I have read the book of Jonah multiple times; we were all well acquainted with the story of ‘Jonah and the whale’ in Sunday School.
The book of Jonah for me was slightly confusing in sections and at times not always clear to me what God was saying through it. During a recent quiet time, I was unsure of what I wanted to read and so I thought, I would just open the Bible and see where the Lord leads me. I opened right on chapter 1 of the book of Jonah. Here we go I thought, I have read this book so many times, what could the Lord possibly have to say to me through a book I have read dozens of times.
My understanding of this book was that Jonah ran from his responsibilities to preach the Lord’s salvation to the city of Ninevah, because of how evil the people were there. It was a scary place! Why wouldn’t Jonah run away? He was a coward! If he rocked up there preaching, there was a good chance that he would be killed! Or, this is what I had incorrectly thought.
This time around the Lord revealed a simple truth that I missed those many times that I had read the book of Jonah. Jonah didn’t run away because he was scared! No, he ran away because he did not want to preach salvation to Ninevah! He hated them, he wanted justice! He wanted the Lord’s wrath and fury to rain down on that nation for all the evil they were known for.
How many of us have been there?
How many of us have just wanted nothing but the Lord’s justice to reign upon those who we perceive to be evil? Not caring for their salvation, only their eternal damnation! I wrote an article back in 2019 called ‘Praying for the depraved’ which honestly touches on the topic of us reaching out to those who have done evil.
This revelation came back to me at a crucial time, as sometimes we all need a reminder from the Lord to check our hearts. I was falling into the trap of becoming bitter and angry at the individuals who cause so much pain and suffering in the world, forgetting that these same individuals are loved and valued by Jesus, these same individuals he also died for, these same individuals whom the Lord had plans for, but who decided to take another path in life. If we allow anger and bitterness to consume us, we will never make peace with our enemies, we will never show the love of Christ to those who would ruin us, we would never stray down the path of forgiveness and would most likely war with our neighbours and family members until the day we die.
Justice is important, and people should answer for their crimes, but when we show mercy, love and kindness to those whom we think don’t deserve it, we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us to hopefully save another soul for the Kingdom of God.
A gracious and compassionate God
Jonah knew the heart of God, that He is compassionate and gracious! Jonah knew that God wanted to save the people of Ninevah, so he ran away. But I love the fact that God hassled Jonah. He hassled him because he loved the human beings of Ninevah. He wanted to save them from their sin, bring them into salvation. God sent a storm that would have shipwrecked the ship that Jonah was fleeing on. Jonah, not wanting the people of the ship he was on to suffer because of his unwillingness and self-righteousness, had them throw him over board. He was later rescued by being swallowed by a great fish and eventually was sent on his way to fulfil God’s plan for Ninevah.
God pursues those he loves by any means. He threatened to shipwreck a prophet to save the 120,000 plus souls of Ninevah!
Regardless of how evil mankind has been throughout the ages, God has loved each and every soul that has ever come into this world. His pursuit of us culminated in Jesus’s death on a cross for the payment of our uncountable sins. The story of Jonah is one of encouragement to me and has taught me a couple of good lessons.
Lesson one: I suffer from some of the same failings as an Old Testament prophet, awesome! We are both human!
Lesson two: this is an example of the Lord reaching out to a sinful nation (that wasn’t Israel) wanting them to change their ways and be in relationship with him. Who outside of my church should I be sharing the Gospel with?
Lesson three: You and I can recognise the error of Jonah’s heart and view other humans as potential brothers and sisters in Christ to be won over for the sake of Jesus, despite the crimes and evil they have committed. Time to visit a prison?
Jarred is an HPE and Mathematics teacher on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, he is married to Haley and has three beautiful children Chelsea, Nathan and Ryan.