I recently was lead, through my daily Bible readings, to the short Book of Jonah. I had not read it before because I thought I already knew the story. Poor guy, gets eaten by a whale and God delivers him. HA! To say that is the story of Jonah is like saying I had a birthday and thats the story of my life. I had no idea how much more there was to Jonah’s story. I also learned another interesting fact. about the Book of Jonah. It is the only Book of a prophet that doesn’t tell of his prophesying.....instead it tells his story.
The story starts with a message form God to Jonah. God tells Jonah to go and preach before the wicked city of Nineveh. The problem is that the Jews hate Nineveh.....they are bitter enemies. So, Jonah, instead of going to the city of Nineveh, actually gets on a ship and heads in the opposite direction. HA! Talk about running from God! While Jonah is on the ship, a storm breaks and everyone begins to worry they will die. To make a long story short, Jonah tells the crew it is his fault that God is angry and they should just throw him overboard. The crew at first hesitates, but then.....fearing for their own lives....they toss him over....into the angry sea. Thus, Jonah, ends up in the belly of a “big fish”. Inside the “fish”, Jonah, finally gives in and prays .......asking God for deliverance and promises he will go to the city of Nineveh.
Jonah keeps his promise to God and does go to the city of Nineveh. He does not tell them to repent and to be saved, as God directed......he simply declares that in 40 days the Lord will make Nineveh no more! BUT, the city does repent and God shows his compassion and the city is saved. This makes Jonah angry. Jonah would have rather seen the city perish. This would have made his prophecies true. Instead, his enemies were saved and he is made to look the fool. Angry Jonah now wishes to die. This leads to a closing dialogue between he and God. God continues to be compassionate and forgiving, even toward this unruly servant.
Few Biblical personalities are as transparent as Jonah......fear, selfishness, spitefulness, proud, and hateful. For even when Jonah stopped physically running from God.....he was still resisting.....inside. He put on a show of obedience to cover his inner feelings. When he arrived in Nineveh, he declared God’s message as a summary judgement.....you are all screwed! He left no way out or any escape. When the city was saved.....he was angry and demanded comfort from God.....in the form of death. How self centered he was......with so little disregard for others.
How often I have suffered from the condition of “Jonah”. How often I ran from God and still demanded other things from him. Our God is truly a compassionate and caring God......to put up with my petty self-centeredness.......A person can learn a lot from the “short” story of Jonah.