Jonah was a prophet in the northern kingdom of Israel. He was a contemporary of another prophet also located in Israel by the name of Amos, who was preaching about the imminent invasion of the Assyrian army. This was a punishment sent by God because of Israel’s persistent rebellion against Him.
Imagine then, the consternation that Jonah felt when God told him to go to the city of Nineveh, the capitol of the Assyrian empire, to warn them of the dire consequences that would befall them if they did not turn from their evil ways. What great irony.
Jonah decides to disobey God by trying to run away from Him. (How do you do that?) He jumps on a boat heading away from Nineveh. God was not fooled. He whipped up a storm that threatened to destroy the boat and drown the crew. So, Jonah confesses to them that the storm was a consequence of his running from God; and in order to quell it, he must be thrown overboard. The crew was only too happy to oblige.
Immediately, the sea grew calm and the crew became instant converts. Meanwhile, Jonah is swallowed by a fish and spends three days and nights in its stomach. Impossible you say? You would be correct in claiming that there is no fish (or whale) that can swallow a man whole, much less have an inner environment that Jonah could have survived in. However:
Now the LORD had prepared (appointed, destined) a great fish to swallow Jonah. Jon.1:17 AMP
God prepared a fish. He is the Creator of all things; and He can re-create at will. Every word of God is true because He is truth. Jesus Himself attested to the accuracy of the scriptural account of Jonah. (Mt. 12:40)
While inside the fish, Jonah reconsiders and vows to obey God. Subsequently, God made the fish vomit Jonah onto the shores of Assyria, near the city of Nineveh. Jonah enters the city and delivers God’s message:
“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Jon. 3:4 NKJV
Straight and to the point. And to Jonah’s amazement (and regret), every Assyrian in the city repented, and God responded with mercy.
Jonah was angry because he had hoped that the Assyrians would remain unrepentant and that God would strike them down. Distraught, he asked God to take his life. God responds:
“Is it right for you to be angry?” Jon. 4:4 NKJV
Jonah leaves the city and watches from a distance. God makes a plant grow next to him to provide shade from the sun. However, the next morning God put a worm in the plant and it died – exposing Jonah to the heat of day. Jonah again asks for death.
God asks Jonah if it right to be angry about the plant. Jonah stays entrenched in his bitterness; and then God delivers the zinger:
Then the LORD said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” Jon. 4:10, 11. NASB
Can God make a case for love or what? God loves and values all people – not only those who practice a certain faith, those who live in a particular region, or those who are descended from a distinct gene pool.
He is continually reaching out, trying to get all people to understand the difference that the love of God can make in their lives. But they will never know that difference if they keep on running…
Goodnight and God bless.