God’s Great Storms of Mercy
Jonah Flees the Presence of the LORD
 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,  “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”  But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.
 But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.  Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.  So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”
Jonah Is Thrown into the Sea
 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.  Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?”  And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”  Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.
 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous.  He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.”  Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.  Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.”  So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.  Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.
A Great Fish Swallows Jonah
 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (ESV)
I. The Call of God (verses 1-2)
It meant to be the recipient of a communication from God, a “word” which contained a message. It meant to have a clear, fresh light shed upon oneself, or society, or the nations, by the living God. It means to be drawn into God’s presence to see things from His perspective. — Sinclair Ferguson
II. Jonah Runs from God’s Call (verse 3)
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! – Psalm 139:7-8
Jonah was likely a man of outstanding character and outward godliness, but he failed to attend to the affairs of his heart. There was bitterness there. There was anger. There was hatred and resentment. All of it was directed towards Nineveh…but none of it did Nineveh any harm – only Jonah. The same is true of Christians who refuse to forgive injuries done to them. They cultivate bitterness and resentment with careful attention, like a gardener tending a favored tree. But the only harm is done to themselves. – Richard Phillips
III. God Sends a Storm of Mercy (verses 4-17)
- Is the storm that God sends unloving? No, the storm is sent out of love, out of mercy for Jonah.
- God loved Jonah too much just to let him go and squander his life. The storm that God sent was a severe mercy.
- Undoubtedly, Jonah didn’t like it. But through it, God rescued a man who was making his own path towards rebellion and destruction.
- God, at times, does the same thing in our lives. He sends storms to get our attention when we are sinning. He sends storms to deliver us from our sense of self-sufficiency.
- He sends storms because He knows that the greatest joy is not found in being the captain of our own ship, doing what we want and as we direct ourselves, but by allowing Him to be the captain.
Is there any way the Lord is seeking to gain your attention right now through a storm of mercy?
- In your heart are you submitting to God’s plans, obeying His word?
- Are there any ways that your heart is hardened towards obeying the word of the Lord?
- God’s mercy is available to you.
- The fullness of joy comes not through a sense of control, but through trusting God.
Questions for Discussion/Application
- Re-read the text, Jonah 1:1-17. What initial observations and insights do you have from reading this text?
- What examples can you think of from scripture, where God used some type of storm or trial to bring about great good?
- In what ways have you seen God in your life, use “storms” to change you, to sanctify you, to make you more like Christ? If anyone has a testimony of how God used a storm in your life for good, please share.
- What are some of the wrong ways we can respond when trials come?
- When trials/storms come, what are some of the ways we can and should pray regarding our own hearts?
- In terms of your own heart, in what ways are you struggling now in the midst of the trials you are facing?
- Consider taking time to pray, asking God to help us to trust in His goodness, mercy, and sovereign plan in the trials we face.