Text: Jonah 1:17-2:1,10; Matthew 12:39,40
Props: a pair of dice or a poster of Jonah and the great fish
Summary: The story of Jonah demonstrates God’s love for people of all lands. Jesus compared his three days in the earth to Jonah’s three days in the great fish.
Today I want to talk to you about foreign missions. A foreign mission is when God gets someone to go to a different country to tell others about Jesus. The Bible has a story about foreign missions called the Book of Jonah. Jonah was called by God to be a foreign missionary. Jonah reacted with disbelief. Instead of going to Nineveh to preach to the sinners there, he ignored God and went in the opposite direction to a coastal town called Joppa. He must have felt he needed a vacation because he decided to take a cruise to Tarshish, a resort town on the Mediterranean Sea. He may have figured “out of sight, out of mind” and a little rest and relaxation would take his mind off God’s call to mission work. But God had other plans for Jonah.
Shortly after setting sail, a storm arose. The wind was blowing waves into the ship and the crew feared for their lives. They knew it was the handiwork of God. All cruise ships have dice, so they threw dice (cast lots) and decided that Jonah was to blame for their troubles. Jonah confessed that he had fled from the presence of the Lord and told them they would be alright if they threw him overboard. So they did. One thing we can tell right here is that we can never run away from God or his calling on our lives because God is everywhere. As soon as they threw him out of the ship the sea became calm again. This was a great witness to the men on board because the Bible says the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows.
Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly… And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
Can you imagine that? God had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. Some people think the great fish could have been a whale. It didn’t chew up Jonah because God had him swallow him whole. Jonah must have been scared out of his wits. The belly of a fish didn’t have a luxury cabin that Jonah had been hoping to find on board the ship.
Water was sloshing around everywhere and seaweed was wrapped around his head. Maybe Jonah ate the seaweed? Yuck! There were no lights down in the tummy of the fish. It was cold, dark, and scary. So Jonah did what most folks do when they are scared: he prayed to God. Jonah didn’t give up. God heard Jonah’s prayer and after three days the fish coughed up Jonah on to the dry land.
Jonah was tired and smelly. And then God spoke to him again and said Arise, go to Nineveh. God cares about all people from every land. He wants everyone to know about Him. By this time Jonah had learned a hard lesson and he obeyed God. Jonah didn’t really care about the people he was sent to save, but God did. The king of Nineveh heard the message to repent and told everyone to pray to God for forgiveness. So God spared the people of Nineveh.
Jesus spoke of Jonah as a historically accurate account. Jesus told the people of his day they were given the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Jesus was telling the people that he would die and be three days in the grave, and then he would rise from the dead. We can be thankful that God still calls us to be missionaries. He loves all people and wants everyone to come to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
©1998 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.