THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JONAH (2) THE FOOLISHNESS OF JONAH
During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled ‘The Gospel according to Jonah’ (2), The foolishness of Jonah! Her main text was taken from the Book of Jonah chapter 1.
The story of Jonah is more than children’s tale. It is more than an adventure about a great fish. It the revelation of God and His Grace towards men. It is the testimony of King Grace. Simply said, Grace means unmerited favor, undeserved Kindness for the sake of Christ! In the Book of Jonah, we shall find the Gospel of Christ Crucified and Resurrected. The study of this Book from the Old Testament will help us see that the Bible is One. In the Old Testament the Gospel is revealed in symbols and shadows. In the New Testament, we see reality of the Gospel. There are many deep revelations here, about salvation and the call of God to ministry. All people can gain wisdom and strength from the study of the Book of Jonah, but in particular the backsliders. Praise the Lord!
WHO IS JONAH?
Jonah was the son of Amittai. In Hebrew, the name “Amittai” means Truthful or Faithful. Jonah comes from a good Hebrew family. The Name “Jonah” means “Dove”. It is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Jonah was a true Prophet of Jehovah God. God wanted to use him as an ambassador of peace. He prophesied during Jeroboam II, a wicked king of Israel. Jonah lived in a small town called Gath Hepher, located at the north border of ancient Israel. It was part of the inheritance of the Tribe of Zebulun (Joshua 19:13). (Today, the town does not exist. There are some ruins there, and a stone said to be Jonah’s tomb. The ruins are five Kilometers north of Nazareth). Jonah must have lived between 800 and 750BC. Assyria was Israel’s neighbor in the north. At that time, the Kingdom of Assyria was the greatest power in the world. Its capital, Nineveh, founded by Nimrod, was at its peak. (The Kingdom of Assyria was conquered by Babylon in 600 BC). Jonah’s ministry started immediately after the prophets Elijah and Elisha. It is possible that Jonah was a disciple of Elisha.
THE THEME OF THE BOOK OF JONAH – SALVATION IS OF THE LORD!
The Book of Jonah is not a prophecy. It is the Prophet’s miraculous story, his testimony, and his relationship with Jehovah God. Jonah’s story reveals the way The God of all Grace deals with His people, even when they rebel against His commands. The greatest revelation in the Book of Jonah is that “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). In Jonah we discover the Gospel, the power of seeking Grace. It is not man looking for God but God seeking and finding the lost! “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai,,,” (Jonah 1:1). This is how the Book of Jonah starts. It is not Jonah’s word that matters. It is God’s Word that starts the story. God is always first! The Gospel is not man’s work but God’s. Grace always ignites the fire. But Jonah struggles with the Grace of God. He loves to experience grace for himself, but he does not what to extend that grace to others. The story of Jonah helps us to understand and appreciate the irresistible Grace of God in salvation and redemption. Throughout the story of Jonah, we see that God is all-powerful, kind, patient, and faithful. For not good reason, God loves Jonah from the beginning to the end! There is no other explanation for this love except the Grace of God!
The Book of Jonah is unique in its way. Everything that you expect turns to be upside down. You expect a prophet to be wise, to listen and obey God’s Word. But Jonah does the opposite. He runs away from God. The distance between Joppa to Nineveh (where God sent him) is about 500 miles. The distance between Joppa to Tarshish (where he was running to) is about 2500 miles. Jonah chooses a longer, much more difficult path than God’s, just because he refuses to obey. This is a lesson for all: the rebellious suffer and punish themselves. He is angry with God. Jonah has a close encounter with two groups of pagans: the mariners and the Ninevites. You expect these people to be wicked, to reject God’s Word of repentance. But the Mariners were kind to Jonah, and they prayed for mercy to Jehovah, the God of Jonah. Jonah went to Nineveh and warned them of destruction. He did not show any mercy in his speech. He did not even call the name of Jehovah. He did not share with them the greatest revelation he received while in the belly of the fish that “Salvation is of the Lord (Jehovah)!” Jonah cried out and said: ““Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4). The word ‘overthrow’ means to be defeated, to be removed from power by force. This message was so simple. Jonah gave them ‘some crumbs’ of preaching. It is like he did not want to preach well. But even with that simple sermon, surprisingly, all the people of Nineveh, from king to the poorest person, they all repented at his preaching. “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed, a greater than Jonah is here” (Mt 12:41). The lesson here is this: if you repent, God will use your testimony to convict others of the sin of unbelief!
The Book of Jonah is a mirror. We look at it and see the worse part of ourselves. Like Jonah, we are rebellious, stubborn, selfish, proud, hateful, uncaring, and foolish people. The purpose of the Book is for us to search our hearts, repent of our sins and be grateful to God for His Grace!
Jonah was a true prophet who was backsliding. He was running away from God. But none can hide from God. He convinced himself that God will not find him in the place where he will hide. He also thought that even if God finds him, he will be too far from his place of ministry. How foolish! Lessons: For as long as you think that you can run away and hide from God, you are a fool! For as long as you think that you are stronger or wiser than God, you are a fool! Please think of it!
JONAH BECAME A FOOL
Jonah was a true prophet. He was supposed to be wise, but in his rebellion, he became a fool. Jonah believed that God exists. But he doubted God’s Omnipresence, Power, Grace, Wisdom, and His Love for him. He deceived himself thinking that by running away from God he will be free. But to gain his ‘freedom’, he lost so much more. A backslider always loses more than he gains. In his rebellion, Jonah lost great benefits given to all believers. Jonah lost the voice of God. Once Jonah rejected God’s Word, God ‘spoke’ to him thru His works. God sent the storm to call Jonah back. If you refuse to listen to God’s Word, you will listen to His chastisement. Jonah lost his love for God and compassion for men. He did not care about the mariners who were suffering because of him. He did not care if all the Ninevites will go to hell. Jonah lost his desire to have fellowship with God and to pray. The pagan mariners were praying to their gods, but Jonah was sleeping. The captain had to force him to pray. Jonah lost his testimony as a believer and a servant of God. Nobody in the ship respected him for his words. He said that he fears God but by his actions, he denied his confession. He became a hypocrite. Jonah lost his desire to live and the joy of his salvation. He tells the mariners to throw him in the raging sea. He wanted to commit suicide, but he was afraid. He wanted to implicate the mariners. Several times Jonah says that it is better for him to die than to live and serve God. Jonah’s rebellion affected many people. In his rebellion, Jonah became a fool. He discovered that you may run from God, but you cannot hide from God. “You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail” (PV 19:21).
THE MARKS OF A FOOL
“The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, Who eat up my people as they eat bread, And do not call on the Lord? There they are in great fear, For God is with the generation of the righteous. You shame the counsel of the poor, But the Lord is his refuge. Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord brings back the captivity of His people, Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad” (Psalm 14)
Atheism is defined as lack of faith in God or any deity. It is said that there are more than 500 million atheists in the world. Russia and China contribute greatly to this number. 76% of all atheists live in Asia followed by Europe. Sub-Sahara Africa and South- America have the lowest numbers of atheists. Only 2% of Nigerians say that they are atheists.
*A fool is an unbeliever or a rebellious doubter. If he is saved, he is a man of little faith. He rejects God’s Word and denies the doctrine of God.
Psalm 14 is written by King David. In it, we find the Biblical definition of a fool. “The fool says in his heart: There is no God”. A fool is an unbeliever. The most important knowledge we have is the knowledge of God. The most important relationship with have is our relationship with God. The greatest gift we receive is the gift of salvation, thru Jesus Christ, our Lord. A fool is one who rejects God and His Grace. He rejects the best and loves the worst. Fools cheats themselves! That is a fool!
For a fool to say that God does not exist, he has refused to study the Person of God and His Word. He jumps to his conclusions based on insufficient evidence. The fool ignores the basic evidence that God is alive: his conscience, the natural world, the history of man, and the survival of the church. God created man with a conscience, to know what is good and what is bad. The fool hates the warning and the restrain of his conscience, and the God who put it there. The fool ignores the beauty of creation because it reminds him of God. The fool ignores the evidence of history because God oversees history. Look at the great human achievements. Hospitals, schools, good governments, all these came from the ideas and labor of godly people. Look at the Jews! They are not better than other nations. But God chose them to reveal Himself to them and thru them to other nations. The survival of Israel as a nation cannot be explained without acknowledging that God is with them. Look at the Church! When our Lord died, He left behind few disciples, most of them uneducated and afraid. Jesus promised that He will send the Holy Spirit, the Power from on high. On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured down according to the promise of Jesus. The few disciples stood and boldly preached the Gospel. The Word of God in their hearts and mouths became stronger and stronger. The disciples multiplied. Many rulers tried to destroy the church but failed to do so. There is no other explanation than the fact that God sustains it.
*A fool is lacks knowledge, and wisdom. The Bible reveals foolishness as sin to be confessed and repented of. Foolishness relates to unbelief, doubt, and lack of the fear of God. We are born sinners and fools. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him” (PV 22:15). Our Lord describes the works of the flesh common to all men. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness (malice), deceit (betrayal), lewdness (sensuality), an evil eye (envy), blasphemy (slander, abusive language), pride, foolishness (reckless). All these evil things come from within and defile a man (make him unclean, unfit to worship God)” (Mk 7:21-23). It is only a child of God that can be free from the works of the flesh. This freedom comes thru the process of sanctification, done by the Holy Spirit and thru the Word of God.
*Fools do not think clearly. They are always superficial in their thinking. They do not understand spiritual things. One of the greatest gifts God has given to man is the mind. But like animals, fools are led by their emotions and basic instincts, and not their reasoning. They are not led by the Holy Spirit. In Hebrew, the word ‘fool’ is Nabal. The word means wilderness, wastefulness. The fool has dried all love for God and all wisdom for life in his brain. Like Nabal, Abigail’s husband, all fools are stingy, wicked, and rude (1 Samuel 25). Nabal was blind to the grace of God in David. But Abigail saw it and honored it. Fools ‘do not good’. Foolishness is madness. If the fool can kill God to prove himself right, he will do it.
*All fools trust their ‘hearts’ and not God. A fool makes decisions in his heart, without God. He is led by his lustful desires, fleshly impulses. He gives too much importance to his heart. By his imagination he has created in his heart a world where he is the king and the god of his domain. He approves of what he likes, and he rejects what he hates. He does not think of the consequences of his actions. He lives for the moment. In his world, God has no place. It does not matter how educated a man is. There are illiterate fools and highly educated fools. One thing is common with them all: they live their lives led by their fleshly desire. The more money they have, the greater fools they become. You see a man who has a PHD, but his personal life is a failure. He drinks, watches pornography, or he commits adultery. There are also religious fools who say with their mouths that God exists. But in their actions, they deny the God they confess. The unbeliever encourages himself in his sin, removing God from His position as the Judge of all men. The fool deceived himself saying that after death, there is no God and no judgment!
*All fools have ‘gone aside’. They are all walking against the flow of the Holy Spirit. God looks from heaven to see if there is any good and wise man on earth. God does not look for wealthy or educated men. He is looking for any man ‘who seeks God, who tries to understand God’. God identifies and encourages any man who seeks God. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6). But ‘they have all gone aside’. They have left the right path and have gone astray. Anyone who follows them will end up like them, into darkness and destruction. All fools are rebellious men. That is why they are dangerous. Our Lord cursed the wicked religious leaders who rejected Him. He called them ‘hypocrites, blind guides, and fools’ (Mt 23:15:22). This curse establishes the fact that religious foolishness is a signpost to hell.
*All fools are “corrupt” and become worse with time. A fool is actively corrupt in his deeds and unwilling to repent of his wicked deeds. They do not know to do good things. In Hebrew, the word ‘corrupt’ means a waste, evil, something that God hates and will destroy. The fool has made himself corrupt. Corruption means using your position of authority to gain advantage or money from the people you lead. Because fools do not fear God, they are bullies, oppressors, greedy and selfish leaders. They are also cowards. Like the foolish Assyrian Sennacherib said to the people of God: “What makes you think your God can rescue you from me?” (2 Chr 32:14). But Jehovah rescued them by sending an angel who killed the whole army of Assyria. The fools take pleasure in doing wicked deeds. They are proud that they do not pray. Tyrants like Nabal, Haman, and Herod, are happy to persecute and oppress the true believers. The reason why they hate the believers is that somehow, they see the light of God in them and that proves them wrong in their unbelief.
*All fools become worse with time. Without the Grace of God foolishness is an incurable disease. Fools are never truly happy. They shall be disappointed, disgraced, and defeated by God! “Oh, that salvation would come out of Zion!” This has been the cry of all people who need to endure oppression from foolish leaders. Once God ‘comes down’ and miraculously delivers them from their oppressors, that is their vindication. It is more than enough proof that God exists, and that God is with them. Fools never have the last say! God does!
A fool is selfish. He isolates himself, going away from wise people. A fool is angry at the wisdom of the wise. He refuses to learn from them. “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment. A fool has no delight in understanding, But in expressing his own heart” (PV 18:1, 2). Foolishness is not accidental. The fool refuses to fear God and hates instruction. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Pv 1:7). “If a wise man has a controversy with a foolish and arrogant man, The foolish man [ignores logic and fairness and] only rages or laughs, and there is no peace (rest, agreement)” (PV 29:9; AMP). Sometimes, the only way to detect a fool is during a ‘controversy’ with him. In the court, the foolish man ignores all wisdom. He goes from one passionate extreme to another. He either gets angry or he tries to be funny. He is not balanced in his speech and behavior. At the end, with all that ‘drama’, there is no peace, no resolution. The Judge cannot make a wise decision to end the problem. The controversy, the difficulty remains unsolved. The fool is unrepentant. He has learned nothing from that controversy. The fool remains a fool. “Even though you pound a [hardened, arrogant] fool [who rejects wisdom] in a mortar with a pestle like grain, Yet his foolishness will not leave him” (PV 27:22; AMP). A fool is stubborn. He does not respond to any means, either teaching or discipline. His foolishness has become a second nature to him. Foolishness is addictive like drugs. “As dog returns to his own vomit, So a fool repeats his folly” (PV 26:11).
TWO LANDLORDS, TWO HOUSES, TWO DESTINIES
“Therefore, whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mt 7:24-29)
Our Lord ends His Sermon on the Mount with this parable: there are two men, one wise and one foolish. Each one builds his own house. From the outside, both houses look strong and beautiful. They each enjoy their lives with their families. One day, the weather changes. Rain, floods, and wind blew and beat each house. Despite these troubles, the wise man’s house stands strong. The foolish man’s house collapses with a great fall. What are the lessons for us?
The wise man is the true Christian. He has a good life on earth, and he prepares for heaven. He builds his house with a deep foundation, anchored on a Rock, which is Christ. That is why when the trials of life come, he is not shaken. The foolish man is the false Christian. He too wants to live a good life with his family, just like his neighbor, the Christian. But he builds his house directly on the sand, without digging for a foundation. When the Christian was digging the foundation of his house, he was laughing at him. He considers the foundation as a waste of time, effort, and money. The foolish man thinks himself wiser than the true believer. Outwardly, he behaves like the Christian. He too goes to church with his family. He too is involved in church activities. He reads the Bible, and he prays. But he never goes deep spiritually. He likes to listen to sermons about the love of God. But he hates sermons about the wrath, the justice of the holiness of God. He hates to humble himself; he hates repentance. His Christianity is more like cosmetic surgery. Behind a spiritual façade he is still proud and sensual. The way he carries himself shows that his heart has not been changed. He remains greedy, manipulative, and rude. The false believer is a foolish man.
The Lord is attracting our attention to the danger of religious self-deception. The false Christian is selfish. The reason why he comes to church is because he has heard about God. He knows that God is good and generous. He knows that God blesses people. He wants to be among those whom God blesses. But he is not truly interested to know God as a person. He doesn’t desire an intimate fellowship with God. What he wants is God’s gifts and blessings, not His fellowship. Digging the foundation for a house is a symbol of hard spiritual labor in the dark. The fake Christian refuses to pay the price for a deeper knowledge of God and His Word. He is a hearer and not a doer of the Word. He does not want to be like Jesus! He just wants to enjoy his life with his family, and he has found that the church is the best environment for that. How sad… He may deceive people, but he cannot deceive God who knows the hearts of men. Eventually, all his efforts to impress men with his Christianity suddenly fails. He does not have hidden resources of faith and strength. The fall of his religion is sudden, and it is complete.
The rain represents the general trials of life: sickness, and losses and disappointments. The floods are a symbol of the world in general. The world is that system that runs without God in the center. The world tempts the Christians thru seduction or persecution. Sometimes, the attacks are stronger, like the floods after the rain. The wind represents the attacks of the devil and his demons. All men pass thru different trials in life. But one thing is sure: All men must face death. The wise man lives well, and he is prepared to die well. The foolish man lives well but he is not ready to die, to meet God and to face the judgment. And that is the greatest tragedy of all! May you take the warning! Examine your foundation! For as long as you breathe there is hope! Come to Jesus! Repent of foolishness! Be wise! Be like Jesus! Worship the Lord!
The Lord warns us to the possibility of empty religion, of foolishness, or deceiving ourselves! Because fools are dangerous let us review some of their attributes: a fool believes he is right all the time, that is why he does not ask for help. He is blind to his foolishness. He behaves confidently. He loves to talk. A fool can be a good ‘lawyer’. He gossips and he flatters others. He hates to listen, and to be corrected. He hates responsibility, accountability, and instruction. He is a bad student. He repeats the same mistakes, frustrating his teacher. A fool is wicked and is not a good friend. If you are convicted of the sin of foolishness, what will you do? Go to the Cross. Repent! Ask God for forgiveness. Be led by the Holy Spirit! Because as a fool you deceived yourself, you loved talking and hated listening, now, do the opposite! “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath… be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:19; 22)
Once you discover that your ‘friend’ is a fool, what do you do? Because foolishness is like a virus, separate yourself from him immediately. Stop talking to him. He does not listen to you. If it is in your power to do so, remove all responsibilities from him, isolate or demote him. In the last days there will be many dangerous and foolish people… “having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!… Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith… but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was” (2 Tim 3:1-9)
The reason we study this subject is not just theoretical. Fools hate repentance. “It is an abomination to fools to depart from evil” (PV 13:19). Foolishness is dangerous. Making friends with foolish people will damage your spirit. “The companion of fools will be destroyed” (PV 13:20).
The fool takes too much risk with his future. He says that there is no God. He forgets that one day he must die. He cannot control what he will see after death. He does not think of the possibility that he may meet the God he is rejecting now. The foul is gambling with his soul, with his eternal destiny. Look at the believers! The truth is that all Christians live better lives than the unbelievers. Their lives are cleaner, happier, and more productive. Oh, fool! Come to your senses and come to God before it is too late! God is calling you! Come home! Amen!
The Resurrected Christ rebuked His disciples saying: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Lk 24:25-27). Christ said that doubt and sluggish faith are foolishness. He preached to them the Gospel as found in the Prophets, including Jonah. How much I could have wanted to listen to our Lord, the Gospel according to Jonah!
I was born in Romania. I came to Nigeria in March 1980. I was happily married to Dr. Richmond Leigh. Both of us were medical doctors. We have three children. When I came to Nigeria, I was an atheist. I told everyone that ‘I do not believe that God exists’. I had a crisis conversion in March 1986. I challenged God that if He exists, then in one month, He should ‘come down and manifest Himself to me’. That was my very first ‘prayer’. From the moment I said those words looking to the sky, I lost all my peace of mind. I entered into a cloud of deep depression. I felt like a criminal that has no hope. I saw myself as a sinner and the enemy of God. I saw death as the only ‘solution’ to my anxieties. On the 12th of April 1986, the Holy Spirit suddenly entered my dying soul. Instantly, I received the will to live, power, peace, and joy. I also received the faith that I am now born-again, a child of God. I started to read the Bible like it was bread to eat and water to drink. As you see, I was the original fool of the Bible. Once I got saved, Christ became my wisdom and my righteousness. To God be all the glory! Worship the Lord!