A garland of grace and a crown of beauty. Proverbs 4:9
What would you say if someone asked you what the book of Jonah is about in the Bible?
As someone who has served in children’s ministry, we teach the big picture to get kids familiar with how powerful and wonderful God is which usually sounds like this: Jonah didn’t obey God’s instructions. God sends a gigantic fish to save Jonah for 3 days in the fish’s belly until the fish could spit him out on dry land.
Just knowing this is powerful in building our faith in God’s love for us. What a demonstration of how powerful God is and that there is no place on earth that God can’t rescue us from what we have gotten ourselves into. But how often do we go back to this story and really grasp the deeper part of what God was saying in the book of Jonah?
2 Peter 1:3-4 says, By His divine power, God has given us EVERYTHING we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by simply coming to know Him, the one who has called us to himself through His glory and excellence. Because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that ENABLE you to share His divine nature and ESCAPE the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
When Jonah was in the fish God sent to rescue him, he prayed to God on the 3rd day declaring “my salvation comes from the Lord alone” and THEN the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.
2 key things here that stood out to me,
- After running from God’s love for days, He surrendered in honor, recognizing god’s love and power and that is when he experienced the salvation and peace god prepared for him.
- As soon as Jonah spoke those humbling words, the fish obeyed God’s command. So not only did God send provision for Jonah with this gigantic fish already waiting to quickly save Jonah from his mistakes and suicidal attempt, but God also knew Jonah had the ability to choose salvation in his simple surrender to seek God again.
How long was the fish by the shore? I believe the fish immediately went to the shore because God commanded it to, but until God commanded it to spit him out, it couldn’t UNTIL Jonah surrendered to God’s love for him. Remember Jonah was running away from God, pushing Him away and ignoring Him for weeks.
In His kindness, God called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So trust that after suffering a little while by the world’s hands, God will RESTORE, SUPPORT, and STRENGTHEN you and He will place you on a firm foundation. 1 Peter 5:10
We see the depths of these verses come alive in Jonah!
Remember the Lord is not really being slow about His promise of returning as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake! God does not want anyone to be destroyed, but instead for everyone to simple respond to His call and repent. 2 Peter 3:9
We can apply the story of Jonah to today’s time. Jesus hasn’t taken up his believers yet because of His love for the multitudes of people on this earth. The time for repentance is now to escape how awful the 7 years of tribulation will be. Why not escape that hell on earth and go to Heaven with His body. The good news is that God’s mercy is so great that those who don’t turn to Him before the tribulation begins can STILL go to heaven and escape an eternity of hell in hell. WooHoo!!!
Let’s get back to the real meat of the story of Jonah. Does anyone remember why Jonah was running away from God in the 1st place? The Lord instructed Jonah to “get up and go” to the great city of Nineveh because “I have seen how wicked it’s people are.”
Interesting, right? Why would God define this city as great? and why did God pursue these people who were wicked in their nature? God pursues every single person, no matter if it’s one person alone or thousands in one place like the city of Nineveh because HE is the very definition of love. His love is underserving , unexpected, and poured out for everyone equally.
Jonah however did not have that same kind of love for people. Which is understandable because our love can’t compare to God’s, we have to surrender to God’s love in us to do such things. Jonah literally left his home and everything he knew to travel the OPPOSITE direction of where God was calling him to go because he didn’t want to help “the repulsive sinners of Nineveh”.
God sent that storm to help Jonah realize what he had done. Jonah was in such a comfortable, complacent state of living under God’s protection even when disobeying God, that he slept through the storm as the nonbelievers were terrified. When they finally woke him up, Jonah even responded with the truth, identifying himself as Hebrew. “I worship the Lord, God of Heaven, who made the sea and the land” and explained how he was running away from God.
Can any of us believers relate to Jonah here? Jonah’s actions weren’t reflecting His very own beliefs or words. He knew who he was, who God is, and that he even worships God. What a step on the toes reflection opportunity here, WORDS are powerful= yes, but our actions can be louder. Jonah REFUSED to repent so much that he said how he would rather be thrown over the ship in the storm to drown instead of just drawing back to the Father.
Jonah encountered things he was never supposed to and this same truth goes for our own lives today. How many of us have heard the phrases “God is in control”, “if it is God’s will then it will happen”, “whatever will be will be”, “I don’t question God or ask why things happen”.
GULP! This is a contaminated christianity, guys. If you don’t believe me, study the bible more. There is no one more powerful than God, but His love and power works in our choices and our relationship with Him. He isn’t afraid of or angry at your questions, He loves every opportunity to show you who He is.
God warns us to stand guard against the enemy’s lies and deception because he knows how crafty the devil is. The devil spends every second of every day altering the word of God in the slightest way until you have been led so far from what the word of God really says. God explained we have the authority to choose life or death and to boldly come to Him for wisdom and understanding.
The enemy’s goal is always to get us separated from God and keep us separated because he knows that God did everything needed to bring us in unity to Him through Jesus. God created us for a purpose to partner with Him to bring others to Him, but we need his grace to do that because our kind of love falls short.
The dilemma is many believers don’t know God’s heart, but God outlines it throughout His word. The sin of man was dealt with so that we COULD KNOW!!
What happened after Jonah prayed to God and he was spit out onto the beach? God gave Jonah another chance. Do you know that God never gives up on you, He never changes his mind about you, or takes back the gifts He placed inside of you? He created you for a truly wonderful, specific purpose and it’s not to suffer in defeat.
Jonah obeyed God that time. He went to that nation of sin and he spoke 8 anointed words….and by the power of the Holy Spirit conviction, repentance, and salvation flooded the hearts of this wicked nation. EVEN THE KING’S HEART was turned to God and declared that even the animals couldn’t eat or drink for a certain amount of time and ordered everyone 1) to pray to God, 2) turn from their sinful ways, 3) stop all violence.
Mic drop moment! This could never have happened without someone, and that someone chosen was Jonah! God’s heart for this nation to be saved was fulfilled and they were saved from their own destruction!! Wouldn’t you think Jonah would be ecstatic!…… do you know that he was the very opposite.
“Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord (insert his eye roll and anger tone). That is why I ran away from you, I KNEW that you are a merciful and compassionate God, that you are slow to anger, that you are filled with unfailing love, and the you are eager to redeem people.”Jonah 4:2
Jonah knew God’s nature better than most believers do! and yet…..He despised how good God is.
Have you experienced a time where you had to fight off hurt feelings from something someone said or did? You could fill your heart hardening against that person and anything related to it. I know I have. In fact, I have to crucify my flesh and ask God for his help all of the time to not let my heart or love become cold or hardened.
God asked, “Is it right for you to be angry about this, Jonah?” Jonah knew the answer but he threw a selfish tantrum, probably arms crossed stomping away “to sit by himself” at the edge of the city to watch God transform sinners and bless their nation.
I can’t help but laugh because here is this covenant believer, unwilling to go to this city of people, said 8 words without the heart behind it to see salvation come and YET SALVATION CAME anyway! As God was filling the city with His mercy and grace, He still pursued Jonah who willingly isolated himself again.
The Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there and soon it spread it’s leaves to cover Jonah’s head, providing shade from the heat of the sun. Jonah experienced the undeserving comfort and peace of His caretaker just like those who were seeking God in the city.
Perfect time for a loving object lesson, right. God thought so too. He sent a worm to the plant that caused it to die. That angered Jonah and God asked again
“is it right for you to be angry about this?…. You feel sorry for the plant dying and yet you didn’t even plant it….. But my great city of Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living and dying in sin and destruction. so shouldn’t I feel sorry for this nation?”
God wants our hearts open to see and love the way He does. His will is for us to partner with Him regardless of our many sins. Going back to the scriptures we started with in 2 Peter 1, verse 5 goes on to say, “In view of all this, MAKE EVERY EFFORT to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of:
- moral excellence with knowledge
- knowledge with self control
- self control with patient endurance
- patient endurance with godliness
- godliness with brotherly affection
- brotherly affection with love for everyone
The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in the Lord Jesus Christ.But those who fail to develop in this way are short-sided (can’t see far) or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their own sins.”
Wow! Does not this set of 3 New Testament scriptures describe the book of Jonah or what? Refuse to be the believer who says, ” God, hurry up and come already for me and my family. This nation, this world is awful and going to hell in a handbasket”.
That mentality and speech is a reflection of Jonah’s heart. You worship God, you know who you are in Him, but for what? That type of faith is contaminated with darkness. That mentality is rooted in self and that weed is straight from the devil himself. He only thinks of himself. He wants you to deny God’s call on your life and respond with “I’m good, I don’t need _____ (church) (others) etc”.
I believe God’s response would be, “when did my ministry become only about you?”
Let’s make room for God in our lives, Sara