June 09, 2020 | Stories by Adam Morris
When you think of the book of Jonah, what are your first thoughts? Is it about Love? Patience? Certainly not. We probably think of a great fish and the sea. Maybe we’re missing the point of this book. Jonah was a prophet of God who was called to prophesy to the Ninevites, the capital of Assyria who, during that time, was oppressing the northern kingdom of Israel. So naturally, Jonah didn’t want to go to his oppressors. We could possibly equate It to going to North Korea to spread the gospel.
So, when the prophet is called to go to Nineveh he instead hops on a ship and goes in the opposite direction that God tells him to go. He rebels against God’s wishes. Furthermore, there is great irony in the book when the pagans on Jonah’s ship start crying out to their gods in order to calm a powerful storm while Jonah, who knows the one true God, is asleep below the deck. Once again, the prophet is doing the opposite of what he should be doing. But Jonah eventually confesses that it’s his fault and the sailors reluctantly throw him overboard stopping the storm. Because of Jonah’s obedience, the sailors see that Yahweh is the one true God and worship Him. Then Jonah gets swallowed by a big fish and spit up onto dry land 3 days later. Roll credits. Everyone claps. What a show. But that’s not the end of it.
Jonah, now seeing that God’s will cannot be thwarted, goes to Nineveh and preaches very briefly that God is going to judge them for their wickedness. He tells them, “Forty more days and then Nineveh will be overthrown”. Now, he might have said a lot more than this but what is said here emphasizes how short Jonah’s message really was. In response, the people all repent and turn to God. Chapter 4 of Jonah is where we really see all the action take place. After the people repent we see Jonah cry out to God saying,
“Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:2-3)
What a drama queen… Because of this, God has a bone to pick with Jonah. He grows a plant to give Jonah shade while he watches the city from afar and then the next day He kills off the plant and sends harsh weather against Jonah, causing him to start weeping for the death of the plant!
But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
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. 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?” (Jonah 4:9-11)
Here's the real point of this book: God has always been in the business of salvation because His love for humanity has always been the same. In His mercy He gave the Ninevites 40 days to repent. He knew that Jonah hated Assyria but forced him to go anyways, even scolding Jonah for not sharing in His compassion for the lost
God still has compassion for all those who are lost today. Do you share that same compassion?
Who do you feel uncomfortable sharing your faith with? Why?
Do you need to ask God for more compassion and love towards these people?