Many folks who have read the 4 short chapters about Jonah may remember him as the disobedient prophet of God. These are some of my comments on what God wants us to learn from this short Old Testament story about Jonah:
The book of Jonah is a story about ‘God’s Enduring Love’, about God’s reaching out to a people some might consider too wicked to be deserving of His love and mercy. Too evil, for a righteous person like Jonah to warn them with a message from God. Did Jonah have that attitude? Do we sometimes regard other people that way? But not God, who is the God of second, and many chances! God keeps reaching out to us, trying to get our attention, sending prophets to warn us of what would happen if we don’t repent of our sins. In Amos 3:7 it says, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” God sends his servants, the prophets, to warn of impending judgment that would fall upon the unrepentant. God knows the extent of our wickedness, and when He is grieved and provoked enough and has run out of patience, He applies the heat and deals out His judgment- to get our attention. And speaking of heat and heat waves, climatic changes, global warming, adverse weather conditions, etc., God is responsible for all that is happening today regarding the forces of nature. It is He that has turned up the heat with historic, record-breaking 3 digit temperatures as recently experienced in parts of the U.S. It is God who causes the droughts in the land, who has dried up the rivers and lakes, and who brings on the severe weather.
The wind and the waves obeyed God as He “sent a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken” (Jonah 1:4). A severe storm with high winds and towering waves threatened to take the lives of the sailors and Jonah as they headed for Tarshish. Even in the storm, God made His presence known with Jonah’s confession to the ship’s crew, of being the cause for the evil that had befallen them. So the sailors who had prayed to their gods to no avail, began to call upon Jonah’s God to save them and prayed that He would not blame them for having to toss Jonah overboard. They became believers in Jonah’s God when “the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows” (Jonah 1:16).
Jonah had thought that he would make himself inaccessible to God by running away as far as he could in the opposite direction of Nineveh, to Tarshish, but God already had a plan that would get Jonah back on course.
Jonah 1:17 says, “Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.” This great fish which some Bible translations say was a whale, was going the opposite direction of Tarshish and was commanded by God to transport Jonah to Nineveh where he was to deliver His warning of judgment that would fall in 40 days. This great fish listened to and obeyed God, who gave him an assignment to be at the right spot to pick up his passenger Jonah, and delivered him to the correct destination where God had a job for him, Jonah, to do! The fact that God also speaks to animals and uses them for His purposes never ceases to amaze me! But those stories are for another time. Getting back to Jonah. . .
Psalm 139:8-10 tell us that God knows everything, even our thoughts and the intents of our hearts. After three days and three nights in the fish’s belly, Jonah was repentant! There is no hiding from God to escape His reach because He knows our whereabouts. Whether a person is somewhere in the far reaches of our galaxy, down in the bowels of the earth, or in the depths of the sea, “even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (Ps 139:10).
Jonah 2:10 states, “And the LORD spoke unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” Thus, God intercepted Jonah’s plan of running away from the job assigned to him, and next we find Jonah being reminded by God to preach the message that was given to him. When Jonah picked himself off the shore, it took him a whole day to reach the city of Nineveh where he preached “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4,3). It took Jonah 3 days to cry out his message while walking the length and breath of the city since “Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey.”
The Bible tells us that the king of Nineveh, along with his people, believed Jonah’s message! The king proclaimed a national fast throughout Nineveh, where everyone, including the animals, ate no food and drank no water. His decree stated:
“But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” (Jonah 3:5-9)
And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented from the evil that he had said he would do unto them; and he did it not” (Jonah 3:10).
God’s Enduring Love is illustrated in the dialogue with Jonah afterwards. Jonah was not happy at all when he saw that nothing happened to the city. In fact, the Bible says he was “very angry” and told the Lord why he ran away. Why should he deliver a message that would not come to pass and that would make him look like a ‘false prophet’? Jonah was greatly displeased when he waited to see what would become of the city and nothing happened. He was also very angry as he prayed to God and said,
“for I knew that thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil” (Jonah 4:2)
As he sat in the sweltering heat on the outskirts of the city under the shade of a gourd God planted for him, Jonah prayed for death as heat exhaustion was consuming him. God had made a worm to eat the gourd and caused the gourd to wither, to point out to Jonah that while he felt sorry for the gourd that died, God felt sorry for 120,000 people and much cattle in the city, and needed to give them a warning and a chance to repent. Who can fathom the Enduring Love of God, a God who is gracious and merciful to us, who will hear our prayers if we humbly seek His face and repent of our sins!
America should also heed God’s warning to repent of our individual and national sins:
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chron 7:14).
“But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them; Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for my name, willI cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations” (2 Chron 7:19-20).
Please also click on my Blogroll to read ’America in Decline And Under God’s Judgment‘
in ‘God’s Hidden Nuggets for the Endtimes’