And the story continues… Jonah. Most children learn the story of Jonah being swallowed by a big fish and the Lord saving him after 3 days. Several years ago, my pastor did a series on Jonah. Each week he had us read the book in its entirety, it is only 4 short chapters. Each time I read it I gleaned new insights into God’s message, His character and our own rebellious nature.
Let me walk you through the story. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and call the people to repentance. The Assyrians were enemies of Israel and Jonah did not want to go. Jonah 1:2-3“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” Several things come to mind here: God is omniscient and our sins are known to him. He also seeks to call us back to Him, as God desires our repentance.
So Jonah hops on a ship going in the opposite direction. When they are out to sea, a big storm comes up and threatens their lives. They draw straws and Jonah is exposed as the problem. (He had already told them he was running away from the Lord.) Jonah told them the solution was to throw him overboard. They tried to row out of the storm but it was hopeless, so they threw Jonah overboard and the seas calmed. God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah. Lesson here- running away from God is futile. God’s will cannot be thwarted. Job 42:2 ““I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of the fish and had an attitude adjustment. His prayer in Chapter 2 shows a change of heart and reverence for God. Jonah 2:8-10 stand out to me. “Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Jonah learned first hand that repentance leads to salvation and brings action from God.
Jonah then proceeded to Nineveh and preached to the city. The people repented and turned from their evil ways and acknowledged God. Jonah 3:6-10 “ When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:“ By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” 10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. Jonah’s obedience in preaching repentance brought blessing. Repentance was an individual action by each person but needed to be collective to save the nation. In His mercy God’s saved them just as He does us when we repent in the name of Jesus. Likewise to ‘save’ our nation, we need to turn to God as a people acknowledging Him.
Jonah was upset that the Ninevites were saved. He grumbled and sat down in the desert desiring to die. When God sent a plant to shade him, he was pleased. When God sent a worm to eat the plant he was mad. Jonah mistakenly thought he had the right to decide who was condemned and who was saved. God in His unchanging character and mercy explained this truth to Jonah in Jonah 4:10-11 “But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” God is God and He will have mercy on whomever He wants. He is the creator and it is not our place to be upset or angry as we are all created beings made by God’s hands and not ours. Romans 9:15 “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” God is sovereign and in control of all things in heaven and earth. Colossians 1:16 says it this way: For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”
What lessons can we take away from this ancient story? Have you ever questioned where God is sending you and why? Have you ever grumbled about God’s mercy and compassion when you did not feel the recipient was worthy? If your answer is yes to either, perhaps you are in need of an attitude adjustment like Jonah. We all, at times think this way, and need to repent of our arrogance and pride and remember who is God. We need to always remember, Salvation is from the Lord and Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We too were underserving and yet He saved us by His mercy.