Jonah 1:1–4, 7–12, 17; 2:1–4comment (0)
February 14, 2013
By Robert Olsen
Related Scripture: Jonah 1:1–4, 7–12, 17; 2:1–4
Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Ministries, University of Mobile
Pursuing Those Called to Tell
Jonah 1:1–4, 7–12, 17; 2:1–4
Which Way Are You Going? (1:1–3)
Despite its brevity, the book of Jonah gives us important insight into God’s character; God loves all people, not just the Israelites. The prophet Jonah actually appears in 2 Kings 14:25, where he communicates the word of God faithfully to the king of Israel’s Northern Kingdom. In the book of Jonah, however, Jonah does the opposite — he refuses to communicate God’s word. Why? In 2 Kings, Jonah is giving, as he sees it, a positive word from God — expanding the borders of Israel. Any Israelite would rejoice at such news. In this second case, Jonah does not like what God wants him to do — he is to go to the city of Nineveh and tell them to repent. Why would Jonah not like this message? Surely, repentance is a good thing. But for Jonah, he did not want the Ninevites to repent. This was the capital city of the Assyrians, no friend of Israel. So instead of doing what God wanted him to do, Jonah decided to go in the opposite direction.
It is easy to follow the Lord when He wants us to do things that we agree with. It is a different matter when God demands of us things that we think are too difficult or just do not want to do. Perhaps God tells us to minister to people that we feel do not deserve God’s grace — drug addicts, drunks, homeless, homosexuals — or people who have hurt us. Or perhaps God wants us to give up our possessions and move to another country — perhaps a Third World country — to spread the gospel. If God is Lord of our lives, what He asks us to do is not up for discussion. Just as a soldier obeys his commander without question, Christians ought to obey without grumbling or questioning the wisdom of God.
Another important lesson from this section is that the Israelites were supposed to be a light for the nations. However, many Israelites felt that God only loved Israel. This passage shows that God is concerned for all people and wants all people to come to repentance. There are many Christians today who believe that the gospel is really only for Americans. Other countries have their own religions, other countries are filled with people who have rejected the gospel, therefore, let God judge them. This attitude shows a true lack of concern for others. God has shown us grace by sending His Son to die for our sins. We do not deserve salvation because no one deserves salvation. Grace is a free gift — we do not earn it. We should be overwhelmed by this love and try to spread it to all people. Americans have been blessed greatly and we should use our resources to try and spread the gospel to all people or every race, both here in the U.S. and overseas.
What Will It Take? (1:4, 7–12)
God was not going to let Jonah escape his duty, so God caused a violent storm to rise up and threaten the ship and its sailors. Jonah’s disobedience led to the possible injury to others. Thankfully for the sailors, Jonah had them throw him into the water. Interestingly, these pagan sailors did not want to — they showed compassion to a man who was not willing to show compassion to others.
When we choose not to share the gospel with others, we are selfish. We have received God’s grace freely, and yet choose not to share it with others.
To Whom Will You Turn? (1:17–2:4)
Once Jonah was thrown overboard, God sent a large fish to swallow him up. It is at this point that Jonah finally repents of his disobedience. The will of God will not be thwarted and He will do whatever it takes to accomplish His purposes. In this instance He miraculously sent a large fish to capture Jonah. Thankfully God is patient with us. God could have chosen to let Jonah drown, but in His mercy He saved Jonah. We always need to remember God’s mercy shown toward us. If we ever doubt that God loves us, we need only reflect on the death of Christ on our behalf. This should give us all the strength and confidence we need to obey God.