Jonah’s story is one that many can relate to because he also ran from God. Most people think of Jonah as a fisherman, but he was not. Jonah was actually a legendary statesman who worked in the court of king Jeroboam II.
God tells us this whopping fish tale so that we do not wrestle against the fishing line of God, or the Vine we are all attached to. “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-5)
Jonah was born in Gath-hepher, a small village about an hour’s walk from Nazareth. Scholars place him in history as a disciple of Elisha as he succeeded him as a prophet.
As a statesman, Jonah helped make the Northern Kingdom of Israel prosperous. God asked Jonah to; “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2) Jonah response was to run away. He took a slow boat headed to Tarshish.
At the time, Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city, located on the outskirts of Mosul which is now Northern Iraq. God was very definite with His order to Jonah. Jonah said no to God and fled based on his own understanding of the political situation.
As a statesman, Jonah could not imagine running through the streets shouting “In forty days Nineveh will be taken hostage.” There was no mercy in the forecast for Nineveh and so Jonah chose to refuse to do what he was asked.
While aboard the ship, God sent a violent storm, and the men on the ship cried out “O Lord, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life.” (Jonah 1:14) Jonah was cast into the sea as a sacrifice and the raging sea grew calm.
God loved him too much to let him die so the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. After Jonah prays, the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. One lesson in the story of Jonah is that we often get second chances; however, if we obey God the first time, we can avoid certain misery.
Jonah obeyed and warned Nineveh. He retreated to the hills to see what the Lord would do. (Jonah 4:6) The story of Jonah suddenly ends as God’s deeper message sinks in.
Jonah was like Christ as recorded in this scripture. “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matt 12:40)
Secondly Jonah is also like Israel, because His people were disobedient, Israel was swallowed up by the nations of the world. As God promised, the nations of the world will vomit Israel up when Christ returns! That is when every knee will bow. Jonah was preserved, and so is Israel. Nineveh repented and was brought to salvation, and Israel’s story of persecution will suddenly end too. In the twinkle of His eye, Israel will be blessed as the entire world marvels at what God has done.
Jonah’s pride kept him from obeying God at first. After 3 days of reflection and repentance, God gave him a 2nd chance. LESSON: Our heavenly Father knows best, and in our obedience we are safe. Our refusal to obey does not relieve us from our responsibility to God.
Copyright © 2019 by Barbara Alley Hoyle.
All rights reserved.
“It is finished.” 4/18/19