Jonah’s story is one that many can relate to because he 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. Our Father tells us this whopping fish tale so that we do not wrestle against the fishing line of God, or the Vine that we are all attached to. “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.” (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 prophesy; Go to the great city of Nineveh and announce what the Lord said: ‘I am going to destroy you, for your wickedness rises before Me; it stinks to highest heaven.’ (Jonah 1:2) Jonah response was to run away and take a slow boat headed to Tarshish. “the Lord flung a terrific wind over the sea, causing a great storm.” When the captain of the ship asked Jonah to cry out to his god for mercy, Jonah remained silent. The ship’s crew decided to draw straws to see who offended their god. Jonah drew the short straw and confessed that he was running away from Jehovah! Panicked the crew asked ‘what should we do to you to stop the storm?’ Jonah said throw me out to sea and it will calm for I know this terrible storm has come because of my disobedience to God Almighty. Our Father was very definite with His order and Jonah said no to God and fled based on his own understanding of the political situation. Knowing there was no mercy in the forecast for Nineveh, Jonah could not imagine running through the streets shouting “In forty days Nineveh will be taken hostage.”
Our Father loved Jonah too much to let him die so the Lord provided a great fish to swallow him. He was inside the fish three days and three nights. After Jonah had lost all hope, he turned his thoughts to the Lord. ‘how can I thank You enough for all You have done? After three days of anguish, he contends ‘ ‘Oh Lord, You have rejected me and cast me away. I will worship only You for my deliverance comes from the Lord alone.’ Hearing Jonah’s plea, the Lord ordered the fish to spit up Jonah onto the beach. One lesson within this history is that as His children, we often get second chances. IF however, we obey God the first time, we can avoid certain misery. Jonah exited the fish with a zeal to obey and he warned Nineveh. “the very first day Jonah began to preach and the people repented. He shouted ‘Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed.’ The people believed and declared a fast. ‘If everyone turned from their evil ways and violence, perhaps God will decide to let us live and not destroy us.’ When God saw that the people stopped their evil, He abandoned His plan to destroy Nineveh. Because God did not destroy Nineveh, Jonah was very mad and he complained “this is exactly what I thought You would do! I knew you were slow to get angry and full of kindness. Please kill me, Lord; I would rather be dead than face the news media in Nineveh! ‘The Lord said, ‘Is it right to be angry about this?” Jonah sulked under a leafy shelter. When the heat withered the shelter, God made a vine to grow up quick to shade Jonah. After God sent a wind upon Jonah, he grew faint and wished to die. The Lord responded “You feel sorry for yourself when your shelter is destroyed, though you did no work to put it there. Why should I NOT show mercy upon the 120,000 people who lived in utter spiritual darkness? The story of Jonah suddenly ends as God’s deeper message sinks in. Jonah is much like Israel because God’s people were disobedient, Israel was swallowed up by the nations of the world. As God promised, the nations of the world will eventually vomit Israel up when Christ returns! Jonah was preserved to do God’s bidding, 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 was also like Christ as recorded “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) Jonah’s pride kept him from obeying God initially, but after 3 days of reflection and repentance, God gave him a 2nd chance. LESSON: Our heavenly Father knows best, and as the Holy Spirit nudges us, we repent out of reverence. Any refusal to obey does not relieve us from our responsibility to God. Our Father can use a donkey or even make the rocks cry out in praise of His coming! Let that be His church, the bride of Christ!
Copyright © 2019 by Barbara Alley Hoyle.
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‘“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.” Jonah 1