Jonah the Fleeing Prophet

Jonah 1:1-3

But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

Jonah 1:3

Who was Jonah?

From our passage, we know that he is a Jewish prophet, a son of Amittai (v. 1). We are not given any further background on who Jonah is in this book. But we may be able to glean more insights elsewhere in the OT. The only other mention of Jonah was in 2 Kings 14:25:

“He[Jeroboam II] restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.”

From here we know that Jonah was a prophet in the time of Jeroboam II, one of the many bad kings of Israel. Jeroboam II was described as a king who “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” and lead the nation of Israel into sin (2 Kgs 14:24).

But even under such evil leadership, Jonah witnessed God’s grace toward Israel. We read that Jonah was the prophet who brought the message of restoration of Israel’s northern border against the Assyrians.

It was a display of God’s faithfulness and goodness to Israel (2 Kgs 14:26-27). God even went so far as to use an evil king to carry out His work. Israel did not deserve what she graciously received from God.

God’s mission and Jonah’s flight

Here in the book of Jonah, God gave Jonah the mission to call out against the people of Nineveh (v. 1). God commanded Jonah to “Arise, go!” When God gives a command like this to other prophets in the OT, they immediate arose and went.

So Jonah arose and went, like every other prophet (v. 3). But in the other direction. Nineveh was to the east of Israel. Jonah made it a point go in the opposite direction, to Tarshish in the far west. This is further emphasized by the fact that Jonah’s move towards Tarshish was repeated three times in one verse. This was no accident, Jonah was deliberately fleeing from God’s presence.

Why did Jonah flee from his mission?

We cannot excuse Jonah by saying that he was fearful of delivering God’s message to the Ninevites. The Ninevites may have been infamously cruel. But firstly, Jonah did not display any fear of being thrown overboard in the middle of a bad storm (1:12). Therefore fear did not seem to be in his vocabulary. Secondly, Jonah’s complaint to God did not show that he disobeyed out of fear (4:2). So we cannot say that Jonah fled because he feared being tortured by the cruel Ninevites.

We read that Jonah was not clueless about God’s gracious salvation, even toward His enemies. He saw God’s unmerited goodness by restoring Israel’s northern border to an evil king like Jeroboam II. So Jonah knew that God will graciously restore the Ninevites, despite having no mention of it in God’s original mission to him (1:2; cf. 4:2). And he might even have known that God would have no qualms using the evil Ninevite king to restore Nineveh.

We will explore Jonah’s motivations in more detail when we get to Chapter 4. But it is safe to say that Jonah fled out of deliberate defiance instead of fear. It is ironic that a servant of God who proudly proclaims that he fears God (1:9) would display a lack of said fear by disobeying God directly. And he showed his lack of fear of God by fleeing from God’s presence.

What does fleeing from God’s presence mean?

When Jonah sought to flee from God’s presence, does it mean that he was looking for a place to hide from God? As God’s prophet, he would have known the truth stated in Psalm 139:7-10:

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?

Or where shall I flee from your presence?

8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

9 If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

10 even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me.

If Jonah knew that he could not hide himself from God, then what did it mean for him to flee God’s presence? To answer that, we need to know what it means to stand in the presence of God. In the OT, standing before the presence of God had the idea of being in the service of God (cf. 1 Kgs 17:1, 18:15; Jer 15:19). Being in God’s presence means standing and serving as a subject in God’s royal court.

So to flee the presence of God is like running away from the court of God the King. It means running away from your position and responsibilities as God’s servant. And this was what Jonah was doing. He deserted his position as God’s prophet. And he forsook his responsibility to declare God’s message to the Ninevites.

Jonah was a deserter. He ran away from his duties for petty personal reasons, as we will see later in Chapter 4. But what does this have to do with us today?

Fleeing from our Christian calling

As Christians, we have been called to live according to the Spirit. Paul says in Ephesians 4:1:

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,”

What is the calling that all Christians have?
We are called to live as people who have been brought back to life through the grace of God. Therefore we are fully dependent on the grace that God has lavished on us.

We are called to live as spiritual dwelling places for God in spirit. Therefore we set ourselves aside from the world in holiness to do the works that God has appointed for us.

We are called to grow in humility, meekness, love for each other and unity (Eph 4:2-3, 4:15).

We are called to renew our minds and live according to true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:23-24, cf. Rom 12:2).

We are called to speak truthfully to each other, to be kind to one another and to be ready to forgive each other (Eph 4:25, 32).

In all these things, we are called as Christians to serve in love as God’s children (Eph 5:1-2). Christian, will you desert your position as God’s child to serve your selfish earthly desires? Will you forsake your responsibility to keep yourself holy as God’s spiritual dwelling place? May we determine not to flee from God’s presence like Jonah did.

– The End –

The Great Storm

Jonah 1:4-16

But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

Jonah 1:3

God’s Intervention Against Jonah’s Rebellion

We learnt that in verses 1-3 of chapter 1 that Jonah’s mission was to preach God’s message to the Ninevites, however he headed in the opposite direction, towards Tarshish, in an attempt to flee the presence of the Lord. While Jonah attempted to escape his responsibility, God intervened by putting in place a terrifying storm that disrupted his journey towards Tarshish.

The magnitude of the storm was so great that “the ship threatened to break up” (v4). We can also see how terrifying the storm was by the sailors’ reaction to the storm. These sailors would have experienced really bad storms in their line of work. However, this particular storm was so terrifying that they started to call out to their gods. They hoped to appease their gods so that the storm may stop. And when that didn’t work, they started throwing out cargo off the ship to make the ship lighter hoping that it will not sink. So we see the gravity of the situation here as even the experts of the sea feared for their lives.

The sailors did everything in their power to regain some control of the ship. But little did they know that the one who caused this situation was sleeping soundly in the heart of the ship. Jonah chose to ignore what was happening around him.

We can see God’s sovereignty at work here in how God has control over His creation. God purposed the storm to stop Jonah in his tracks, but more specifically out of loving discipline for him to repent from his disobedience. God wanted to show Jonah that “the plans of a sovereign God are not so easily thwarted by the stubborn will of a puny prophet.” [1]

An Unexpected Testimony

God’s sovereignty remained at work through the events that led up to Jonah’s confession - the sailors had decided to cast lots wanting to know who caused the storm and unsurprisingly the lot fell on Jonah.

Jonah made an ironic statement: “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land” (v9). Jonah claimed that he feared the LORD. But we know that Jonah did not do what God commanded.

When Jonah used the phrase “I fear the LORD”, it is a description of himself instead of what he truly felt. His statement was made merely to indicate his relation to God -- that he worships the one true God of Israel.

Despite Jonah’s disobedience, God was able to reveal Himself to the sailors through his confession because of the deadly storm. The sailors who were once afraid of the raging seas now feared the Creator of it.

They were even more convinced of this truth when they cast Jonah out of the ship and the storm calmed immediately, as Jonah prophesied. They ultimately made sacrifice and offered vows to Jonah’s God.

An Unrepentant Prophet

We see in verse 12 that Jonah was aware that he was the cause of the storm, but he gave an interesting solution. He instructed the sailors to throw him overboard and that would calm the storm.

It appeared as if Jonah would rather die than continue with the mission that God had commanded him to do. So what caused Jonah to suggest such a “self-sacrificing” solution? Perhaps it was the nature of the storm and the casting of the lot. This may have led him to confirm that his disobedience was the cause of the plight they were in. Or perhaps, it was the only solution he could think of at that point in time. Jonah knew that there were consequences in disobeying God, yet he did not stop fleeing from the Lord. Instead, he resigned himself to “fate”, depending on whether God would let him survive or die in the storm. This showed his heart was still unwilling to follow the call that God had clearly given him (v1-2).

God’s Divine Sovereignty

No matter how Jonah tried to flee from God, he could not escape God’s divine sovereignty. God’s purposes were fulfilled in:

1) The events leading to the confession of Jonah’s rebellion

2) The revelation of who Yahweh is to the sailors throughout the event

3) How the sailors responded in worship to the one true God of Israel

God had used Jonah in his struggle, for His glory! Furthermore, God preserved Jonah’s life as we see in verse 17, and provided a way for him to go to Nineveh. God’s plan remained unchanged despite Jonah’s attempt to run away.

So what does this mean for us?

This should lead us to reflect on how we ourselves live under God’s sovereignty. Living under God’s sovereignty is to acknowledge that He is in control of all things. What He says, He will do. Nothing we do can change His will for our lives. As seen in Jonah’s example, attempting to escape from God’s divine sovereignty does not change His plan. Thus running away from what God commands is simply rebellion against His rule.

What has God commanded us to do today? There are many commands that are written in His Word. For example, we are exhorted to:

· Pursue holiness and to flee wickedness

· Point out the sins of others for their holiness to restore them to God

So let us not run away from what God has divinely commanded His people to do. Let us trust that God truly works all things for good (Rom 8:28). May we rely on God to obey His sovereign commands, and to be found faithful in doing so until Christ returns.

– The End –

[1] Smith, B. K., & Page, F.S. (1995). Amos, Obadiah, Jonah (Vol. 19B). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Cry of Distress and Voice of Thanks

The Prayer Of Jonah

Jonah 2:2-10

But I with the voice of thanksgiving

will sacrifice to you;

what I have vowed I will pay.

Salvation belongs to the Lord!

Jonah 2:9

Jeroboam II was a king in Israel (the northern kingdom) for 41 years during the first half of the 8th century BC. It says in 2 Kings 14:25 , "He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke through his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher." Since Jonah 1:1 identifies the prophet as Jonah, son of Amittai, we can safely infer that this is the same man and that he lived in the northern kingdom of Israel in the early to middle 700's BC.

God's Call and Jonah's Rebellion

According to 1:1, 2, the word of the Lord came to Jonah saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it." To understand what this meant for Jonah, it may help to remember that about this time Amos was crying out against the sins of Israel and saying that God was going to raise up a nation against her, namely, Assyria ( Amos 6:14 ). Nineveh was the chief city of Assyria. So just about the time Amos was prophesying the doom of the homeland at the hand of Assyria, God told Jonah to go preach to Assyria's chief city, Nineveh. Which was a little like God telling Ronald Sider to predict World War III while sending Jerry Falwell to hold revival meetings in Moscow. (Though I am hopeful that we will be more responsive to Sider than Israel was to Amos and that Jerry Falwell would head for Moscow more readily than Jonah did for Nineveh.)

Most of you remember the general outline of what happened. Jonah did not go east to Nineveh on the Tigris River. He got on a boat in Joppa bound for Tarshish (probably in Spain). God hurls a storm against the ship. When the prayers of the crew prove useless, they awaken Jonah and tell him to pray. Then they cast lots to see whose guilt brought the storm, and the lot fell to Jonah. When they asked who he was, he said, "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land" (1:9). When the crew asked what might still the storm, Jonah said, "Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the storm will become calm for you" (1:12). It is a puzzle to me why Jonah should so readily offer to give his life for the sake of pagan (1:5) sailors, when a few weeks later he gets angry that God saves the life of 120,000 pagan Ninevites. Probably Jonah's willingness to die in the Mediterranean Sea was owing mainly to remorse and shame. He realizes what a fool he was to try to flee "from the presence of the Lord" (1:3). How can you flee from the Lord who made the sea and the dry land (1:9)? God has tracked him down and exposed his folly. His guilt is so obvious he simply surrenders himself to the sentence of death—or so it seems.

The crew threw him overboard, and the storm ceased. Jonah sinks in the water. And what happens? The first thing that happens is not the appearance of a great fish to swallow Jonah. Before the fish comes the cry of distress. Even though Jonah knew that he was guilty; even though he knew he deserved death; even though he had surrendered his life to the justice of God, yet in the moment when death was imminent, Jonah remembered that the God whom he had served so imperfectly was still "gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repenting of evil" (4:2). And he cried out to the Lord for mercy. And then the Lord appointed a great fish for Jonah's rescue. The Lord had mercy on his prophet and saved him miraculously in a fish's belly.

Chapter 2 is what Jonah prayed while still conscious in the fish. He recounts his cry of distress in the water and lifts a voice of thanks for deliverance.

The Historicity of Jonah

Before we look at this chapter, let me mention briefly why I regard the book as historical rather than as a parable. Not only was Jonah a historical person, as we saw from 2 Kings 14:25 , but also in the New Testament Jesus treats Jonah's story as historical. He says in Matthew 12:40 , "Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here." Those of us who respect the wisdom of Jesus will be very slow to call his judgment into question. He thought the story was historical. We should, too. If you ask how a man can survive in the belly of a fish three days, the answer is, he probably can't—any more than a person can stay three days in the grave and live again. That's why Jesus called it a "sign." In Matthew 12:39 he says, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah, the prophet." Jesus knew this was no ordinary event. It was a miraculous sign of God's gracious and powerful intervention. There is no point in trying to explain it scientifically any more than the miraculous signs of Jesus' ministry. Jonah cried for help, and God saved him miraculously with a fish.

God Answers His Children's Cries of Distress

At least briefly, Jonah was conscious in the fish—long enough to realize that God had saved him from drowning in the sea. And during that period (or perhaps periods) of consciousness, Jonah prays. Chapter 2 is what he said. So when you read this prayer, keep in mind that when Jonah refers to the distress of the past, he means the time he spent in the water, not the time he spent in the fish. The water is the threat of death. The fish is the refuge of salvation. The cry of distress is past tense (in the water!); the voice of confidence and thanks is present (in the fish). Let's look at the prayer.

Jonah 2:1 , 2: "Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, 'I called to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me.'" There is the simple statement that sums up what happened when Jonah sank in the water: he cried out to God, and God answered him by sending the fish. There is a lot of encouragement for us here that I want you to see. The general point I want to make is that God answers his children when they cry to him in distress. Then I think the text gives us some specific pointers to how and why God answers us when we call on him in distress. First, God answers us in spite of our guilt. Second, God answers us in spite of his judgment.Third, God answers us and delivers us from impossible circumstances. Fourth, God answers us in the nick of time. Fifth, God answers us in stages, not all of which are comfortable. Sixth, God answers us in order to win our undivided loyalty and thanks. Finally , God answers us in our guilty distress to help us become merciful like he is. Let's look at these in order to encourage ourselves to call on God with more confidence.

In Spite of Our Guilt

First , God answers our cry of distress, even when we are guilty. Jonah was not on his way to Nineveh when he fell overboard. He was running from God. He was guilty of disobedience. That's why he was in the water. Some of you are in trouble right now precisely because of your disobedience. And if you are wondering, "Is there hope? Will God have mercy on me and hear my cry of distress?" take heart from Jonah. His distress was the fruit of his guilt, but God answered him and gave him another chance.

That is not an isolated teaching in Scripture. Listen to the same scenario in Psalm 107:10–15 :

Some sat in darkness and in gloom, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High [like Jonah] . . . Their hearts were bowed down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; he brought them out of darkness and gloom, and broke their bonds asunder. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to the sons of men!

If your disobedience is the cause of your distress, repent and cry to the Lord. He will answer you in spite of your guilt.

In Spite of His Judgment

Second , God answers us in spite of his judgment. Notice verse 3: "For thou didst cast me into the deep." According to 1:15, it was the ship's crew who picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea. But Jonah knows that it was all of God. God was angry at Jonah's disobedience, and he was going to require chastisement. I suppose nothing makes us despair in our distress like the thought that God put us there because he is angry with us. And I guess most of us might say, if God has put me in this rotten situation because he is displeased with me, then there is no point in praying for his help. But Jonah ventured to pray for deliverance from the very God who threw him into the water. And the God who threw him in heard his prayer and performed a miracle to save him. Even when God is displeased with us, he never brings us into affliction merely for the sake of punishment. His purposes always include redemption. Job 36:15 says, "God delivers the afflicted by their affliction, and opens their ear by adversity." Adversity is redemptive, not merely punitive. Even if you have felt as though the very hand of God is against you in your distress, do not despair to call upon him. He answers his children in spite of his own judgment.

In Impossible Circumstances

Third , God answers us and delivers us from impossible circumstances. Verses 5 and 6 describe the extremity of Jonah's plight: "The waters closed in over me, the deep was round about me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever." It would be a terrible thing to fall overboard and be left behind when the sea is placid. How much worse to be thrown into a raging storm with 20 or 30 foot waves and feel yourself sucked so deep you know you're done for. And, as if that were not enough, as you struggle toward the air, you hit a mass of seaweed, and it tangles all around your head and neck. It's a terrifying scene. God let the circumstances become impossible before he delivered Jonah.

I don't know for sure why it is, but it seems that in the Christian life distresses and troubles come in batches. They don't get spaced out in proportion to our powers to cope. Often circumstances develop to the point where we can't see any way out. But then we need to remember Jonah's plight. It was impossible. But not with God ( Mark 10:27 )! When we cry to the Lord in our distress, he answers us and delivers us from impossible situations.

In the Nick of Time

Fourth , he answers us in the nick of time. Verse 7 says, "When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to thee into thy holy temple." More starkly we would say, "As I was losing consciousness, I remembered the Lord." Jonah was still praying without an answer in sight just before he blacked out. In fact, he probably did black out and regain consciousness several days later, realizing he had been spared in the belly of a fish. God often answers our prayers at the eleventh hour. Many a saint has groaned with Habakkuk, saying, "O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and thou wilt not hear?" ( Habakkuk 1:2 ). But Jonah gives us courage to be unrelenting in our prayer, to keep on crying out to God even as we go unconscious, and to believe that God will answer in the nick of time.

In Stages

Fifth , God answers our cries of distress in stages, not all of which are comfortable. We must get out of our head the all or nothing notion of answered prayer. We can be fairly sure that when Jonah cried out to God, he did not say: "O God, put me in the belly of a fish for three days!" He probably said, "God save me, I am cast out from your presence, have mercy!" But God's answer came in stages. The belly of a fish hardly seems like salvation. But it was: Jonah is granted enough consciousness to realize he has been spared from drowning and that there is hope. He does not complain about his surroundings. He accepts God's first stage of salvation as a guarantee of dry land, and concludes his prayer in the fish's belly with the great affirmation, "Deliverance belongs to the Lord."

Don't disregard the partial works of God. If he chooses to save and to heal by stages, he has his good purposes, and we ought to be grateful for any improvement in our condition. A fish's belly is better than weeds at the bottom of the sea, even if it is not yet Palestine. God answers us in stages, not all of which are comfortable.

In Order to Win Our Loyalty and Thanksgiving

Sixth , God answers our cry of distress in order to win our undivided loyalty and thanksgiving. Verses 8 and 9 show how a prayer to God after deliverance should end: "Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their true loyalty (or: forsake their mercy). But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to thee; what I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the Lord!" The answer to Jonah's prayer has produced its proper effect. It has filled Jonah with wonder that anyone would forsake the Lord and keep idols. God taught Jonah that if you leave the Lord, you leave mercy. And he has filled Jonah's mouth with thanksgiving. God answers prayers in order that thanksgiving will abound to his glory. Which means that people who have a spirit of thanksgiving are the best candidates for answered prayer ( Philippians 4:6 ). Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:11 , "You must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessings granted us in answer to many prayers." And the Lord said in Psalm 50:15 , "Call upon me in the day of trouble; and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me." God answers us in distress in order to win our undivided loyalty and fill us with thanksgiving for his mercy.

In Order to Make Us Merciful Like Him

Finally , God answers us in our guilty distress to help us become merciful like he is. To show you where I get this idea, we need to finish the story. In chapter 3, after Jonah is back on land, God sends him again to Nineveh. Jonah goes and preaches judgment. And in 3:5 it says, "The people of Nineveh believed God." Then verse 10 gives God's response, "When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and he did not do it."

Now look what's happened in the first three chapters. Jonah disobeyed God. God put him under the threat of destruction. Jonah cries out in his distress, and God answers him and gives him a new lease on life. So with the Ninevites. They disobeyed God (1:2). God put them under the threat of destruction (3:4). They cry in their distress, and God answers them and gives them a new lease on life. God showed mercy to Jonah so that Jonah would learn to show mercy to the Ninevites.

The book of Jonah has a message that is loud and clear about God, namely, his mercy is not confined to Israel but extends to any people who will trust him and repent of their sin. What saves is not nationality but faith. That's a great gospel message coming out of the Old Testament. But I don't think it is the main point of this book. The book is really about Jonah—about you and me and the way we ought to be if we have a God with mercy like this. The main point of the book of Jonah is not, "God is merciful." The main point is, "You be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful." The ultimate lesson about prayer in the book of Jonah is that God answers us in mercy to make us merciful.

This is confirmed if we just watch God finish his work on Jonah in chapter 4. Verses 1 and 2 show that Jonah had failed to learn the lesson of the fish: he is angry that God forgave the Ninevites. He is still a rebellious instrument of mercy. So he goes out of town to wait. And notice what God does in verse 6. Just as (in 1:17) God appointed a fish to save his prophet, so in 4:6 he appoints a plant to save Jonah from the discomfort of the sun. God will try to teach him one more time. Only this time the lesson plan is reversed. Jonah will not move from distress to deliverance (as he did in the water), but from deliverance to distress. Verse 6 says that Jonah was exceedingly glad with the plant, just like he was glad to be saved from the water.

But the next day God appointed a worm that made the plant wither, and then he appointed a sultry east wind and a hot sun and made Jonah miserable. And Jonah got angry. Then God comes and with his word lays bare the heart of Jonah. In essence, what he says at the end of chapter 4 is this: "You pity the plant and get angry when I destroy it, but when I pity 120,000 people who don't know their right hand from their left, you get angry with me!"

And if the book had recorded the rest of God's dealings with Jonah, I think it would have ended like this (and it's just as relevant for us): "Jonah, don't you see what I was trying to teach you when I answered your cry of distress and sent the fish to save you? I had mercy on you in spite of your guilt. I had mercy on you in spite of my own sentence of judgment. I saved you from impossible circumstances. I delivered you in the nick of time. I commanded a fish to save your life. You were filled with a song of thanksgiving for my mercy and vowed your loyalty to me. Jonah, Jonah, be merciful, even as I have been merciful to you!"

– The End –

Piper, J. (2018). Cry of Distress and Voice of Thanks. Retrieved from

Thrones & Ashes

Jonah 3:1-4

Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

Jonah 3:4

In the previous chapter, God led Jonah to the heart of the sea in an encounter with the great fish. This is actually God’s severe mercy to bring Jonah to the end of himself. It woke him up to the truth of who he was, and who God is. God then commanded the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land.

In chapter 3, we are back to the big story line which is about God and Nineveh. Look at the wording in Jonah 3:1-2. It says, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”

The book of Jonah is a story that begins with God seeing a great cause of injustice, oppression and wickedness among the Ninevites. Therefore, God sent Jonah as His messenger. Jonah was God’s messenger to confront the wickedness of Nineveh and preach against it.

Nineveh is the capital city of the Assyrian empire. Assyria was the biggest and most fearsome empire in the ancient world. Even today, people study the military tactics of Assyrian Generals. This is because they were brilliant at targeting territories that did not belong to them, especially strategic cities and roads. They would decimate these cities and absorb them. As a result, they grew by shear military expansion and conquest.

The Ninevites were not only militarily brilliant. They were also notoriously brutal. In ancient Nineveh, the walls of the king’s complex were lined with pictures and sculptures that depicted stories about the military exploits of the kings of Assyria.

In one particular hallway was the story told of the battle that an Assyrian king fought against the Israelites and conquered their city of Lachish. This account is also found in 2 Kings 18. The pictures depicted what the Assyrian soldiers would do to capture Israelites. The Assyrian soldiers would strip them naked and grab their legs. They also bore knives used to skin the Israelites alive in the side of the city walls.

They would also cut down trees from the surrounding region and sharpen the tips into big spears, and impale their captives on them. Thus, when Israelite soldiers look out at the hills, they would see their people hanging there impaled.

With this you can better understand the deep emotion that would come into Israelites’ minds when they heard about the Ninevites. Nineveh was the nation that destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel and held the southern kingdom of Judah for almost one hundred years. Hence Assyria was more than an enemy; it was a brutal occupying force that forever changed Israel's fortunes. Jonah was called out by God to go and prophesy to the archenemy of His people.

We hear that Jonah finally went to Nineveh according to the word of the Lord. He was going not on his own terms, but on Yahweh’s terms. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city. This can mean great in significance or great in size. Both hold true because it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going one day’s journey into the city proclaiming: haphak Nineveh yom arbaim od. Those are only five words in Hebrew.

He gives a time – in forty days. He also gives an event – Nineveh will be overthrown.

Jonah’s five-word sermon is one of the most intriguing parts of the whole book. Many things seem to be missing in his message. Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown by whom? And how? Will they be overthrown by fire and brimstone like Sodom and Gomorrah? Will they be overthrown by another nation? In Jonah’s message, there was nothing about who nor how.

Does he explain why Nineveh will be overthrown? You can imagine non-military folks in Nineveh such as a blacksmith or a goat herder hearing this and responding cluelessly, “I don’t know why. I just work in here every day.” What would be the reasons that they are going to face this destruction? Can they do anything to avert it? The prophets always included some chance to turn back to Yahweh or repent, but there was none of this from Jonah for the Ninevites.

The greatest absence is the mention of God. Jonah was there to represent God—he was a messenger on behalf of Yahweh. But he does not mention God at all.

One reason could be that Jonah was attempting a “prophetic sabotage”. Jonah did not want the Ninevites to find the repentance that leads to life. Why did he run from God in the first place? Remember, it was not because he was afraid of going into the king’s palace. It was because he hated the Ninevites. And he believed that the world would be much better if they were decimated. So while Jonah was physically obeying God by going to Nineveh, he was verbally giving as little information as possible in a hope that they would not be able to repent and find forgiveness and grace in God. Would this be consistent with Jonah’s character? Quite likely.

But despite Jonah’s few words, God shows that He has the power to use them for His glory. God also has the right to turn sinners to Himself through His word given through His messenger of sovereign choice.

And so, we are drawn into this story, while contemplating Jonah’s motives, and wondering about the response of the Ninevites to his message. And we will continue to witness God’s mercy and sovereignty throughout the rest of Jonah.

– The End –

Mackie, Tim. The Amazing Jonah P4: Thrones & Ashes. Podcast Audio Transcript [00:00-20:00]. Retrieved 28 December 2018, from . Adapted and revised for devotional reading.

Tanner, Beth L. Commentary on Jonah 3:1-5, 10. Retrieved on 28 December 2018 from .

What Does Godly Repentance Look Like?

Jonah 3:5-9

And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

Jonah 3:5

Jonah was given a second chance to complete his mission. Knowing that he had to carry out his duty as God’s prophet, Jonah proclaimed his sermon, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (3:4). In Hebrew, that sermon amounted to a grand total of five words.

As we have seen, there was no mention of why they would be overthrown. There was no mention that this message came from the God of Israel. And there was no mention of how the Ninevites could avert such a disaster. This has led some scholars to think that it was Jonah’s way of “sabotaging” the salvation of the Ninevites. In the same way that he tried to “sabotage” God’s plan to save Nineveh by running to Tarshish, Jonah gave the bare minimum information in his sermon. But that was not enough to stop God. And once again, Jonah would be sorely disappointed. And here we see an example of true, godly repentance.

A sensitivity to God’s message

There was an immediate response to the message. As soon as Jonah’s five word sermon ended in 3:4, we read that the people of Nineveh believed God within the same day. How did they know the message was from the God of Israel? It could have been because they identified Jonah as a Jew, therefore they inferred that the message was from the God of Israel. But regardless, God was definitely at work here.

God used Jonah’s short sermon, a poor example by good modern preaching standards, to move the hearts of the Ninevites. There was no indication that the Ninevites converted to Judaism, but it was clear that they believed the message that God gave them (v. 5). They did not ask for evidence. They did not ask for further signs from God. But they received the message wholeheartedly without any reservations. They believed. And they immediately sought to do something about it.

Every single Ninevite, from the oldest to the youngest, from the richest to poorest, from noble to peasant, called for fasting and wearing sackcloth (3:5). It was a time of mourning. God was working in the heart of every Ninevite. Even the king of Nineveh was moved by God message from Jonah (3:6). The king could have just brushed off the message saying, “It’s just another crazy ‘prophet’, ignore him!” But he mourned immediately like the rest of his people. The fact that they responded immediately displayed their sensitivity to God’s message.

What were they mourning over? The Ninevites knew that they had done something wrong to incur the wrath of God. And they were mourning over the offense that they had committed. But the “miracle” came in their realisation of what they had done to offend God.

A readiness to turn from evil

As idol worshippers, their worship was often in the form of sacrifices. So the most natural conclusion they would have come to was that they did not sacrifice enough to the God of Israel. They might have then gone on to sacrifice all their livestock. But in a miraculous way, they accurately realised that their offense was a moral one, not a religious one. They knew that they were wrong because of their evil and violent ways. This is why the king decreed, “Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.” (3:8) In line with their sensitivity to God’s message, the Ninevites were ever ready to turn away from their offenses.

A humble attitude towards God’s mercy

We also get to see the condition of their hearts. They did not expect salvation just because they did the “right thing”. They still recognised that their salvation could only come from God, not from what they did. This is what made the king say, “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” (3:9) They did not trust in their work of repentance for salvation. They did not say “God will turn and relent from his fierce anger because we turned away from our evil ways.” They knew rightly that their survival depended solely on God’s mercy. And we will see later that God honoured their humility by relenting from his punishment (3:10).

That is the true heart of godly repentance. One that is sensitive to God’s message. One that is ever ready to turn away from evil immediately. And one that looks to God’s mercy for salvation in humility instead of relying on its own merits. They were such a shining example that even Jesus used them as a standard against the Pharisees.

“The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”

Matthew 12:41

The Jews and Pharisees in Jesus’ time had much more information than a five word sermon. They knew God’s word and His standards better than any Ninevite. And they were given more than forty days to repent. But yet they chose not to repent from their evil hypocrisy and continued walking further away from God. So Jesus rebuked them by saying that even the Ninevites will condemn the lack of repentance of that generation. They heard the preaching of someone greater than Jonah, but in the hardness of their hearts they refused to change their ways.

A Christian heart of true repentance

So how about us? When God’s word points out where we are wrong, what is our response? Will we retort, defend ourselves and try to justify our actions like the Jews of Jesus’ time? Or will we respond like the Ninevites, mourning the offense and punishment for our sins, with the readiness to turn away from them?

As we mourn the gravity of our sins, let us also repent in sincerity and humility. And when we repent as God’s children, we don’t have to worry about “who knows if God will turn away from His anger?” Because as people who believe in Christ, we know. We know that in Christ, God’s anger has been fully quenched by Christ’s blood. And we know that in Christ, we have been given Christ’s righteousness. Therefore we know that in Christ, God’s punishment for our sin has been turned away.

So let us be sensitive to God’s word to us. Let us be ever willing to turn away from our most deep seated sins. And let us remember that any forgiveness for our sins is out of God’s mercy to us. There will never be a need to ask “who knows?” Because we know that in Christ, God has already relented from giving us the punishment we deserve.

– The End –

Repentance unto Salvation

Jonah 3:10

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

Jonah 3:10

Repent for it is a matter of eternal consequence

Repentance is not an optional idea that Christians can choose to opt in or out of. If the command for repentance is something you think is secondary and can be put off until another time, then know this: Matthew 3:2 says “ Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!” The kingdom of God is tied to the repentance of the individual being called. Repentance is thus a matter of eternal consequences for your soul.

Last week we got to see the effects of the Ninevites’ repentance, where Jesus said in Matthew 12:41 “ The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah ...” The very men described in our passage today are used by the Lord Jesus as the examples of being on the right side of judgement day. Repentance is not just a theological issue left to the leaders or Bible scholars, repentance can mean the difference between those whom God judges and those whom God pardons.

Repent for it is commanded

Repentance is a running theme throughout the New Testament. John the Baptist and Jesus were first recorded to call people to repentance.

Matthew 3:2 – Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!

Mark 1:15 – The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the gospel

The apostles proclaimed the same message in their ministries:

Acts 3:2 – Repent therefore and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out

Acts 17:30 – The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent

And even in John’s vision, he saw Jesus telling him to write the command to the church of Ephesus:

Revelation 2:5 – Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the works you did at first.

But just what is repentance and how are we to do it?

Knowing Repentance

Some people might think of repentance as self-examination. Others could equate it to admitting to a fault, or maybe even doing good deeds to make up for your bad deeds. Some might even take it to the next level and say repentance is a way of life that revolves around self-loathing, walking a life of lowliness, and abstaining from the vices of this world. While there may be certain (superficial) truths in these ideas, Biblical repentance is simply what our text in Jonah 3:10 has translated for us; a turning away from (their evil ways).

We turn away from many things in life. We turn away from indulging in fatty foods in order to have healthier lifestyles. We turn away from our natural instincts to be angry at work in order to keep our jobs. We turn away from the endless partying and reckless lifestyles of our youth in order to get better rest and fulfill our responsibilities. We turn away from toxic people because we are irritated by them. Christian repentance is similar. Those who are born again know the depths, effects and consequences of sin, and take steps to change that pattern of sin around.

As we turn back a few verses in our passages in Jonah 3, the Ninevites demonstrated their repentance through fasting, covering themselves with sackcloth, and sitting in ashes (v.6). The Ninevites’ responses recorded for us demonstrated actions that were a natural response to what they felt in their hearts. So the question for us now then is:

How then should we repent?

Repenting rightly

1. Knowing our sinful condition

We first need to rightly perceive our sinful condition. Romans 3:10 says “None is righteous, no, not one.” We need to see that sin is touching almost everything that we are doing. We are not merely good people who sometimes make mistakes. We are deeply and completely invaded by sin, with sin touching everything that we say, do, think or feel.

2. Feeling our sinful condition

If we were to be honest with ourselves, most of the time we don’t know what to feel about our sins. We are more likely to be ambivalent towards our sins than to be found mourning over them. We don’t care too much whether we are sinning or not. And that is definitely sin at work in our emotions.

There are a wide range of feelings aimed at sin in the Bible. David laments over sin and its effects many times in the book of Psalms. Ezra feels ashamed at having to face God while sin is rampant throughout Israel (Ezra 9:6). God himself burns in anger against sin and demonstrated the fullest extent of his wrath against sin when Jesus died, hanging from the cross.

If we knew everything there is to know about our sinfulness, and felt the sorrow, the shame and the hatred of sin in our innermost being, it would lead us to turn away from sin. True, deep perception of our sinful condition should motivate a believer’s transformation. Repentance would not mean much if it does not result in reformation of the believer.

3. Turning from our sinful condition

Scripture tells us that we have to be actively turning away from sins that we commit. It takes effort, it takes planning, it takes a great amount of energy to carry it out.

Are you turning? Are there sins in your life that you know of and are taking steps to guard against it? Or are you indulging in them, ambivalent to the cost Jesus took to die for that sin? Are you trusting in the Lord’s strength to keep you from temptation? Or do you give up thinking that there is no point since you will fall into the same sin again anyway?

The call is to have a humble dependence on God. Repentance is done only in the strength of God. Repenting in our own strength results in failure and a loss of motivation and strength. But God’s strength is limitless; in His power He has promised to strengthen you, to give you good things, and to work things out for the good of his elect.

To love God is to hate sin. To have to love God with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength, we have to hate sin with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength. Let us walk in repentance away from sin with every part of our inner most being, our minds, our emotions, and our actions, all done for the sake of the glory of God.

– The End –

Jonah: His Final Lesson

Adapted from Twelve Unlikely Heroes

Jonah 4:1-3

No missionary has ever received such a response. Upon hearing the threat of God’s impending wrath, hundreds of thousands of Ninevites repented of their wicked ways and believed in Him. Most missionaries would be extremely elated by such an overwhelming response to their message. Not Jonah. His attitude of prejudicial hatred toward the Assyrians was still firmly embedded. If the people of Nineveh repented, it meant they would not be judged. And this zealous Israelite was not happy about that prospect:

But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.” (Jonah 4:1–3)

Incredibly, Jonah would have preferred death over the salvation of his enemies! No wonder he fled toward Tarshish, fell asleep in the midst of a storm, and volunteered to be thrown overboard. Given the choice, Jonah would rather be killed than preach to the Ninevites! But Jonah’s rebellion could not overturn the sovereign grace of God; the Lord used Jonah to accomplish His saving purposes in spite of the prophet’s petty protests.

Jonah’s prayer not only exposed his own prejudice and pride, but also showcased the lovingkindness and compassion of God. In His infinite mercy and grace, the Lord can rescue any sinner, even one as wicked as the pagan king of a barbarian nation. Jonah recognized the magnitude of God’s grace, which is why he initially ran in the opposite direction; he wanted nothing to do with divine pardon being extended to Israel’s hostile enemies. Ironically, when Jonah himself was in trouble, he cried out for God’s mercy. But when the Lord extended grace to others, Jonah was filled with resentment. When God withheld His wrath from the Ninevites, the prophet’s wrath was aroused.

In annoyed disbelief—angered that his prophetic mission had been so stunningly successful—Jonah set up camp on the outskirts of Nineveh to see if perhaps God would still judge the city. Evidently, he hoped that the people’s repentance would prove to be hypocritical and superficial so that the Lord would still destroy them after forty days. The prophet hastily constructed a temporary shelter to shade him from the blazing sun and waited to see how it all played out.

As Jonah sat disgruntled in his lean-to shanty on the eastern edge of Nineveh, the Lord graciously caused a large plant to instantly grow up behind him, providing the melancholy prophet some shady relief from the beating sun. The text states that Jonah was thankful for the plant. But the next morning, when God sent a worm to eat the plant, the prophet’s anger was again incited. The situation worsened when the Lord sent a scorching east wind (called a “sirocco”), which overwhelmed Jonah’s makeshift shelter and brought him to the point of extreme heat exposure. In the same way that God had hurled a great wind on the sea to affect Jonah (1:4), He prepared this hot desert wind for the same purpose—to humble His servant and teach him a vital spiritual lesson.

And true to form, the whining, faithless prophet once again wished for death. As He had all along, the Lord responded to him with undeserved patience:

Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” 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?” (Jonah 4:9–11)

Jonah’s perspective was completely backward and entirely self-centered. He was passionately concerned about a short-lived shade plant to protect himself from discomfort, but had no compassion for the entire population of Nineveh, including 120 thousand small children (those who cannot discern between their right and left hands).

The stubborn, prejudiced prophet had been operating in his own self-interest, but the Lord wanted him to put the eternally significant message of salvation above his own myopic concerns and trivial comforts. How could he be concerned about a weed when hundreds of thousands of souls faced judgment and he had the opportunity to see them saved?

The book of Jonah ends abruptly, with those final words from the Lord forming its sudden conclusion. But the lesson for Jonah was unmistakably clear, and that same lesson is vitally important for all believers to learn. Like Jonah, we might be tempted to allow our own fears, prejudices, or selfish interests to inhibit our gospel witness. But when we prioritize the gospel message over our own personal agendas, we bring glory to God as we advance His kingdom purposes throughout the world.

What Jonah Teaches Us About God

Like most Old Testament narratives, the story of Jonah is primarily about God. He is the ultimate hero of the story—the One who saves Nineveh in spite of the rebellious prophet’s attempts to thwart the mission. Though the book is relatively short, it nonetheless unfolds three profound and unforgettable truths about the character of God.

First, the story of Jonah emphasizes the fact that God is the sovereign Creator. Throughout the entire narrative, the reader is continually reminded that the Lord is controlling all of Jonah’s circumstances. It is God who sends the wind, incites the storm, calms the seas, prepares the fish, grows the plant, sends the worm, and then whips up the wind once again. The pagan sailors recognize the Lord’s power over creation and worship Him as a result. The pagan king of Nineveh likewise recognizes God’s sovereign hand. Surprisingly, the only person who resists God is Jonah—the prophet of Israel who acknowledged the Lord’s sovereignty with his lips (Jonah 1:9) yet rebelled against it with his life.

Second, the Jonah account reminds us that God is the supreme Judge. That, in fact, was the message the prophet was to deliver to the Assyrians. After forty days, their city would become the object of divine wrath. But God’s judgment never came upon the people of Nineveh. Instead, it came only in the form of chastisement against Jonah for his deliberate disobedience. Recognizing that their doom was imminent, the Ninevites repented, and God’s wrath against them was withheld.

Finally, Jonah’s story reiterates the fact that God is the Savior and that His loving kindness is not limited by our prejudicial preconceptions. The prophet Jonah considered the Assyrians beyond the reach of God’s mercy. After all, they were the brutal, idolatrous, Gentile enemies of Israel and Israel’s God! But the Lord showed Jonah that His saving grace extends to all who repent and believe in Him. In this way, the book of Jonah encapsulates the message of salvation. When sinners recognize the Lord as Sovereign Creator and Judge of the Universe, and cry out to Him for mercy, He graciously saves them from divine wrath, giving them eternal life instead.

Those three truths point to the heart of the gospel. Sinners are creatures who have broken God’s law. They await His wrath, yet He offers them forgiveness and salvation through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself used the prophet Jonah, and the three days he spent in the belly of the fish, as an illustration of His own death and resurrection. In Matthew 12:40, Jesus told the crowd who had gathered, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea montster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Three days after He was crucified, Christ rose triumphant from the grave, demonstrating once and for all that He is the Savior of the world. Those who repent from their sin and believe in Him, whether Jew or Gentile, will be saved (Romans 10:9–10).

Although we are not Old Testament prophets like Jonah was, we have been given a mission similar to his. As New Testament believers, our charge is to take the gospel to those who are lost, proclaiming to them the reality of coming judgment and the hope of salvation (cf. Matthew 28:18–20). When we resist this responsibility, whether out of fear, pride, or a preoccupation with trivial things, we fall into the same trap that Jonah did. But when we are faithful to obey the Lord in this way, we experience the wonderful blessing of being used by Him to further His kingdom. There is no greater joy than seeing sinners embrace the good news of salvation. As the apostle Paul told the Romans, quoting from Isaiah, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad news of good things!” (Romans 10:15).

– The End –

Grace to You. (2019). Retrieved from

The Heart Of Jonah's Anger

Jonah 4:4-11

And the LORD said, Do you do well to be angry?

Jonah 4:4

Jonah’s Indignation

Just one verse earlier (v3), Jonah asked the Lord to take his life as he said he would rather die. This was because he was extremely indignant that the Lord had relented of the disaster upon the Ninevites, for they had repented in response to the prophecy the Lord told him to give.

Jonah admitted that he already knew that God is a gracious God – merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and relenting from disaster (v2). This was what caused him to flee to Tarshish from the start. Now he was angry with the Lord for not punishing the Ninevites. In this very act of showing his displeasure, he was in fact challenging God’s right to deliver people from disaster.

But did Jonah have the right to be angry about the Lord’s work? The Lord asked Jonah in reply to his death wish, “Do you do well to be angry?” Jonah did not reply, but went out of the city and sat to the east of the city to see what would become of it (v5), in a hope that God may change His mind to destroy Nineveh.

A Second Object Lesson

But God begins another object lesson for Jonah. The Lord in His wisdom graciously provided a large plant over his head to shelter him and deliver him from the distress of the heat (4:6). If you think about it, this was in fact the second divine provision through which the Lord delivered Jonah from distress, after appointing the big fish in the storm (2:6).

Because of this plant and the relief that it provided, Jonah was “exceedingly glad”. When translated literally, Jonah actually rejoiced concerning the plant “a great rejoicing”. Note that the word “exceedingly” also appeared earlier when he was displeased with the Lord’s relenting (v1), and alludes to Jonah’s source of affections.

The Lord had a purpose in providing the plant. When dawn came down the next day, God appointed a worm to destroy the plant and it died. The Lord then sent a terribly hot wind and kept the scorching sun upon Jonah such that he was faint. Here Jonah repeated that it was better for him to die – similar words were used for his earlier death wish when God relented from causing Nineveh to perish.

This time, God asked if he had the right to be angry about the plant that perished because of the worm. He admitted to God that he was angry for the plant that perished – angry enough to die. Jonah showed here too that he was angry at God for causing him distress.

Here, the Lord confronted Jonah that if he felt this way for a single plant, then what more indignation and compassion would the Lord have especially upon the lost sinners in the city of Nineveh, that is of more value than a plant!

The book of Jonah was left to conclude in this manner. Perhaps Jonah’s silence meant that he understood the Lord’s appeal. In wrapping up the devotionals for this book, here are some things we can learn from God and from Jonah.

Key Lessons about God

1. God is the Creator and He has the power to control His Creation. He appointed the great fish to swallow Jonah and delivered him from the deadly storm. He also appointed the large plant to deliver Jonah from the extreme heat outside Nineveh.

2. As Creator, God has the right to give and take away. God gave the plant to Jonah to give him shelter and to teach him the truth. God also took away the plant and brought the scorching sun and wind upon Jonah, but He did it out of love to correct and restore Jonah’s attitude.

3. As Creator, God has the right to show compassion and mercy upon who He wants. God showed compassion and mercy not only to the Ninevites, but also to Jonah in his rebellion against Him. God is God – He could easily have punished Jonah for his disobedience for He had the right to do so. But the Creator of all things chose to patiently teach and correct Jonah, His child!

Key Lessons about Jonah

1. Jonah felt greatly for his personal comforts and was self-centered in his affections. When the plant delivered him from the distress of the heat, He rejoiced greatly. When things did not go his way (e.g. when God did not decimate the city of Nineveh), he became extremely angry.

2. Jonah’s mind knew who God is, but he did not obey God out of a willing heart. He knew in his mind that God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He knew God would relent from disaster. But knowing this, Jonah still fled to Tarshish from the start. Contrary to God’s character, Jonah was quick to feel angry against God and the Ninevites.

3. Jonah cared more for himself and the things that God provided than the spiritual condition of lost sinners. Jonah praised God in the belly of the big fish and rejoiced over the large plant for delivering him out of his own distress, but he did not care for the lost sinners in Nineveh. Ironically, Jonah himself did not realize that he was also being shown undeserved mercy from a holy God whom he is rebelling against, time and again.

After learning more about Jonah through the devotionals, do you think you are like him in some ways? If we examine ourselves carefully and humbly, we would realize we are really not too far from Jonah in our attitudes and actions.

Jonah did not want the Ninevites to be saved for he felt that they were really undeserving of salvation. But no man in God’s eyes is too wicked to be denied life through the gospel. God cares for lost sinners. It is with this very same heart that Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32) God’s will is for sinners to come to repentance.

When we harden our hearts against seemingly wicked unbelievers as Jonah did against the Ninevites and withhold the gospel from them, we risk going against the will of the Lord, which is evil in His eyes. We sin against God when we are angered by God’s grace upon those whom we view as terrible sinners. Were we not once like them? And are forgetting that we ourselves are still given grace by God to overcome sin in our own lives?

So, let us pray for one another to be more like God and Jesus in our care for the spiritual condition of people. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, may we grow as a church in godly affections that cares for and leads people to repentance and change . May we spur one another to turn away from sinful actions and attitudes, and turn to God and His Word in loving trust and obedience.

– The End –