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Jonah: God Speaks

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Today, Pastor Ed continued his summer sermon series in Jonah and Nahum by looking at Jonah 1:1-6.

We often ask, "Lord, are you there?  Are you involved in this?"  An important theme in the book of Jonah is this:

God is intimately and lovingly involved in our world (His world).

There are many times when it seems like God has gone radio silent.  We also get inoculated to this truth.  It's always worth looking at.

Jonah was a prophet some time between 800 and 740 BC.  He was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel, which wasn't great about following God.  But they were in a period of ascendancy.  This was about 30 or more years before Assyria took Israel into captivity.

Verse 2 - "Jonah ran away from the Lord" - would have been shocking.  What Jonah was about was speaking the word of the Lord.

Tarshish, where he headed, was probably on the coast of Spain, the opposite direction from Nineveh.

In the storm, the pagans were all praying, but the prophet wasn't.  He was asleep - may have been drained and depressed from contorting his life to avoid what God was saying.

God's prophet had to be implored by a pagan to pray.

God is intimately involved in our world.

God speaks to His people.

Jonah never doubted that God was speaking.  God spoke throughout the Bible and still speaks today.

Ed gave personal examples where God spoke to him through Scripture, through thought bombs, and through strange urgings (example was an urging to pray for someone who turned out to have lost their job that day).

God still speaks today.  Yes, the culture thinks we're crazy.  (He said, "I barely believe it, and it's happened to me.")

The story of Jonah is powerful testimony that God speaks to His people.

We ask, "Why doesn't He always speak?"

That's a good question.  It means you're taking God seriously.

If you're not yet hearing from Him, let Him know.  That's what the Psalmist did, over and over.  The Psalmist often says to God, "This would be a great time to show up!"

God moves in the circumstances around us.

Here Ed told the story of when Gateway providentially moved into Mercer Middle School before getting our building.

Was Jonah's story all a coincidence?  Are the circumstances around us all coincidences?

God is lovingly involved in our world.

God loved the Ninevites, too.  It has always been hard for God's people to understand God's love -- even for their enemies.

That's a big part of why Jesus came.

In conclusion, we talked about challenges to believing that God is intimately and lovingly involved in our world.

Circumstances get in the way - dreams dying, difficulties, diseases.  Any circumstance when God seems silent makes it harder to believe.  That is the challenge of faith.

But God extends His mercy to all.

We don't need answers; we need Jesus.

Jonah: Truth Matters

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Today Pastor Ed Allen began a Summer Book Study in the books of Jonah and Nahum.  The first sermon on Jonah was titled, "Truth Matters:  Fish Story or a Little Fishy...?"

Today we mainly looked at the question of whether Jonah was written as a historical account or as a morality play, fiction intended to instruct.

Why do we care?

1)  Truth matters.

2)  Our faith has been assaulted intellectually for centuries, and we need to respond to that assault.

3)  There are young people here who will be exposed to alternatives to the Christian world view.  Let's expose them to an honest, robust look at faith.

We do want to know what was the intention of the author.  Was the book of Jonah intended to be historical or intended to be fiction?

Reasons to believe Jonah was written as a historical account:

--  In content and form it resembles the historical narratives of the Old Testament.

-- This is especially true of the opening of the book.

-- The book has an actual historical setting.

-- The historical information, as far as can be ascertained, is accurate.

-- Early scholarship/readership assumed it was history (Josephus, for example).

-- Jesus seemed to believe it was a retelling of actual events.  (See Luke 11:30-33.)  Jesus was a Biblical scholar who thought truth was important.

Reasons to believe Jonah was written as instructive fiction:

-- The book does not identify its author.  (But this is also true of I and II Samuel and many other historical books of the Old Testament.)

-- Too many miraculous details are piled on top of one another.  (This is a strong point.  In the New Testament, miracles tend to stand more separately.)

-- Lacks some of the traditional hallmarks of Biblical historical writing.  The king's name isn't mentioned.   Some details are vague.

-- The overwhelming use of symbolism and exaggeration do suggest a morality play.

-- The book uses phrases and words that depend heavily on Aramaic.  Most Jews would have learned Aramaic during the Assyrian captivity - after Jonah.  (On the other hand, Jonah preached to Nineveh, so he would have had exposure to Aramaic.)

So how should we read this story?

Three typical responses:

1) Denial:  "Don't tell me about any of the problems.  I believe it 'cause it's in the Bible."

Denial is dangerous.  Do the work of approaching your struggles honestly.  When we doubt, we're in good company, but do the work of moving beyond doubt.  Disbelief is better than apathy.  Faith isn't the absence of reason.

2)  Scientific rationalism:  "There must be a logical explanation for this."

This can be helpful, but it's also dangerous and often leads down blind alleys.  There's a story of a man swallowed by a whale in the 1800s.  But when that's offered as proof of Jonah's story, they don't mention the testimony that said the account was invented.

Besides, this approach tries to remove the supernatural from the story.  But our faith rests on a supernatural event - the Resurrection.

3)  Intractable doubt:  "I don't believe this crazy story.  It's not possible."

If you have trouble believing it's historical, okay, take it as a morality tale.  But if you don't believe God can do miracles -- be challenged to doubt your doubts.

Those of us who do believe don't need to be defensive.  God can handle our doubts.  So can the Bible.

Here's a fourth response, whether you think Jonah is historical or a parable:

Extract its message, then:

Obey and believe it.

Assignment this week:  Read Jonah.

Also, Pastor Ed is going to post truth statements every day this week.  Spend time with them and meditate on them.

Posted by Sondy Eklund with

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