I love the book of Jonah. Soon after I became a Christian a friend of mine was talking about Jonah being swallowed by a big fish. I laughed, because I thought he was making it up. It certainly sounded like a scene from Pinnochio to me. Well, it just so happens that Pinnochio got this idea from the book of Jonah.
God spoke to Jonah and asked him to go to Nineveh to tell them that He was going to destroy them. Jonah decided not to go and ran from God. Chapter 4 verse 2 Jonah reveals why he ran away.
Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.
Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he knew God might spare Nineveh because God is merciful and compassionate. Well, on the way to Tarshish by boat a great storm began to break apart the boat. The captain of the boat learned that Jonah was likely the cause of the storm and as a last resort they tossed Jonah into the sea. Immediately the storm stopped and all of the sailors were awe struck and offered sacrifices to God. This is when a huge fish then swallows Jonah. Jonah spends three days and three nights in the fish praying to God. Then the fish spits him out and Jonah heads on to Nineveh. (kids books seem to really like this part of the story)
Jonah heads to Nineveh and tells the people in Nineveh that God is going to destroy them. Everyone in Nineveh begins fasting and praying to God. So God spares Nineveh.
When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened. — Jonah 3:10
You would think that Jonah would be overjoyed by Nineveh turning to God and God sparing them. However, Jonah has the exact opposite reaction.
Jonah wanted God to destroy Nineveh. Nineveh was a wicked city full of gentiles. So the book of Jonah ends with Jonah sitting on a hill overlooking Nineveh being angry with God. So by the book of Jonah you can already see that Israel really is not understanding that God’s grace and mercy are not exclusive to the Jewish people.
What I like about this book is that the people listened to the prophet God sent to them and repented. It is good to see a very different outcome than when the prophets are speaking to Israel. And it shows God’s grace to all people, not just the Jewish people.
Another interesting thing is that Jonah had been inside of a fish for three days. I wonder what he may have looked like?
Well, I think stomach acids would bleach your skin and hair. So Jonah was probably freakishly white. And I mean freakish. So I think a large factor in Nineveh even listening to Jonah was that he looked so bizarre. How could they not listen to a freakishly white man with a message of forthcoming doom?
Maybe God chose Jonah specifically because He knew Jonah would run and get swallowed by a fish before he would share the message to Nineveh? If an obedient prophet had gone to Nineveh maybe the ending would have been very different, maybe Nineveh would have ignored the message from God.
Well now I am heading into the book of Micah.