Three Nights in a Strange Hotel

Bible Book: Jonah  1 : 13
Subject: God, Running from
Series: Life on the Run

If you like suspense and drama, then the Old Testament book of Jonah is for you! And you don’t have to look very far until you find yourself in one of the 4 chapters of Jonah!

The life-story of Jonah is very much like yours and mine! It’s about a man’s struggles. It’s about a man’s disobedience to God. It’s about a man getting a second chance from God.

And in these 4 chapters we read the account of a literal man who was swallowed by a literal fish in a literal sea who went to a literal town where he saw literal people repent of their literal sin and literally receive God’s forgiveness and grace.

Now somebody says, “Pastor, do you mean to say that you believe all of this literally happened?’ I do and I’ll tell you why: because Jesus did! In fact .. Jesus compared what happened to Jonah with what was going to happen to Him. And if you don’t believe what happened to Jonah was literal, then you cannot believe what happened to Jesus was literal, that is, His death, burial and resurrection.

Matthew 12.40, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” – Jesus Christ

So, which chapter of Jonah are you living in today? Chapter 1 he is running from God. Chapter 2 he is running to God. Chapter 3 he is running with God. Chapter 4 he is running ahead of God.

Now if by chance you living in chapter 1 today .. you need to know that God is pursuing you! God is pursuing you and God will pursue you just like He did with Jonah! He will even send a storm if necessary to get your attention! He’ll even prepare a big fish to cause you to stop your running from Him so that you will start running with Him.

1.17, “Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Don’t think that God sent that fish simply to punish Jonah, He sent it to preserve Jonah, to give him a little more time to think about the direction of his life.

Could that happen? Did that happen? I mean, a man swallowed by a big fish. Friend, with God, all things are possible and if you believe God, then you know that of course it could happen. I mean, if God could create a man in the first place, don’t you think that He could create a fish that could swallow a man?

Here is a man who stayed three nights in a strange hotel! He had a fish for a landlord. He slept on a foam-blubber mattress. He had seaweed for a blanket and ate fresh fish for every meal. I would call that three nights in a strange hotel!

Let’s back up beginning in 1.13 and get a running head start as we move into chapter 2. We’re thinking today about ..

Three Nights in a Strange Hotel

Jonah 1.13-17

13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them.” Like a lot of people living in Georgia .. these men were rowing as hard as they could, but they were going nowhere! And remember .. they were in this storm not because of their sin .. but because the sin of this prophet!

Those that run from God cause a lot of grief and sorrow to those closest to them! Dads, the greatest thing you can do for your family is to run with God and the worst thing you can do for your family is to run from God! That’s true for you Mom’s too!

14 Therefore they cried out to the LORD and said, “We pray, O LORD, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O LORD, have done as it pleased You.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. It’s amazing how upheaval and commotion ceases when the scoffer is removed! Proverbs 22.10, “Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; Yes, strife and reproach will cease.”

16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the LORD and took vows.

17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Now for those of you who find yourselves living in chapter 1, that is, you’re running from God, I want you to see what this man of God did next. You know the misery and heartache that running from God causes in not only your life, but in the lives of those closest to you. And you’re thinking, “Enough is enough! My running from God has got me nowhere except missing God’s best and bringing misery and heartache to those in the boat with me.”

Three nights in a strange hotel was long enough for this man. And like Jonah, you too have reached the end of your rope. What did he do next to help himself?

(1) He Cried Out to the LORD.

2.1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly. 2 And he said:“ I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, And He answered me. “ Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice.”

72 Hours is a long time to think, especially when you’re in the belly of a great fish. Three days and three nights is long enough to get desperate. The truth is, when running from God .. most people wait until they get really desperate before they do something about it.

It took Jonah three days and three nights in a strange hotel. So how long is it going to take you? How desperate do you have to get before you decide to stop running from God? How bad are you going to let things get?

Verse 2, “I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction.” The word “affliction” means distress. It means to be tied up. It was used in that day to describe the anguish of an army captured by their enemy. It was also used to describe the pain of a woman giving birth to her child. “I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction.”

Let me tell you something: affliction becomes a good thing when it drives you to God! Sorrow becomes a good thing when it drives you to God! It’s amazing how some of us wait until we are in distress before we cry out to God!

Are you listening? Regardless of the mess you’ve caused as a result of running from God, you can ALWAYS call out to God for help! Jonah cried out in his distress and found deliverance and so can you!

“I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction and He answered me.” And listen to his prayer beginning in verse 3 …

3 For You cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the floods surrounded me; All Your billows and Your waves passed over me. 4 Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ 5 The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head. 6 I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever; Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God.”

Jonah prayed what Paul and Silas prayed! His cry was not for deliverance! Not once did he cry out, “Oh God, get me out of this whale of a mess.” But rather, his was a cry of praise and worship and thanksgiving.

Job did the same thing when his health and wealth and family was stripped from him. He cried out, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

Jonah did it. Job did it. Paul and Silas did it.

They all praised their way through their struggles. I’m telling you that those are the keys that unlock doors: praise and worship. They will set you free. You say, “Pastor, I don’t have anything to praise God about, nothing is going my way.” You don’t praise Him for what He gives you .. you praise Him for who He is!

Paul and Silas praised the Lord in the midst of their problems and God set them free. Jonah praised the Lord in the middle of his mess and God set him free. While facing a life and death situation with throat cancer .. I stood in my backyard with tears falling down my face and I praised Him and worshipped Him and God set me free.

That’s what Paul was talking about in 1 Thess 5.18, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Now Jonah could have been whining about his hotel room. But hey, it was God who made the reservations! When you praise God in the middle of adversity, God hears and God acts! Psalm 50.23, “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors Me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.” Quit whining and start worshipping! Quit pouting and start praising!

(1) He Cried Out to the LORD.

(2) He was Chastened by the LORD.

You will save yourself a lot of grief and misery if you will learn that if you belong to God, and you live the self-centered life rather than the self-surrendered life, that you’re going to experience the chastening/discipline of God!

Psalm 119.67 , “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.” Psalm 119.71, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” Verse 75, “I know, O LORD, that your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” Hebrews 12.6-8, “6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”[a]7 If[b] you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.”

The chastening hand of God is evidence that He loves you and cares for you just as the discipline from our parents is evidence that they love and care for us. I can still hear my parents saying, “Son, I’m spanking you because I love you.” Thinking back, I believe I was their favorite child. For every twenty spankings I received, my sister got one, maybe!

In fact, Hebrews 12.8 tells us that if we rebel against God, if we live in rebellion to His Word and God DOESN’T chastise us/disciple us .. that it’s evidence that we’ve never been saved. “But if you are without chastening, of which all become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.”

And listen to what God’s chastening brings us: Verse 11b, “afterward (that is after God disciplines us) it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

(1) He Cried Out to the LORD.

(2) He was Chastised by the LORD.

(3) He was Committed to the LORD.

Jonah 2.9-10, “9 But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.” 10 So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.”

Let me ask you something: what had Jonah vowed? “I will pay what I have vowed.” He had vowed to preach the gospel for God had called and commissioned him to preach, and yet, he had run from the will of God because he despised the Ninevites.

Now here’s what happened: He ran from the will of God, God pursued him through the storm and the preserved him through a big fish, Jonah confessed his sin and then repented of his sin and he turned back to God! He recommitted his life to God! “I will pay what I have vowed.”
Now don’t miss this. Chapter 3.1, “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” Let me tell you something about our God: He is the God of the second chance! God gave Jonah a second chance! 2.10, “So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” God is so good! Jonah didn’t even have to swim to shore .. he was sent special delivery!

Now before we leave, let me leave you with two timeless truths taken from these verses:

First, When you run from God, He will always pursue you. And that’s true whether you’re saved or lost. If you’re saved, God will pursue you to restore you. If you’re lost, God will pursue you to redeem you.

In fact, if when you die .. and you end up in Hell, it will be because you fought all the way there. You fought off God’s love. You fought off God’s grace. You fought off God’s people. You have to fight to go to Hell!

Second. When you repent, God will always hear you. True repentance brings restoration. And restoration brings revival. And revival brings God back into your life, back into your home, back into your church.