Jonah has been on my heart lately. Our girls love this story. I think it takes a child's mind to fantastic places if you graze over the story without digging too deep. As a curious adult, I dig. Jonah opens with Jonah 1:1-3 The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and cry out against it, because their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship that was going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and boarded it to go with them to Tarshish away from the presence of the Lord. This book jumps right in. The whole account is so short and has a don't blink or you'll miss it feeling, but I have been fed so much by this tiny book. So many life lessons. I also love the scriptures where you hear God speak conversationally. It really allows me to see God's heart. The book opens with Jonah running from God. He very clearly didn't want to go to Nineveh. It was a city full of a people known for their savage brutality. Skinning people alive and slicing open pregnant women to destroy both mother and child type brutal, so though some may say, "He tried to run from God!?!" (Lesson 1, you can't Psalm 139) many would have helped him tie his laces. You get a sense that he knew running away from God was futile in that as the ship hit a storm that threatened to break the ship apart, he went below deck and went to sleep. I have to believe alcohol was involved... Through a drawing of lots they found this calamity was because of him and after they found and woke him, they asked who he was and what he had done. He told them he was a Hebrew, he feared God and that they should throw him into the sea and the sea would become calm because it was his fault the storm had come. They prayed, threw him in and the sea became calm. Raging storm ripping your ship apart to calm seas in an instant = sailors so stunned and fearful of the Lord that they made vows and offered sacrifices. Jonah made a poor decision in disobeying God, but he impacted the lives of those sailors when he confessed and acted faithfully. Lesson 2, God can turn a mess into a message, no matter how messy the circumstances. This is good since this is about to get very messy. The Bible states in Jonah 1:17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Lesson 3, God always has a plan. There is so much speculation about what this "great fish was," but in reality, it's inconsequential to the message. It was a fish prepared by God for this purpose. It may not have even existed before that day. He is God. He can do things like that. Also may have been the first and last of it's kind. In the second chapter Jonah seems to chronicle his experience. As he prayed from the creatures insides, he summarized that he was thrown in the sea by God, though it was the sailors, followed by being tossed around and overcome by the waves, seaweed was wrapped around his head, but God rescued him from the deep. He seems to realize in his distress the peace and protection he has in knowing God and acknowledges that those who worship vain idols are turning from God. He also vows to do his duty to God as salvation is from the Lord. This is immediately followed by God speaking to the fish and having it vomit him up onto dry land. He was in that fish three days and three nights. That is a long time to be in a fish. I imagine at first he was in despair, but eventually he prayed that prayer and pop, out he came. I can imagine the fish swimming up and down along the shoreline of Nineveh waiting. God also seemed to be waiting for Jonah to recommit himself to following Him. Jonah's release was just one contrite spirit's prayer away. Lesson 4, prayer is powerful James 5:16 In chapter 3 Jonah walks through Nineveh proclaiming God's judgement is coming in 40 days. The whole city repents, fasts, and wears sackcloth in hope that God would change His mind. He does. These were a vicious people. In fact the kings decree to all the people in hope of being forgiven included turning from their evil ways and violence they practiced. Lesson 5, God is a loving Father and possesses an incredible capacity for mercy and forgiveness. The Ninevites did atrocious things, but God forgave them. This angered Jonah. In the fourth chapter we get down to brass tacks and see Jonah explain that he knew God is compassionate, merciful, slow to anger, rich in grace and that He relents from inflicting punishment. For this reason he fled to Tarshish and then basically explained that he would rather be dead than see the city go unpunished.... God asked Him if it was right for him to be so angry to which there is no recorded response. He simply left the city, made himself a shelter and sat under it to see what happened to Nineveh. God made a plant grow to comfort him and Jonah was pleased, but at dawn God sent a worm that attacked it so it dried up. Jonah gets so angry he is once again asking to die to which God points out he is upset about a plant but expects Him not to be upset about the over 120,000 people of Nineveh, who don't know their left hand from their right. Showing His grace and recognition of their ignorance. He also mentions concern for the animals. Do you see Him? That is our Father. Our amazing, loving and abounding in grace Father. Jonah ends abruptly. Maybe Jonah had his prayer answered and left this world that day. Maybe. This book is entitled Jonah, but to me, this is more a portrait of God and His wondrous love for His people. It also offers the challenge to love like God seeing people who are acting wrongly as broken and lost, not enemies.
There were those who lived in darkness and in the shadow of death, Prisoners in misery and chains, Because they had rebelled against the words of God And rejected the plan of the Most High. Therefore He humbled their heart with labor; They stumbled and there was no one to help. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them from their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death And broke their bands apart. They shall give thanks to the Lord for His mercy, And for His wonders to the sons of mankind! For He has shattered gates of bronze And cut off bars of iron. Fools, because of their rebellious way, And because of their guilty deeds, were afflicted.Their souls loathed all kinds of food,And they came close to the gates of death. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them from their distresses. He sent His word and healed them, And saved them from their destruction. They shall give thanks to the Lord for His mercy, And for His wonders to the sons of mankind! They shall also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, And tell of His works with joyful singing.