JONAH AND THE WHALE
This week, we begin our story of Jonah and the whale, with God speaking to Jonah, son of Amittai, commanding him to go and preach repentance to the city of Nineveh. In it says, “Arise, go into Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me”.
Jonah found this order unbearable; not only was Nineveh known for its wickedness, but it was also the capital of the Assyrian Empire, one of Israel’s fiercest enemies.
Jonah, a stubborn fellow, did just the opposite of what he was told. He went down to the seaport of Joppa and booked a carnival cruise on a ship to Tarshish, heading directly away from Nineveh. The Bible tells us Jonah “ran away from the Lord”
In response, God sent a violent storm, which threatened to break the ship to pieces.
The terrified crew cast determining that Jonah was responsible for the storm. Jonah told them to throw him overboard. First the crew tried rowing to shore, but the waves got even higher. Afraid of God, the sailors finally tossed Jonah into the sea, and the water immediately grew calm. The crew made a sacrifice unto the Lord and made vows.
Instead of drowning, Jonah was swallowed by a great which God provided. Jonah was in the great fish for three days and three nights. In the belly of the whale, Jonah repented and cried out to God in prayer. says he prayed which means he was still alive inside the whale. God, ending with the eerily prophetic statement, comes from the Then the Lord spoke and commanded the whale and it vomited the prophet Jonah onto dry land.
This time Jonah obeys God. He walked through Nineveh proclaiming that in forty days, the city would be destroyed.
*Surprisingly, the Ninevites believe Jonah’s message and repented; wearing sackcloth and covering themselves in ashes (Luke 11:32).
Nineveh repents, Jesus
God had compassion on them and did not destroy them.
Again, Jonah questioned God, because Jonah was angry that Israel’s enemies had been spared. So Jonah asked the Lord to take his life instead.
While Jonah was exceedingly angry, Jonah went out to the east side of the city and sat until he might see what would become of the city.
When Jonah stopped outside the city to rest, God provided a vine to shelter him from the sun. Jonah was happy with the vine, but the next day, God provided a worm that ate the vine, making it wither. Growing faint in the sun, Jonah complained again.
God scolded Jonah for being concerned about a vine, but not about Nineveh, which had 120,000 lost people. The story ends with God expressing concern even about the wicked. This shows that God is flexible enough to change His plan to accommodate a changed people.
Jonah, on the other hand, isn’t flexible enough to get over his preconceived notion that prophecies should always come true. Moses speaks about this not always being so in
It shows that God forgives the worst of sinners when they genuinely repent—even the Assyrians, famed for their vicious terror tactics.
Just a couple of strange things about the Book of Jonah are:
1. There’s only one sentence of prophecy in the book. And it turns out wrong!! “Forty days from now, Nineveh will be destroyed!” In (Jonah 3:10), we see, this never happened because the people repented and God did not destroy them.
2. The other strange thing about the Book of Jonah is that: Of all the 16 Bible prophets with books named after them, Jonah is the only one who rebels against God, and not just once, but twice.
* Rebellion I—Ordered to deliver the doom message to Nineveh, Jonah sails off in the opposite direction. But getting thrown overboard in a storm and swallowed by a big fish convinces him to do as God told him.
* Rebellion II—After Nineveh repents and God spares the city, Jonah pouts. He’s mad that God didn’t go ahead and kill Nineveh’s 120,000 citizens.
In four short chapters, nearly everyone and everything obeys God.
The only exception is Jonah, God’s Holy Prophet.
* The wind and sea obeys, churning up a storm to rock Jonah’s boat.
* The sailors obey, agreeing to throw Jonah overboard.
* The big fish obeys, swallowing Jonah and spitting him out.
* The pagan king of one of the world’s cruelest empires, obeys.
* The citizens of Nineveh obey, asking God’s forgiveness for their sins.
Everyone’s on board with God except Jonah, God’s prophet. Jonah was the one prophet that God picks to go on a mission that has nothing to do with the Jews.
There’s good reason Jonah doesn’t want to go. It’s called survival instinct.
The Assyrians are perhaps the most vicious empire this world has ever seen. Jonah apparently considered this a suicide mission. Ordering a Jew to go to Nineveh and deliver a death threat did not make sense to him.
Some historians say Nineveh had good reason to believe and repent. This was a tough time for Assyari. They were facing revolts. They had lost a few battles. They were experiencing persistent drought. And in the middle of all this, the solar eclipse of 723 B.C. probably stirred up the worry pot. Some good points from Jonah and the whale:
* God’s commands everything in His creation, from the weather to a whale, to carry out His plan.
God is in
* Jonah spent the same amount of time—three days and three nights—inside the whale as Jesus Christ did in the tomb. Christ also preached salvation to the lost.
* It’s not important whether it was a great fish or a whale that swallowed Jonah. The point of the story is that God can provide a supernatural means of rescue when His people are in trouble.
* Some scholars believe the Ninevites paid attention to Jonah because of his bizarre appearance. They only speculate that the whale’s stomach acid bleached Jonah’s hair, skin, and clothing a ghostly white.
The Book of Jonah closes with God insisting that He has every right to spare this massive city, and 120,000 people is a lot of humanity.
This shows God’s love isn’t limited to Jews.
It shows God is eager to forgive and slow to punish.
His justice is balanced by his merciful grace.
It shows everyone and everything yields to God: wind, waves, pagans, and prophets.
Remember that God wants you to be open and honest with him.
It’s always wise to obey the one who loves you most.
While it may appear that we can run or hide from God, we’re only fooling ourselves.
Our role may not be as dramatic as Jonah’s, but we have a duty to God to carry it out to the best of our ability.
God is in control of things, not us. When we choose to disobey him, we should expect bad consequences.
The lesson here, is, it is inappropriate to Judge Other
God is the only righteous judge, favoring whom He pleases.
God sets the agenda and timetable. Our job is to follow His instructions.