At the time of writing this post, I will begin preaching through Jonah this coming Sunday. By the time this post appears, I will have already preached two sermons from this book. (The timing of these two sentences is making my head hurt!)
I have learned so much in my preparation, and one thing has stood out to me: Jonah had an incredible grasp of theology. He was a faithful prophet of the LORD (2 Kings 14:25). Implied in that is a grasp of God’s Word as well as the belief that God is a communicating God.
We learn a lot more about Jonah’s theology from the book that bears his name. Jonah has a deep understanding of the holiness of God. It is encapsulated in his message from the LORD (1:2). Jonah understood that God was sovereign over His creation. He acknowledged that the LORD “made the sea and the dry land” (1:9, ESV). Along those same lines, he reasoned that the LORD was in control of this dire storm (1:12). Jonah’s understanding of God’s providence through his experiences are further testified in chapter 2. We read in his prayer, “you cast me into the deep” (2:3a) “all your waves and your billows passed over me” (2:3b, ESV).
Additionally, Jonah had a biblical view of God’s grace and forgiveness. After being vomited onto dry land by the fish, the LORD gives Jonah a second change to preach, and Jonah obeys. He preaches the message of judgment (3:3-4). Now, it must be said that Jonah did not preach the possibility of forgiveness, only judgment. Yet, in chapter 4 we see Jonah’s response at the repentance of the Ninevites (3:6-10). He says, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I know that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (4:2, ESV) Jonah knew that God was a forgiving God.
To summarize, then, Jonah had a firm grasp of the following theological truths:
- Jonah knew the Word of God
- God was a communicating God
- God’s holiness
- God’s creative power
- God’s providential reign over His creation
- God’s grace and forgiveness
What, then, was the problem? Jonah’s problem, and far too often our problem, is that his theology was disconnected from his life. In other words, Jonah was a hearer of the Word and not a doer (cf. James 1:22). Jonah’s theology was orthodox, but his life was abysmal. He knew that the Lord was holy, yet failed to live holy (cf. 1 Pet. 1:16).
What does this have to do with us? As I considered the fleeing prophet, I asked myself, “What does this have to do with me?” It shows us that orthodox doctrine alone is not righteous. You do not truly love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength if your theology is right and your life is not (cf. Matt. 22:37-40). I have personally witnessed individuals who’s theology is orthodox, mature, and well-articulated, yet their lives could not be further from the Truth. We witness this on social media on a regular basis.
We also experience it in daily life. I have had the privilege of working for several companies. In addition, I have formed friendships with many different people. One of the most disappointing experiences was working with individuals who knew theological truths but failed to live in accordance with the Scriptures. As I consider my life, I wonder how many times my life contradicted my theological beliefs? Oh God, please forgive me for this depravity!
As we read Jonah, let us consider his theological correctness and the divide between his head and his life. Let us, through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, balance a right life with right doctrine. Let us life and believe in a way that God is honored and our fellow human beings are helped.