I’m gonna mix it up a little today and let some of my theological bias show. Hopefully it will provide for some lively discussion in our comments. Its hard for my colors not too show in a book like Jonah. In my opinion, Jonah is one of the best books and studies of the sovereignty of God in all of scripture. There are several other amazing scriptures and passages that really display this attribute of God, but with Jonah we basically get a whole book about it. Here is my disclaimer. There are amazing people who are incredible theologians, much better than myself, that sit on the opposite side of the aisle from me theologically, so I by no means think I have it all figured out, but I do have my convictions, as I think we all should. So here is a little look into my theological paradigm and a few lessons I think we can learn from Jonah.
Before the lessons, here’s a quick overview of Jonah. God gives Jonah a command, Jonah disobeys. Jonah runs from the Lord, the Lord pursues and a fish, not a whale, comes and swallows him. Jonah has a come to Jesus moment in the fish and the fish takes Jonah to where God wants him to go. Jonah preaches, people repent. Jonah thinks the Lord is too compassionate on this evil people, throws a temper tantrum. God provides shade, worm eats shade, Jonah is still mad, Jonah wants to die. God gets the last word.
Here are a few things we can take away from this story. First, even in the midst of Jonah’s disobedience, God had prepared a fish to swallow Jonah at the exact time he would jump off the boat. What a comforting thing for us, that even in the midst of our disobedience and sin, God is still pursuing us and providing a way for us to be saved.
Here’s an interesting thing about all of this. Some theologians say that the Ninevites were people that actually worshipped a fish god. So when Jonah came and preached that they should repent, the fact that he came from a fish gave him instant credibility and it was literally like a message from God that they believed. Your imagination could run wild with the implications of this, but I am gonna leave at that for brevity’s sake. We can talk about it in the comments.
Here is the irony of the book of Jonah. In the 4th chapter, Jonah actually gets mad at God for his compassion towards the Ninevites. This is hilarious, coming from a guy who has literally just willfully disobeyed God, ended up in a fish belly that took him to the place that God wanted him to go in the first place. I mean, seriously, how much more miraculous circumstances could you possibly want? This just goes to show that the human heart is wicked and disobedient and we need God’s grace. Jonah in fact gets so mad that he asks God to just kill him, right there on the spot.
Its easy for us to sit back and be the armchair QB, but don’t we do the exact same thing. We can appreciate God’s mercy towards us, but sometimes, we can tend to fall into the same moral trap. If someone else is “worse” than us, we have a hard time forgiving them or showing them mercy, because we are “better” than them, or not “as bad as them”.......even though we are not at all. I would challenge us not to fall into this trap of moral superiority that plagued Jonah and the elder brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son later in the New Testament.
Let’s rejoice with each other and ask for the heart of God for every person, because He loves them just as much as he loves us. God’s mercy and forgiveness is unending and sometimes that makes us a little uncomfortable. Let’s rejoice with everyone, no matter what’s happening with us.