May 27, 2020
Jonah is a wonderful book of only four chapters. It is found between Obadiah and Micah in the Bible. Jonah is a book about moral character. It’s actually a book more in line with wisdom literature than prophetic literature.
It is a story about Jonah running from God, because he thought he knew more about what was better for him than God did.
God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach to a city of 120,000 people who knew nothing about Him. Instead, Jonah boarded a ship heading to Tarshish (away from God) instead of going to Nineveh.
The resulting story is one of the most popular stories in the Old Testament. My children used to love for me to tell it to them as a bed-time story.
Probably most Christians know this story well. They probably first heard it in a Sunday School lesson. It’s a great metaphor as to what happens to people when they disobey God. Even when they have what they consider very rational reasons for their disobedience.
Jonah had his good excuse, too. He didn’t think it was right for him to preach to Nineveh, a very wicked city. His reasoning was that if the Ninevites heard God’s word they would repent and be spared from punishment. Jonah felt they deserved punishment and did not want to see them be spared.
While Jonah was running from God on that ship, a huge storm arose and the sea was boisterous. The sailors figured out it was because of Jonah. So they threw him overboard. Soon a big fish, that God had prepared, swallowed Jonah. Jonah was inside the fish’s belly for three days, during which time he repented over running from God. God heard Jonah’s prayer and took the fish to the banks of Nineveh and had the fish vomit Jonah out of his belly.
Jonah became a changed man. He obeyed God and preached to Nineveh and the people were spared.
The lesson is not only about a man fleeing from God, but at the same time not caring for other humans – even if they were unsaved. Much later, Jesus mentioned Jonah. And Jesus in Matt. 28: 19-20 said, “Make disciples of all nations.”
Jonah is a simple story and makes us ask ourselves the question, “Have I ever run away from God? Have I ever been unconcerned about those who did not know as much about God as I do?” Such people may not be in another city. They may be next door, or in a nearby neighborhood.
There are many other questions we can ponder about in the story of Jonah. Read the short book soon and see what you can learn.
God Bless You,