The main character of the book of Jonah is not Jonah, but God. Jonah tries to escape God’s order to preach to Nineveh by heading the opposite direction. By means of the storm at sea and the fish that swallowed Jonah, God compels the reluctant prophet to carry out his mission.
Like and unlike
Like Jesus, Jonah was from Galilee (2 Kings 14:25). Also Jesus compared His time in the tomb with Jonah’s “three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster” (Matthew 12:40).
Jonah may have been like Jesus in some ways, but how different his attitude! God sent both Jonah and Jesus on a mission. Jesus went willingly and yearned to see people turn from their sins. Jonah was keenly disappointed when the Ninevites repented, because now he wouldn’t have the pleasure of seeing God punish them!
Jonah’s problem was not that he misunderstood God’s compassionate nature. He understood it very well: “. . . for I knew that You are a gracious God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness . . .” (Jonah 4:2). This proves that one can have orthodox theology while harboring a rotten attitude.
Learning from Jonah’s experience
We don’t know what happened to Jonah after this, but it is God who has the last word: “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 4:11).
Both Jonah and the Ninevites needed to repent. If we humble ourselves in penitent obedience, we too will enjoy the benefits of His grace–and we can begin to reflect toward others His great compassionate heart.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/
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