Jonah 1:1-17; 2:1-10
God sent Jonah to the city of Nineveh (capital of Assyria) to preach to them so they will forsake their evil ways and turn to God. If they repent, the Lord is ready to forgive them, otherwise divine judgement will follow. As a prophet, one would have expected Jonah to carry out God’s instruction with immediate effect. Instead, he tried to dodge from God, may be thinking that God was not serious over his threat to punish the people of Nineveh if they failed to repent.
In his bid to escape from God Jonah boarded a ship from Joppa to Tarshish. He went into the inner part of the ship where he fell asleep. And in the course of the Journey God brought a very great wind upon the sea, which threatened to break the ship up. Out of fear and not knowing what else to do, the mariners (the crew and passengers) decided to throw their belongings into the sea, who knows if the ship will be spared if the weight of its luggage was reduced.
The ship’s crew and passengers each cried to his gods and called on everybody to call his gods for divine deliverance. While this was going on, Jonah was fast asleep. The mariners found him, woke him up and asked him to join in the prayers. Yet, the wind continued. At this stage, the mariners decided to cast lots so as to know for whom everyone else was in trouble.
So the lots fell on Jonah, hence, he confessed to them that he had disobeyed God and was trying to run away from Him. Indeed, it was he who suggested to the mariners to throw him into the sea to save others. As soon as Jonah was thrown into the sea, the wind stopped. However, upon landing into the sea, a big fish swallowed Jonah. Inside the belly of the fish, he prayed to God for forgiveness after confessing his sin He thanked God for hearing him in time of trouble. He thought of his being cast away from God’s presence, wondering how he could again look upon the temple of God. However, he was confident that when he called upon God; his prayers were answered. As usual, God forgave him and spoke to the fish and it vomited Jonah out at the bank of the river, facing Nineveh, the city he had been running away from.
The Message – Jonah 3; 4:1-11
As soon as the fish vomited Jonah, God’s word came to him a second time. “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city and proclaim to it the message that I tell you” (Jonah 3:2). The message was that after forty days, if Nineveh did not repent of her evil ways, God would overthrow (destroy) it. He went and preached to the people. Hearing this message, the people and their king were touched. They fasted, mourned and repented and God forgave them.
However Jonah was not happy that God forgave the people, thinking that God’s decision was not worth all the trouble he had experienced. He felt God had let him down by not fulfilling what he said, and asked God to take his life than to see Nineveh forgiven.
He prayed again unto God and confessed that he had initially refused to take the message to Nineveh because God, being merciful, would forgive Nineveh thereby making him a liar. He therefore decided to go out of the city. ~ There, he made a booth at the eastern side of the city, waiting to see if God will change his mind and destroy Nineveh. As he sat in anguish, God caused a leafy vine to sprout out of the earth and provide shade for Jonah by covering his booth. As he enjoyed the shade, God also caused worm to eat up the plant and it withered. When the sun rose, it became so hot for him because God also appointed a sultry east wind which made the sun very hot. Jonah fainted as a result of the direct heat of the sun over his head. Jonah again prayed to God to take his life, whereupon God asked him if it was right for him to be angry because the plant which he (Jonah) neither planted nor nurtured had withered.
Jonah answered God that he had right to be angry over the plant’s death. Unknown to Jonah, all this issue of the plant sprouting and withering was God’s ploy to teach Jonah a lesson: if Jonah had the right to be angry over a plant he did not plant or nurture, then should He (God) not pity Nineveh, that great city which had more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who neither know their right hand from their left as well as much cattle (Jonah 4:11).
Lessons to Learn From Jonah’s Mission About the Nature of God
- God is omnipresent. He is everywhere, hence no one can run away from him. Instead, we should be ready and willing to answer his call and obey his message.
- God has control over everything he created, including the sea and even fishes. All obey his command.
- Jonah ran away from his task of saving Nineveh simply because Nineveh (Assyria) were enemies of the Jews. He therefore wanted them to be wiped away. That is why he was sad that God forgave them.
- This is not good, especially, for a prophet of God. We should always pray for our enemies instead of wishing them death.
- God is very merciful and pitiful. All he requires to forgive a sinner is total repentance and confession. He forgave the people of Nineveh because they repented.
- Jonah prayed from the belly of a fish and God forgave him and saved him. Why then should he be angry because God forgave Nineveh after they repented? As christians, we should not follow Jonah’s footsteps.
- It is not God’s wish for any of his creatures to perish, but to repent and be forgiven and saved.
- No matter how strong or threatening God’s anger is, his hands are always outstretched to receive a sinner who repents.
- As christians, we should learn to forgive others anytime.
- We should obey God’s call.
- God’s grace is universal.
- God sent Jonah on a message to Nineveh but he tried to run away from the duty.
- Eventually, by an act of God, he was forced to obey.
- As a result of Jonah’s message, Nineveh was saved.