The truth about Jonah

Almost everyone knows the story of Jonah. He is called to preach, runs away, gets swallowed by a great fish, gets vomited back out, finally obeys, then pouts about the outcome. Simple enough, right?

For such a small book of the Bible, there is so much content in these 4 chapters. So much good information that could be applied to our daily lives. I wish I could spend the necessary time here, in this blog post, to address them all but that would take way too long.

So, instead, I just want to focus on one particular aspect of the story. Jonah’s attitude. We don’t know much about Jonah outside of this book and a mention of him in 2 Kings 14:25. However, one thing becomes very clear – He was not happy that God was sending him to the Assyrian capital.

Nineveh was the capital city of the Assyrians, a long-time enemy of Israel. Prophets sent by God were always sent to Israel and Judah. God consistently sent His word through the prophets in order to bring the Israelites back to Him and offer them a chance to repent. Jonah was the first prophet to be sent outside the borders of Israel.

Jonah refused to obey. In fact, he ran the opposite direction as quickly as possible. We do the same thing sometimes, don’t we? Especially when God is calling us to go to our enemy or those least like us?

Yes, Jonah finally obeys – after being tossed about in a storm, cast into the sea, and swallowed by a great fish. (Sometimes God has to get our attention and remind us who is in control of everything!) But his attitude doesn’t change…

Jonah presents the message as he travels through the town. Yet, when the people repent, Jonah is angry. He is upset that God does not bring destruction on them.

I know we all want to shake our heads and cluck our tongues but we are no different. When someone who has wronged us is given grace and mercy do we not also wonder how God let them get away with it? How could He be so kind to such a jerk?

Guess what. I’ve been the jerk and so have you.

I often look at those who are not like me and think, “they need Jesus,” or “God needs to intervene,” but He already did. He sent Jesus. And He has sent us. I have no right to be upset with the actions, attitudes, and lifestyle of others if I refuse to engage them with the truth they may not know.

Jonah wanted his enemies to be destroyed. Do I? If I refuse to share the love of Jesus, I am no better. In essence, I am leaving them to their fate. I am leaving them without knowledge of the one who can change their destiny.

Jonah’s story is not merely a story about a man being swallowed by a great fish. It is a story about a man who was unwilling to love his enemy. It is a story about a man who finally obeyed the Lord and then was angry that God would choose to forgive. It is a story about selfishness, pride, and arrogance. The very things that get in my way, and if you are honest, your way, all the time.

God, remind us that we have been given the great honor of proclaiming truth and offering others, even our enemies, a change for repentance and forgiveness.

Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” – Jonah 4:11