The prophet Jonah is perhaps the most familiar character in the Old Testament. But beyond the bit about being swallowed by a large fish, it’s largely misunderstood.
It is a story of Jonah, a wayward prophet, who in his disobedience is given a wakeup call inside a large fish. Eventually, he reluctantly does what he has been told to do – only to become angry at God’s mercy when the people believe and respond to his message.
The fact that God can accomplish things despite obstinate and uncooperative followers is a comforting conclusion to this engaging book.
Jonah is sometimes called a minor prophet. This doesn’t mean he wasn’t important, but merely that the book named after him is shorter. (Compare this to the major prophets, whose books are much longer.)
For the past several months, most of the A Bible A Day posts have been about the minor prophets. Recall that they are called “minor” not because their prophecy is insignificant, but because their books are short!
He commands the fish to deposit Jonah on dry land [Jonah 2:10]
He makes a vine grow to give shade to Jonah [Jonah 4:6]
He causes a worm to chew the vine and kill it [Jonah 4:7]
Furthermore, God’s sovereignty allows him to show mercy towards the people of Nineveh and not destroy them as he had originally planned.
However, God does not exercise control over Jonah, allowing him to do what he wants, when he chooses,and how pleases. Jonah has free will — and God does not interfere with that even though Jonah’s choices cause him a lot of grief.
God gives Jonah the freedom to mess up — or to do what is right. That’s how God rolls.
Then does what God commands, albeit with a bad attitude
He proclaims, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”
Eight concise and direct words. He doesn’t use persuasive language, doesn’t implore the people to act, and doesn’t show any compassion or concern. He is blunt and to the point. Technically, he does what God tells him to do, but his heart isn’t in it.
Amazingly, the people get his message, are convicted, and repent. So God lovingly relents and calls the whole thing off — and Jonah gets pissed.
Jonah even picks a good seat to watch the destruction take place — and then pouts when God gives Nineveh a reprieve.
Essentially, Jonah reluctantly preaches a bad sermon and then gets mad because it’s successful.
Despite all that, God is able to use him anyway. How encouraging!