Jonah & Peter
Have you ever been to the ancient port town of Joppa in Israel? Several stories in the Bible mention and take place there. Today we’re going to look at two of those events. 700 years separated Jonah and the Apostle Peter. They both were called by God to proclaim His offer of repentance but as we’ll learn, they had very different responses.
So what does this have to do with Abraham and the common thread we have been learning about? At the center of the covenant with Abraham is Jesus. God told Abraham that he was going to bless all the families of the earth and the Apostle Peter knew that. He obeyed the calling of God and was blessed through obedience. But Jonah? He had a harder time obeying and because of his attitude, did not see the blessing before him. It’s a powerful lesson we all need to hear.
If you’ve missed the previous episodes of this series, you can find them in our Archives.
Steve Conover: What does a prophet from seventh century BC, an apostle from first century AD, and Abraham have in common? It might not be what you think. This is the Friends of Israel Today, I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host, and teacher Chris Katulka. On this episode, we're continuing our series called The Common Thread.
Chris Katulka: We've been going through The Common Thread series now for a few weeks. If you've been keeping up, I hope that you've been enjoying it. 'Cause we're looking at how God's promise to Abraham binds all of the Bible together from Genesis to Revelation. You know what? Today we're going to look to see how Jonah and Peter were called from the same Biblical location to fulfill one of the aspects of God's promise to Abraham, to bless all the families of the earth. But what we're going to see is how our response to God's call to share this good news impacts our spiritual growth.
Steve Conover: White House senior advisor Jared Kushner will be headed to the Middle East this month to inform diplomats in Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar on the economic section of the U.S. proposal for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The talks will focus around the proposal for Palestinians that includes major infrastructure and industrial work particularly in Gaza.
Chris Katulka: Steve, you know, personally I am one who's always happy to see peace negotiations at work. It's better to talk than no talk at all. However, I'm also a little weary, and I'm sure the Trump Administration is aware of this, but Palestinian leadership has a way of taking the economic good, and the infrastructure plans, especially in Gaza, and using them actually to harm Israel, instead of helping the people that they're supposed to help, those Palestinians that are in plight. I would like to remind our listeners, there are good Palestinians who are facing very difficult situations. A lot of it's not their fault, it's the leadership's fault who keeps them in this perpetual state. We need to be praying for them. We need to be praying for our friends in Israel. We need to be praying for peace of Jerusalem.
We're continuing our Common Thread series as we look at the common thread that binds the Bible together, and that common thread is the promise that God made to Abraham. From this promise comes the hope of God's revelation to his creation as he chooses Abraham to be the father of many nations, but that through him would come descendants, the Jewish people, and a promise of the land of Israel, and the hope that through Abraham, all of the families of the earth would be blessed. We believe this promise to Abraham is the string that's going to bind all of the Bible together.
Last week we studied David's weakest moment in life, when he caved to the passions of the flesh, and how through David's brokenness, God extended his grace to David. God didn't have to extend his grace to David, but he did because God's plan isn't dependent on a man, or a person, it's dependent on God to complete it. Today on the show, I want to show you how the promise made to Abraham kind of finds its way into the prophets. Really, this study alone could take a while, the idea of how the Abrahamic promise, the promise made to Abraham works its way into the prophets of the old testament.
Since the promise was very multi-faceted, land, descendants, and a blessing, we could look at how this promise was used all throughout the prophets, but today, we're going to focus on one particular aspect. Today we're going to focus on the part where God brings blessings to the nations through the promise, that through Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed. That's why today we're going to turn to Jonah.
I think Jonah's important, because of this, earlier, a few episodes ago, we talked about the idea that Israel wasn't called to leave the land, they were called to remain obedient in the land to be used by God. Their obedience to God was the thing that God was looking for, and God would bring all of the world to Israel, which is true. But actually God calls one prophet here, this is an amazing story, one prophet to leave, and to go somewhere, and that prophet is Jonah.
God is going to use Jonah to pronounce judgment to Nineveh. I want you to see what happens here in Jonah chapter one, verse one, it says this, "The Lord said to Jonah, son of Amittai, 'Go immediately to Nineveh, that large capital city and announce judgment against its people because their wickedness has come to my attention.'" Now, if Jonah was obedient to the Lord's call, he would have stood up right away, and traveled northeast towards Nineveh, which is near modern-day Mosul, Iraq, but instead, as the text says in verse three, he traveled to Joppa, found a merchant ship heading towards Tarshish, and he paid the fare, went aboard it to go with them to Tarshish far away from the Lord. That's the way Jonah emphasizes this.
The reason he's getting on a boat, he paid a fare, he actually paid to leave the presence of the Lord. Jonah the prophet is standing in Joppa, which is a Biblical, a strategic Biblical port city. It's been a port for almost 4000 years. It's still functioning as a port city today actually. Jonah called to go to Nineveh, boarded a boat in defiance to God's call, why? Because let's be honest, he didn't want to minister to the Ninevites. Jonah hated the Ninevites. I'll be honest with you, I don't blame him. Jonah was actually angry, and frustrated that they repented.
Let's jump at the very end, listen to Jonah chapter four, "After the Ninevites repent, Jonah says this to the Lord, "Oh Lord, this is just what I thought would happen when I was in my own country," that's Israel, "this is what I tried to prevent by attempting to escape to Tarshish, because I knew that you are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy, and the one who relents concerning threatened judgment."
Folks, Jonah is mad that the Lord would forgive the sins of these gentiles. He's mad that God would actually bestow his compassion, and his mercy on such a ruthless people that were known for their brutal way of conquering other people. They would demolish buildings, burn trees, slaughter animals, skin captives alive, impale corpses on stakes, mutilate captured leaders, they'd deport whole populations to other parts of the empire to discourage national uprisings, and generally ruled by terror to show their strength. God wants Jonah to go to these guys. These are terrorists, but God wants Jonah to go to them to show them grace, and mercy, and to announce that God's going to judge if they don't turn and repent.
When Jonah was standing in the port city of Joppa, it was time for Jonah to make a decision, would he go east and obey the Lord, and bring the good news of Nineveh's opportunity to repent and to be delivered from God's judgment? Or, would he flee west just to get away from the Lord, just to make sure these gentiles never heard the good news? They would never get the opportunity to repent. Sadly, Jonah chose to ignore God's call, because he did not like the people God called him to minister to. He wanted those disgusting gentile Ninevites to face God's judgment.
Jonah was so confident in the character of God, which is for me, something that I think is actually refreshing, that Jonah was confident in God's character that he would forgive them despite their evil wicked ways, that's why he ran from God's call. Friends, Jonah also should have known that God's promise to Abraham wasn't just for Israel and her closest friends. The promise God made to Abraham was to bless Israel, and to give Israel a purpose. That's why they are God's chosen people, but through their covenant, they would be the conduit of blessing to the whole world.
When God made a promise to Abraham, he wasn't only thinking of Israel, he was thinking of the whole world. Through you Abraham, all of the families would be blessed. See the promise God made to Abraham shows that God loves and cares about everyone, everybody. God wants to use his people Israel to minister to every nation, tongue, and tribe. God wants to see everyone come to the knowledge of his saving grace.
The question is this, as it comes back to us now, are we willing to see past our prejudices? Or, are we willing to see past the things that get in our way for others to share the love of Jesus Christ? This is such a challenge to us. God wants us to see everyone through his eyes, because God cares more about the human soul, than the very small things that bring us temporary delight. How are we seeing certain people who don't know Christ? What's the attitude we have towards seeing even our worst enemies come to faith?
After the break, we're going to go back to Joppa again, okay? But this time, we're going to see Joppa and the role that it played in the new testament. I think it's going to be surprising to you to see the similarities between Jonah's Joppa, and the Joppa that we find actually in Acts chapter 10, so be sure to stick around.
Steve Conover: We'd like to share with you a book that has been helpful to us here at The Friends of Israel in our own studies, Charting the Bible Chronologically. This hardbound, full color piece by authors Ed Hindson, and Thomas Ice, gives you a panoramic view of the events recorded in scripture, with more than 40 charts of timelines, and overviews of major empires, Bible characters, and events throughout history, we know you will enjoy it, and reference it as much as we do, as you study God's word both privately, and in a group. To order your copy of Charting the Bible Chronologically, go to foiradio.org, or call our listener line at 888-343-6940, that's foiradio.org, or call us at 888-343-6940.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back everyone. We're continuing our Common Thread series, where we see how the covenant to Abraham impacted all of the areas of the Bible. I hope that you're seeing this as we're walking through the Bible together, and we're seeing how this really connects all the pieces together. But now, let's turn our attention to Joppa in the new testament again. Now, we run into Peter's ministry in Acts chapter nine. The apostle Peter was ministering all around and in Joppa, and he was actually staying at Simon the tanners house as we was ministering in Joppa. Peter went up to the roof to pray. As he was there, of course, he gets hungry, and he falls into a vision. This vision, this sheet comes down in a vision, and all sorts of non-kosher animals are on it.
Non-kosher means that these are animals that Jewish people can't eat, like pigs, and reptiles, and certain birds, things of that nature. Most of us know that Jewish people, if they are observant, they follow the law, they don't eat bacon, they don't eat lobster, they keep kosher. All of a sudden, Peter, who ... remember Peter is a good Jewish boy, this sheet comes down, and the Lord says to Peter, "Get up Peter, slaughter and eat," and of course Peter, being that good Jewish person, fights against it a little bit, but then Christ exhorts him to do it, and he does.
Just as Peter is considering the idea that Jesus said to eat these certain foods, and he's considering what's clean and unclean, these men arrive at the house that Peter's staying at, and they take him, because they want him to go to Caesarea, which is another port city about 40 miles north from Joppa. It's an extremely Romanized city in the land of Israel. There's no religious Jewish people that would ever step foot in Caesarea. God called Peter to go and to minister the gospel to a God-fearing gentile man named Cornelius, and his family in Caesarea.
Do you see some of the similarities here between Jonah and Peter? Jonah was called by God to a place where he would never step foot, Nineveh, and what happened? Jonah decided to run from God's call. Now 700 years later, we happen to be in the same exact city, and we have Peter that's there, and he's challenged with the same call, to minister to a people that Jewish people were actually waiting for God to judge, the Romans. Most religious Jewish people hated Rome. Rome occupied them. They did not like it. In fact, there are terrible stories of the Roman occupation in Jerusalem. If you think about it, Romans in some way were no different than the Ninevites, they were conquering, and they were pillaging land, and Rome had subjected the Jewish people in many ways.
However, instead of boarding a boat like Jonah did to flee God's call, Peter went with Cornelius' men to a place and a people he probably never thought God would send him. When Peter meets Cornelius in Acts chapter 10 verse 28 he says that Cornelius actually, he says, "You know that it's unlawful for a Jew to associate with, or visit a gentile, yet God has shown me that I should call no person defiled, or ritually unclean." I love that Peter didn't fight going to Cornelius, just like Jonah fought to go to Nineveh.
Technically if Peter really tried, he could have run away from Cornelius' men, and ultimately the will of God. In fact, when Peter was retelling the story in Acts chapter 11, he says that the spirit of God urged him to go with Cornelius' men. You can see Peter yielded himself to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and what was the result? Cornelius and everyone who heard Peter's message of the gospel were saved and baptized. Peter knew already that Jesus was, and is, and will be the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham.
Peter knew that through Jesus, all of the families of the earth would be blessed. Yes, even those families that have offended us, persecuted us, wronged us, and oppressed us. Peter quickly learned Jesus becomes the centerpiece of God's promise to Abraham, only Jesus can take enemies and make them brothers, fulfilling the promise to bless all the families of the earth. But you know what? It really starts with something. God wants us, those who love him, to become more like him. Jonah just couldn't seem to get his mind wrapped around this spiritual concept. He was so angry and bitter toward the Ninevites that he couldn't see the joy in them turning to the Lord. He wouldn't let the grace of God change his own life. The grace of God changed those Ninevites, but it didn't change Jonah, it actually ... Jonah remained bitter, and angry.
But Peter on the other hand, he allowed the Spirit of God to change him as he yielded to the call of God. No doubt, Peter was quite unsure on how all of this would turn out. But see, he stepped out in faith to minister to Cornelius, and all of the other gentiles. What was his response when they placed their faith in Christ? Joy, and excitement, he could not wait to share with his brothers and sisters about what happened in Caesarea.
What do these two stories tell us? First, yield your life to God's calling, don't fight it, it makes life more difficult for you, and others around you, just like in the case of Jonah. Yield your life to the Holy Spirit's direction. See, you can't see none of this happen unless you allow the Holy Spirit to transform you, to become more like Christ, to see things the way he sees things. You must allow the work of the Holy Spirit coupled with the reading of Scripture and prayer to change you. It will radically impact everything.
Remember this, this is the thing that we learn from Jonah and Peter, God shows no partiality. It's never been that way, and it will never be that way. The promise God made to Abraham shows that he had every nation in mind when he made the covenant. His desire is to show compassion to even the most wicked, the most despicable people, so we need to be ready to show that same compassion and grace to others we are prone to run from.
Let me end with this, the idea of the covenant that God made to Abraham is to impact all the families of the earth. When you think about what Peter did, Peter understood that it was Jesus at the center of this covenant, that Jesus would be the one who would bring all of the families of the earth together, that we would actually be able ... because he shows no partiality, we would be able to look at one another, and instead of calling each other enemies, instead of looking at each others ... the color of our skin, or our socio-economic background, instead we can look at one another and say, "You are my brother. You are my sister."
Steve Conover: Now Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor, Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: "The Bible says that the people of Israel are God's chosen people, his peculiar treasure. Israelis consider this to be a great honor, but most forget there are conditions for them to receive God's blessings. In Deuteronomy chapter 11, verses 26 through 28 the Lord said, 'Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing, if you obey my commandments, and the curse, if you do not obey my commandments.' Many Israelis believe that just because they live in Israel God will bless them regardless of disobedience. I recently met some who believe this way. I told them, 'My friends, it is not enough that you live in Israel. Deuteronomy chapter 12 verse 1 states, 'These are the statutes in judgment, which you must observe in the land which the Lord God is giving you to possess all the days that you live on the earth.'
They responded, 'We realize you are a Christian, and you want us to receive Jesus as our Savior, as you people always say. We know you are not courageous enough to tell the rabbis what you are telling us.' I replied, 'Everyone must hear the truth about our Savior, and actually many times I have told rabbis what I just told you. One day when you stand before the Lord to give an account for your life, your rabbis will not stand with you. You will stand before Him alone. Neither do the rabbis have the power to forgive your sins.' They became interested in what I was sharing, but one of them said, 'Our fathers lived and died following these traditions, it is hard for us to forsake the old ways.'
'I understand your concerns,' I told them. 'But if you do not change your ways, when you die, you will be lost forever, with no opportunity to be saved.' They seemed frightened and asked, 'Do you think we have already gone too far?' 'No,' I answered, 'this is only the beginning. When you start to fear, your eyes will be opened to see Biblical truth. You will see the folly of following old traditions, and not accepting the responsibility for your eternal souls.'
One of the men said, 'We have studied the Talmud all our lives, you cannot teach us anything we do not already know.' I then asked the entire group, 'Which book is more important, the Talmud, or the Torah? If you are good Jews, why do you not keep the law as it written in Deuteronomy chapter 5 verse 7, 'You shall have no other gods before me.'
This is only one of the many commandments that Israelis do not keep. Every person is responsible for himself before the Lord, and Ezekiel 18:20 tells us that the soul whose sins shall die, our fathers and rabbis cannot save us. But if you receive the Lord, you will be blessed, rather than cursed. At the end of our conversation one said, 'We never realized that those who believe in Jesus follow the Bible so closely. This is the first time we have heard what you really believe.' I pray from them, that the Lord will cause them to meditate on what they hear, that they will recognize the truth as it is written in his word, and that they will open their hearts to him as their savior, and messiah."
Steve Conover: Thanks for joining us today. Chris, earlier you contrasted the responses of Peter and Jonah to God's call to minister to their enemies. What's the takeaway? We're in the middle of this series The Common Thread, how does today's message fit in?
Chris Katulka: Well, you know, we're talking about the common thread is the promise that God made to Abraham. A part of that promise is that God would bless all the families of the earth through the descendants of Abraham. We know Jonah was a descendant of Abraham, Peter was a descendant of Abraham, but the thing that's important to understand is that God was calling these men to go to the corners of the world, to share the good news that God is going to provide forgiveness if these non-Jewish people repent. This is an amazing concept to me, because really what it boils down to is, Peter and Jonah were called to the same thing, but it was their responses that were different. Jonah's response, disobedience, and as a result, bitterness. But you know what? Peter's response was of faith, stepping out, going, and finding joy as he shares about the one who blesses all the families of the earth, Jesus the Messiah.
Steve Conover: We look forward to hearing next week. Join us for The Common Thread, as we continue our series. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione, co-written by Sarah Fern. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold, and our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide Christian ministry, communicating Biblical truth about Israel, and the Messiah while fostering solidarity with the Jewish people.
Charting the Bible Chronologically
This hardbound, full color piece by authors Ed Hindson and Thomas Ice gives you a panoramic view of the events recorded in Scripture. With more than 40 charts of timelines and overviews of major empires, Bible characters, and events throughout history —we know you will enjoy it and reference it as much as we do as you study God’s Word both privately and with a group.
Apples of Gold: It is Hard for Us to Forsake the Old Ways
Zvi encountered Israelis that believe God will allow them to live in Israel even when they live in unbelief. He asked them where they get their authority from, the Bible of man written books. They accused him of trying to proselytize because he was a believer in Jesus. Hear how he explained where his authority and hope comes from.
Zvi’s story is available in Elwood McQuaid’s book, “Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph over the Holocaust,” available at our online store.
More stories from Zvi are also available in his book, “The Best of Zvi,” available at our online store.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.