In Junior High School I got an “F” for my book report on Moby Dick by Herman Melville.
I don’t know if I got more than ten pages into it before I quit reading it, so I made up the book report. I said that the whale lived happily ever after. According to my English teacher, that was proof that I hadn’t read the book. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve decided to try reading it again, and after the first eleven chapters I can say that I’m enjoying it very much.
In chapter 9, I got a pleasant surprise. It was a Sunday morning, and Ishmael walked to church. Inside, he heard a sermon by Father Mapple. Herman Melville, as part of the story, wrote the entire sermon as delivered by the fictitious preacher. And… it is one fine sermon!
I found five key points in the sermon. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all five points will be there if you read chapter 9. These are the five things that struck me when I read it. So, here is my summary of the sermon’s key points, as I interpret them.
(1) The command to Jonah.
God’s business is often urgent, and of such importance that He is more prone to order than to persuade. Don’t mistake God’s command for a recommendation.
(2) Jonah paid the fare.
This one surprised me. I had never noticed this idea before. Jonah paid the fare to disobey God. He was unsuspecting and unprepared for how much his disobedience would cost. I looked to see if the Bible actually says that Jonah paid the fare, and it’s in 1:3. You cannot easily purchase an escape from what God has called you to.
(3) The destination.
Just as Jonah didn’t know the true cost of his disobedience, he also didn’t know the true destination. Disobeying God may take you to places you didn’t want to go. You may be trapped, drowning, and in darkness.
(4) Unbelievers are not fooled.
First, the Captain confronted Jonah for ignoring God when he should be crying out to Him. Then, the crew confronted Jonah and demanded an explanation for his rebellion against God. These sailors had different religions, and didn’t serve our God. You can’t fool God, but what’s more, you can’t fool anyone. If you lie about your service to God, everyone, of any other faith, sees through your disguise.
(5) The lesson for the preacher.
Finally, in addition to the lesson for the disobedient, there is a special lesson for the preacher, which the preacher in the book tells with some fear and trembling. The preacher must not consider either the hazard or the reward. but must proclaim the message he is ordered by God to deliver. He must give no thought to his reputation, and whether the message might bring him status or ridicule. The preacher must only be concerned that he faithfully and accurately deliver the message God has charged him with, and deliver it to the people whose very souls have been entrusted to his shepherding, whether those souls be agreeable or disagreeable.
— Bob Young
Books by Bob Young