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THE HEART OF JONAH

TUESDAY COLUMN: “DALE MAIL”

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Dale Pollard

The book of Jonah is a unique book in the Old Testament. Unlike other prophetic books, God chooses to focus on the prophet himself rather than the message being preached by him. While many lessons can be pulled from this four chapter book, there’s one in particular that we can all benefit from hearing from time to time. That lesson is that in order for true change to occur in our lives there must be a genuine transformation of the heart.

The book begins with God’s call to Jonah to preach to the wicked people of Nineveh and then closes with God’s response to Jonah’s anger at the penitent hearts of the Ninevites. Between these two divine speeches you read about the prophet’s incredible experience in the belly of a great fish. Many artist’s have painted pictures of Jonah desperately trying to keep his head above the waves while a terrifying monster breeches the surface with its mouth wide open preparing to swallow him. While this may be the image that comes to mind, Jonah gives us an interesting detail in his prayer. He recalls how the waters closed over him and he eventually reaches the sea floor where he is helplessly tangled in the weeds. While the murky waters cloud his vision his fate seemed very clear. Jonah admits that he called out to the Lord provoked by his great distress and this mental plea was a desperate attempt to preserve his life. God answers this cry by sending him a slippery savior. Jonah, while known to be a little on the dramatic side, will later recall how it was in the moment when his life was fainting away that he “remembered the Lord.” God saved a blatantly rebellious man who in no way deserved that salvation but He also allowed Jonah to reach great depths and come face to face with his own spiritual reality. Jonah was a long way from God, but not geographically.

Before Jonah became soaked by the stormy seas, he was soaked in a sin problem that had taken root in his heart. God allowed Jonah to physically experience rock bottom so that he could acknowledge some spiritual issues that distanced him from God. While Jonah may have desired to run from God, he came to the conclusion that being away from God was not the relief he thought it would be.

As traumatic as this event was, Jonah seems to emerge from the belly of the fish with lingering spiritual issues. Though he preaches to the city of Nineveh, there is still anger and hatred dominating his heart. The last chapter gives us a glimpse of this as he directs this anger towards the very God that saved him. In order for true change to occur, there must be a genuine change of heart. While low points can help us examine our heart health for a moment, relentless determination to live life differently is the key to success. A hopeful reminder for anyone who may find themselves in the depths of sin, there is no place too dark where God is not able to hear your prayers. 

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Bear Valley Bible Institute International Bear Valley church of Christ lectureship

FACTS AND TRIVIA RELATED TO OUR LECTURESHIP

Neal Pollard

When the boys were younger, I would ask them questions about Old Testament characters as part of a quiz.  Included in that were questions about the Minor Prophets.  How well do you know the following without consulting your Bible (or Google)?

  • He wondered why God used a more wicked nation to punish his own nation.
  • He repeatedly talks about “that day” near the end of his book, referring to the day of Christ and the church.
  • He asked, “Will a man rob God?” and said, “God hates divorce.”
  • He wrote to condemn Nineveh and was a prophet of comfort for God’s people.
  • He said, “The just shall live by faith.”
  • He was the Minor Prophet who spoke the most about “the day of the Lord.”
  • His message was, “Rebuild the temple.”
  • He compared his nation to a person who touched an unclean body, who became unclean.
  • His book includes the “Shigionoth.”
  • He said, “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.”
  • He mentioned, “The Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings.”
  • He saw a flying scroll.
  • He was the great-great grandson of Hezekiah.
  • He talked about putting wages in a bag with holes.
  • He talks about a Man whose name is “The BRANCH.”

All of these answers come from either the books of Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, or Malachi.  This weekend will be more than about mere facts and information, though.  The message, principles, and application will enrich your heart and life because it is “a portion” of the Word of God. These prophets write at a significant time in Bible history, and the implications of much of their writing play out in the ministry of Christ and establishment of the church.  I hope you will come and be a part of our lectureship, if you can and for as much as you can. It will be a time of great growth and building up. Send me your answers and I’ll message you back with your “grade.” Happy test-taking!  See you here starting tomorrow night at 7 P.M.