rewards second chances to the repentant.

  • 3:1 “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time”
    God graced Jonah with a second opportunity to participate in His mission.

    • People ask, “Can I come back?” “Is it ok to return?” Jesus says, “Welcome home, my child.”
    • We must recognize that not everyone receives a second chance (Gen 3; Num 20:12; 1Ki 13:26).. When you do have a second chance, make the most of it for God’s glory.
  • 3:5-10 “And the people of Nineveh believed God… The king of Nineveh issued a proclamation – ‘Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything (fasting)… and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish. When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them and he did not do it.”
    • Nineveh was evil and guilty, deserving judgment. Jonah preached they had 40 days to repent before God’s punishment.
      • 40 Days: Flood rain (Gen 7:12); Moses fled 40 years (Ac 7:30); Moses on Sinai 40 days (Ex 24:18); Moses intercession for Israel 40 days (Deut 9:18, 25). Israel spies in Canaan 40 days (Nu 13:25). Israel wandered in desert 40 years (Jud 13:1). Goliath taunted Saul 40 days (1Sam 17:16). Elijah fled from Jezebel 40 days (1Ki 19:8). Jonah preaches Nineveh’s judgment in 40 days (Jonah 3:4). Jesus temped 40 days (Mat 4:2). Jesus ascended to heaven after 40 days from the resurrection (Ac 1:3).
      • Jonah: Appearance likely created a following, being bleached white – glowing like an angel, not to mention tales about a beached whale vomiting him out. Also, God’s message inside one transformed by grace is quite persuasive.
      • Jonah preached: Warning. God’s message is grace but also warning of judgment. We must not shrink from sharing the bad news before the good news.
    • Nineveh repents of their violence and believes God. Many scholars believe Nineveh had previously experienced an earthly calamity (famine, flood, earthquake, eclipse), which made them receptive to turning to God. God is sovereign to use disasters for these purposes.
      • Fasting of humans and animals… think mooing and moaning animals crying out.
      • A public response can elevate the meaning of personal repentance… why we open altar each week.
      • While Nineveh repented, their belief was only to remove their negative circumstances; it was superficial and not sincere heart change. Eventually Assyria/Nineveh would destroy Israel.
        We must remember that repentance is more than remorse and must be supported by action (Ps 51:16-17; Mat 3:8; Rom 6:13-14; 2Cor 7:8-12; Gal 2:20).
    • God saw and relented. He responds to our actions. God does not desire to damn sinners but to deliver salvation to all who turn from sin and trust the Savior (1Tim 2:4; 2Peter 3:9). God is like a loving father who desperately wants to love us into doing right, but we drift between self and surrender. Think about your parenting heart with your children.
  • Prayer is the difference between God extending mercy or punishment. Consider Gen 18, where Sodom would have been spared if there was repentance. Whether personally for people in your life or nationally/globally, we must intercede for God’s mercy.
  • Prayer Test to reveal selfishness AND to see God work – – – If God answered every prayer of yours for a week, would people move from enemies of God to embracing Jesus Christ? Your answer reveals priorities of your prayer life… and hopefully motivates you to begin praying like this. Our failure to pray can withhold the readiness of God to dispense His grace.


God’s readiness to work in the world can be delayed by our self-righteousness.

  • 4:1 “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.”

Jonah never wanted to preach to Nineveh because he knew they would repent and God would give mercy. Instead of gladness of Nineveh’s response, Jonah was angry.

– – – Imagine drug dealers, gangs and murderers entering our church and getting saved… would you be mad or would you come alongside to help mentor them in the faith?

Jonah was like Nineveh. Even though they gave mental assent to God, their actions did not affirm genuine faith. They knew God’s truth and character in their heads, but their hearts were still unchanged. Their repentance was an attempt to manipulate God into fulfilling their selfish desires rather than surrendering to God’s demands.

  • 4:3-5 “take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live… Jonah went out of the city and sat east of the city and made a booth for himself there… till he should see what would become of the city.”

Idolatry = identity + delight

Jonah’s identity was built on hating the Ninevites and promoting only the interests of Israel. When Jonah’s nationalism became threatened he became empty. In fact, he left the city hoping that God would stop being merciful and turn to wrath. While Jonah may have been a good patriot, he was a terrible proselytizer. “If love for your country’s interests leads you to exploit people, or in this case, to root for an entire class of people to be spiritually lost, then you love your nation more than God. That is idolatry, by any definition.”[9] When the meaning and purpose of our life is based on items apart from trusting God and being generous toward others with the grace of God, then we will always have a level of anger in our heart.

Jonah’s delight was finding comfort in trying to hide from God.

  • 4:6-9 “God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort… God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so it withered… God appointed a scorching east wind and sun beat down on the head of Jonah”
    Despite Jonah’s rebellion, God pursued Jonah with circumstances that removed his earthly comfort that he might seek God’s comfort. We must hold our earthly blessings loosely or it will hurt all the more when God pries our fingers one by one off the idols.

    • Friends will dissatisfy; Boyfriends/girlfriends will leave; Spouses will never fully satisfy.
    • Pets and people will pass; Stuff will bend and break; Careers will change.
    • Intoxicated with temporary escapes but we cannot shade or hide from God.
    • What do you most obsess about obtaining? What are you most scared of losing? What do you daydream about and could not imagine happiness – or life itself – without it???
    • Only God is faithful and will fulfill us (Ps 73:25-26).


  • 4:10-11 “the Lord said, ‘You pity the plant… And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120K persons who do not know their right from their left hand, and also much cattle?’” 2f38c0cd-0765-4ff1-9589-601a8b2a824f
    Jonah pitied the plant; he grieved losing what was important to him. But God grieved over something greater – people who were morally and spiritually undiscerning. In fact, some suggest the 120K reference is to children (cf. Isa 7:15-16; Deut 1:39), those who are society’s most vulnerable. Should not our priorities and passions be aligned to the heart of God?
    Much cattle… Chic-fil-a in heaven – – – sign of people and all creation groaning for redemption (Rom 8:19).



Jonah ends as a cliff-hanger. One commentator suggests “[The book] forces us to contemplate our personal destiny. It remains unfinished in order that we may provide our own conclusion… For you are Jonah; I am Jonah.”[10] It is as if God shoots an arrow through Jonah’s heart that continues into our own hearts today. This question pierces the core of our faith and worldview.

gādôl “great” appears 14x in Jonah

  • Nineveh a gādôl city (Jonah 1:2; 3:2; 3:3; 4:11)
  • Nature: gādôl wind (1:4) gādôl storm on the sea 1:4
  • Sailors were gādôl afraid and feared the Lord gādôl (1:16)
  • Lord appointed a gādôl fish (1:17)
  • They put on sackcloth from the gādôl to the least (3:5).
  • It displeased Jonah and he was gādôl angry (4:1)
  • Jonah was gādôl glad because of the plant (4:6)

Author wants to show us the greatness of God’s mission.

  • Nineveh’s wickedness is great but God’s grace is greater.
  • Jonah’s hatred of Ninevites is great, but God’s compassion is greater.
  • Unbelievers have great fear of humanity and storms, but fear of God is greater.
  • Jonah’s earthly comforts are great, but God’s eternal rewards are greater.
  • Pray God would stamp eternity on our eyelids so our lives would be marked by the gādôl weight of eternal destinies at stake.

[1] T. D. Alexander, “Jonah,” TOTC (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), 111–12.[1]

[2] H. Rimmer, The Harmony of Science and Scripture, 8th ed. (Berne, Ind.: The Berne Witness Company, 1939), 190-191. See also A. J. Wilson, “The Sign of the Prophet Jonah and Its Modern Confirmations,” in The Princeton Theological Review 25 (1927): 631–32. He discusses at length the physical characteristics of a number of sea creatures capable of swallowing a man.[2]


[4] R. T. Kendall, Jonah: An Exposition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), 101; Keil and Delitzsch, “Jonah,” COT, 10:398.[4]

[5] Smith, B. K., & Page, F. S. (1995). Amos, Obadiah, Jonah (Vol. 19B, p. 245). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[6] Smith, B. K., & Page, F. S. (1995). Amos, Obadiah, Jonah (Vol. 19B, p. 249). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[7] Smith, B. K., & Page, F. S. (1995). Amos, Obadiah, Jonah (Vol. 19B, p. 244). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[8] Smith, B. K., & Page, F. S. (1995). Amos, Obadiah, Jonah (Vol. 19B, p. 252). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[9] Keller, The Prodigal Prophet, p. 103.

[10] Sinclair Ferguson, Man Overboard: Study of the Life of Jonah, p.118.

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