- Jonah 1-4
- 2 Kings 13:5; 14:25-27; 13:6
The account of Jonah is one of the more frequently-told Bible stories. GOD sent the prophet Jonah to the city of Nineveh in Assyria, one of the largest cities of the ancient world, with a message of repentance because the wickedness of the city had come up before Him. But Jonah didn’t want to go, so he ran the other way, got on a ship at Joppa which was headed for Tarshish. While on the ship, Jonah fell asleep, but the LORD caused a great wind to come upon the sea, such that the sailors feared for their life.
After lightening the ship by throwing the cargo overboard, the sailors cast lots to see who had brought this calamity upon them and the lot fell upon Jonah. The sailors asked what could be done to make the sea calm and Jonah replied, “Throw me overboard into the sea.” So they did, and the sea was calm. Jonah thought he would die, but GOD sent a great fish to swallow Jonah. From the fish’s belly, Jonah prayed to GOD and GOD told him to go to Nineveh and preach the message He would give him. This time Jonah obeyed.
After three days and nights the fish vomited Jonah out upon dry land. Jonah went to Nineveh and told them that unless they repented GOD would overthrow the city in 40 days. The people believed the word of GOD and the king proclaimed a fast and called everyone to stop their wickedness. GOD saw their humility and spared the city. Jonah, however, got angry at GOD’s compassion. He wanted the city destroyed.
Jonah sat down east of the city in order to see what would happen to it. He made a shelter and sat in the shade. The next day GOD made a vine grow up over Jonah which provided shelter from the hot sun. Jonah was very happy about the vine. The next morning, GOD provided a worm which ate the vine to the point it withered. This made Jonah angry—so angry he wanted to die. GOD used the vine to teach Jonah that he should be compassionate towards other people and not wish for their destruction, but rather for their salvation and repentance.
There are numerous lessons we can learn from these events. I want to focus on three lessons:
- No one can successfully run away from GOD. To attempt it is foolishness. GOD fills the heavens and the earth (Jer. 23:24). He sees and knows everything, including our thoughts and motives behind our actions, regardless of where we go.
- GOD is concerned about—and takes time to teach—every person in life. GOD certainly taught Jonah a few things, but look at the others in the account. The sailors worshiped idols before the storm, even calling out to their god to save them in the midst. After the sea was made calm, however, they feared the one true GOD and made a sacrifice and vows to Him. The people of Nineveh were Gentiles, which means that GOD was not working with them in the same way as He did with His special people Israel, and they were sinning greatly. But GOD cared so much about them that He sent a man from a far journey to call them to repentance before punishing them. Once they repented, GOD had compassion upon these people. He loves every person and wants no one to be sent to hell (2 Pet. 3:9).
- All blessings come from GOD and we are to be thankful for them when He gives them to us, and not bitter when He takes them away from us. This is easy to say and hard to remember. Jonah did nothing to earn GOD’s forgiveness. Why was he even born into the family of Abraham? That unto itself was a blessing. Then, when he ran away from GOD, GOD didn’t abandon him or kill him. Instead, Jonah received mercy and a second chance to obey. And lastly, when GOD provided the vine and then took it away, this made Jonah angry, yet Jonah had done nothing to deserve the vine in the first place. We don’t deserve anything from GOD except punishment. Yet He longs to give us so many good things, not the least of which is a relationship with Him and forgiveness of our sins, even though we are so unworthy. Never have an attitude of entitlement—in other words, don’t think He owes you any good thing.