A Whale of a StoryJonah didn’t want to go preach in Nineveh. So he tried to run from God. When God sent a storm that put in danger the ship Jonah was on, Jonah was tossed overboard and saved by a “great fish.” After the fish “deposited” Jonah on dry land, Jonah went to Nineveh and preached. Actually, he went and announced destruction. “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” The people of Nineveh repented, and God relented. He spared the city.
Jonah should have been thrilled. One of the most successful preachers of all time. But instead, he was furious. Mad at God. He said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”(Jonah 4:2)
And he was so angry that he asked God to kill him!
I see several important things in this story:
- We should expect God to be merciful and forgiving. God continually surprises with His grace, though those who know him well shouldn’t be surprised. It’s quite possible that in the final judgment God will once again prove Himself to be a God characterized by forgiveness and mercy.
- Even though we expect God to be merciful, our job is to preach the message that has been given to us. Jonah thought that it was quite possible that God would not destroy Nineveh, yet that’s not what he preached. He was given a message of destruction and preached what was given to him. (I think that’s why he was especially angry, because God had “made him look bad,” had allowed Jonah to announce something that didn’t happen)
- We need to learn to care for all people. There was an article on Time’s website which pointed out that Americans have a good idea of how many Americans have died in Iraq, but grossly underestimate how many Iraqi civilians have died. We tend to focus on “our boys” and forget that God respects no borders, no nationalities. Jonah couldn’t understand why God would love the Ninevites; let’s not be that shortsighted.
It’s a whale of a story!