We have seen with some of the Minor Prophets that there is no information about the prophet, where he’s from, what time period he prophesied in and to whom he was prophesying. Micah answers all those questions in the first verse.
As we dig in to exposit this text and expose its message there are dozens of questions we could ask. Why did Jesus purposefully go to this place? Why did the possessed man come to him? Why did the demons expect to be tortured and beg not to be? Why do they ask to go into the pigs and why did Jesus grant their desire? And most of all, what in the world could this text possibly say to us today? If “all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16) then how so with this text?
There are five one-chapter books in the Bible, a letter from Paul to Philemon, the second and third of John’s three letters, Jude and Obadiah. Obadiah holds the record for being the shortest book in the OT. Obadiah is the obscure prophet, we know nothing of this background, family, history or location. His name means servant of God, and he does it well, staying in the background.
It’s impossible for us who have been Christians for so long to imagine what it would be like to hear those words for the very first time. Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That’s a bold statement. Mark doesn’t beat around the bush or warm up to his subject. He makes the claim right up front that this Jesus is actually divine, the Son of God. Those are big words, Mark, are you sure you can back them up. Just saying that doesn’t make it true. Story after story Mark piles up the evidence. Jesus heals and demonstrates that He’s Lord over the physical world of health; He casts out unclean spirits showing His authority over the spiritual world of demons. He knows what people are thinking. He says He is Lord of the Sabbath. This morning we see a whole other realm bend to His will and His words, the realm of creation and nature. This story is filled with rich truth and wisdom for all of us. Let’s do what we talked about last week and dig in to mine the rich ore in this text. Let’s exposit it or expose to the light what Jesus teaches us by His Holy Spirit through this great story. One great way to dig into any text of Scripture is to start asking questions of the text and this text actually makes it easy for us by giving us the question to ask, “Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
Year after year, century after century, calamity upon calamity, it never ceases. Two inch letters scream at us from the front page announcing trouble and tragedy somewhere in our world. The evening news leads off with the worst of breaking news. MSNBC, Yahoo News, and Google News all fill our computer screens with dire predictions and disastrous outcomes. Breaking news, this just in from our reporter in Israel. “An invasion of locusts ravaged the land of Israel this week leaving no green thing alive. The thoroughness and savagery of the insect army was beyond any similar invasion in the memory of the oldest citizens of the land. As an eyewitness put it: Joel 1:4 What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten. (ESV) “Wave after wave of insects have attacked the foliage, laying waste the grape vines, splintering the fig trees, stripping their bark … Palm, apple and pomegranate trees are all withered, as are the fields of wheat and barley. [No one is spared, everyone is impacted, the tillers of soil, the vine dressers and the harvesters.] The plague has created a religious crisis as well, because the priests have no food or drink for their daily offerings in the Temple” (David Hubbard, Themes from the Minor Prophets, p. 28-29).
There’s a growing famine for the Word of God in our culture and an increasing crisis of confidence in the pure and plain preaching of the Word of God. So why do so many of you keep showing up week after week to do something that’s increasingly out of fashion, and so counter cultural? Let me ask and answer three questions about preaching in general and the systematic exposition of Scripture in particular. Why do I preach and teach from the Bible? Why is the Bible my only text when there are lots of great books written by lots of great writers with lots of wisdom?
“Because I said so.” There’s great power in those words. It’s the end of the debate, of the speculation, of the doubt. It’s the end of the questions. “Because I said so.” Our Father in heaven actually says the same thing just with some different words. In the OT God spoke through the prophets and we hear repeatedly, “thus saith the Lord,” or “the Lord has spoken.”
The prophecy of Jonah is unique among the prophetic book for several reasons. It’s the only prophecy directed toward another nation besides Israel or Judah. It’s very different from all the other Minor Prophets in that it’s completely autobiographical. It tells the story of one prophet and his relationship with God. The prophets own story becomes the prophecy. And it’s not a flattering story, which once again argues for the authenticity of God’s Word. It tells the truth and doesn’t whitewash reality.