The Story of Jonah teaches us that the message of salvation is for all people. God’s mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and eternal love is for all of mankind. Also, it teaches us to be obedient to God’s will, and to trust Him when He calls us to do a specific job for His glory. He will not compromise with us as He did not compromise with Jonah. No matter how far we try to run away from His calling, there is no place we can hide from the presence of the Almighty.
Nineveh, ancient Assyria’s capital, was a great, but violently evil empire, and Israel’s most dreaded enemy. Nineveh’s sin was rampant with pagan idols, numerous immoralities, and abominations to our Lord. The prophet Jonah was sent by God to preach repentance to Nineveh, and God gave them forty days to repent of their wickedness or be destroyed. In this merciful story, we see God’s loving nature. His forgiving heart is filled with love and that all of mankind will be saved. However, sometimes, our desire, as was Jonah’s, is vengeance or judgment to a nation or a person. We might believe there is no possible way for a person or a nation to obtain God’s redemption. However, only God knows our hearts and future for all of us. As we read the story of Jonah, let us remember God’s awesome mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and love for all of mankind. Even though we should not like sin or be tolerant of sin, we should pray for unbelievers and be God’s “beacon” of light in this world. In doing so, the Almighty can be exalted to His Sovereign place, King of The Universe.
Jonah Flees From the Lord
Jonah 1, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and a violent storm arose that threatened to break up the ship. All the sailors were afraid, and each one cried out to his own god to save him. They threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship, but Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your God! Maybe He will take notice of us, so that we will not perish.” Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” He answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” This terrified them, and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.) The sea was getting more and more turbulent. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us? Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Instead, the men did their best to row back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this, the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.”
Jonah 2, “Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and You listened to my cry. You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all Your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from Your sight; yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But You, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered You, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to Your holy temple. “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to You. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.”
Jonah Goes to Nineveh
Jonah 3, “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown!” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh. “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.”
Jonah’s Anger at the Lord’s Compassion
Jonah 4, “But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “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.”But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.” 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?”
Like Jonah, sometimes we do not understand that our God (Jesus), is the Creator and God of the whole world. Although people may not be saved by Jesus or worship the true God (Jesus), it doesn’t minimize His sovereignty and His Deity of the whole world. Jonah may have been more concerned about his reputation than God’s. He knew if the Ninevites repented, that the Almighty would forgive them, and none of Jonah’s warning signs would come true. We must not forget that, in reality, none of us deserve to be forgiven by God.
Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” All of the glory goes to Jesus, the Messiah. Ephesians 2:8 states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Do we, like Jonah, want God to bring destruction or judgment on an individual or a nation? Are we surprised when an ungodly person turns Godly through Messiah? Are our views as narrow-minded as Jonah’s? Oftentimes we forget that, at one time, we were lost as well, dead in our sins. However, by God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness, we obtained His loving grace. God wants us to be happy when we obtain His salvation and also just as happy when others receive His salvation. We are to be the “salt” of the earth and the “light” of the world.
Matthew 5:13, Messiah states, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”
Messiah states in this scripture that if we make no effort to help and change the world, then we are little value to Him. We should influence others in a positive way, His way, just like seasoning brings out the best flavor in food.
Matthew 5:14, Messiah states, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but put it on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
If we live our life for Messiah and His commandments, we will shine bright and will be the “beacon,” that Messiah wants us to be, to help others understand what He is like. We should never shut off our light from the rest of the world. Also, we must remember what Messiah said about loving our enemies.
Matthew 5:43-48, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The story of Jonah is a story that teaches us God’s mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and eternal love for all mankind. Although we are not to like sin or be tolerant to disobedience of His laws and commandments, we are to be the “light of the world,” and the “salt of the earth.” We are commanded to pray and help the unbelievers so they can receive salvation through our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Messiah. Amen, Amen, and Amen.