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29th September 2012
The story of Jonah is usually associated with the 'whale' or "great fish" (1:17), even though the fish is mentioned in only three verses and is just a bit-player in the drama! As Campbell Morgan said: "Men have looked so hard at the great fish that they have failed to see the GREAT GOD!"
In fact, the book of Jonah gives us a fascinating insight into one of the 'mega-themes' of the Bible: God's sovereignty. Is God in total control or are our responses decisive in events? Are God's sovereignty and human responsibility incompatible? I believe both are true.
Jonah's statement in 1:9 reveals something of God's sovereignty to us: He is the God of heaven, who created all things and is sovereign over the universe. We see his sovereignty in action in several places: God sent the storm (1:4); he commanded the fish (2:10); he provided a vine (4:6). Even events that seem to occur by human decision or action, or seem providential, have the hand of God behind them (see 1:7 and 1:15, for example).
God acts both naturally and supernaturally. Can God cause a fish to swallow a man? Of course he can! He created nature in the first place, so he can work both in nature and above nature. Jonah experienced both.
The sovereign God – ruler over all – is also gracious and compassionate. As we read the story of Jonah, we see God's salvation at work towards Jonah himself, the sailors and the Ninevites. God's compassion extents far beyond Jonah's, and is for all he has created. When the Ninevites turned to God, he relented (3:10), which in the original Hebrew means 'to breathe heavily' – the sense is that God sighs with relief that they have sought his mercy!
Our great God, the sovereign God, is a missionary God, far more committed to reaching 'outsiders' than his people are! Let's allow the love of God into our hearts to reorientate our attitudes to the thousands of people in Hastings, St Leonards, Bexhill and beyond!
Reading: Jonah 1:9 and 4:2
Question: Do you have God's heart for the people in our town?
Next prayer meetings: Tomorrow, 7am at THC and 7pm at Centre Stage, Bexhill
Posted by John Groves