Read Jonah (only 4 short chapters!)
We all remember the story of Jonah and the whale….probably from our childhood. But in my reading recently, I realized there are so many other lessons in this story. This story revolves around the time of Jonah’s dealings with the Lord, between 793 and 750 BC. Here is a list of God’s miracles.
God created a violent storm when Jonah chose not to fulfill God’s command (1:4)
God calmed the storm immediately when the crew threw Jonah overboard (1:15)
God used a large whale to swallow Jonah at the bottom of the sea instead of letting him drown (1:17)
God ordered the it to spit Jonah out when Jonah called on the Lord for mercy (2:10)
God arranged for a leafy plant to grow to shelter Jonah from the sun and heat (4:6)
God sent a large worm to eat the plant when Jonah thought he could control the situation (4:6)
These, in and of themselves are pretty amazing. But wait! There’s more…
At that time, Nineveh was the capital of Assyria (now parts of modern-day Iraq, Kuwait, Syria and Turkey). According to the National Geographic, the Assyrian Empire grew under a series of powerful rulers. The empire was a stronghold because of its powerful rulers and because they were the first in the area to develop iron warfare tools. *
At the time of God’s command to Jonah, the people had become “too big for their britches (my words) and God wanted Jonah to preach to the Ninevites so that they could be saved if they changed their ways.
One of the many take-aways is how God works to convert those we think are “un-convertible” (my words again!) It does us well to apply this concept today. So, the second time around, when Jonah actually does go to Nineveh, the King decries that possibly the Lord will take mercy upon him and his people if they “pray earnestly” to God. (3:8-9).
How amazing. Jonah is mad at God because of his dislike for the Assyrian people, and he believes the people are “too far gone” for saving, but remember that Jonah ran from the Lord and then cried to be saved. “For my salvation comes from the Lord alone!” (2:9b).
When we obey God and pray fervently for his help in our lives, he hears our prayers and miraculously keeps us “steady and on course!”
This story has meaning in Jesus’ day since he mentions Jonah in relation to his own death and resurrection in Matthew 12:38-42
“Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here. Matthew 12: 38-42
Prayer: Merciful God, your Bible is full of lessons on how to live righteously, even though sin runs rampant in our society today. Help us remember that we hold the power to learn from this reluctant prophet and follow you completely, regardless of what is happening in our world. “For my salvation comes from the Lord alone!” Amen.