This week’s blog was written by the most favorite author (based upon our web logs), Rev. James Carroll Sanford — a/k/a Pastor Jake.
1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” 3But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD
Jonah 1:1-2 [NASU]
The Book of Jonah is a very interesting account of a time in the life of Jonah the prophet. In the opening lines of the book we read that God is giving His prophet a commission to go to a very wicked and evil people with a warning to repent or they would be utterly destroyed. But Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. He knew the people of Nineveh were very wicked and had need of repentance. Why did Jonah not want to go to Nineveh? Was it because he feared for his life? Most likely not; surely he knew that if God commanded him to go that his Lord would go with him, protecting him and giving him strength and boldness to preach to the people of Nineveh.
As Jonah turned his back on Nineveh he began to run from the “presence” of the Lord. In his flight we notice that his life was in a downward spiral. First the scriptures tell us that he went down to Tarshish and then he went down into the ship; and later even to the lowest part of the ship. Further we learn that God caused a great storm to come upon the ship, resulting in Jonah being tossed overboard; and then he was swallowed up by a fish prepared to do so by the Lord. Thus he went down into the fish and down into the bottom of the sea; there, fearing for his life he began to repent. When his repentance was complete and God accepted his repentance, He caused the fish to expel Jonah onto the beach.
1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 ‘Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.’ 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk. 4Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, ‘Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown’
Jonah 3:1-4 [NASU]
Jonah hit the ground running toward Nineveh to do what the Lord had commanded him a second time. Why did Jonah suddenly decide to go to Nineveh? Was it because he had compassion on the people of Nineveh? NO!! He feared for his own life.
Now the people of Nineveh knew Jonah was a prophet of the Lord’s and they heard his message and began to repent.
1 But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD and said, ‘Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.’ 4The LORD said, ‘Do you have good reason to be angry?’
Jonah 4:1-4 [NASU]
Jonah, having completed his mission, still angry, went outside of the city and there he built a shelter to protect himself from the heat; now he would wait to see what happened to the city (whether or not they would fail to repent and be destroyed). God caused a plant to grow over Jonah to help shade him from the heat;
6 And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. 7 But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. 8 When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, ‘Death is better to me than life’
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” 10 Then the LORD said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 11 “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”
Jonah 4:6-11 [NASU]
In verse 10 above we find the answer to why Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. Jonah did not have love or compassion for the people of Nineveh!! He had compassion on the plant which provided comfort for him. He lamented over an insignificant plant with no eternal soul, yet he lacked love for the people of Nineveh!! Jonah had forgotten that at some point in his own life he was as lost as the people he wanted to see destroyed. Except for God’s love and mercy toward him his own soul would surely have perished.
There are many lessons taught in the little Book of Jonah, but the greatest of all seems to be that we should have the love and compassion of our Savior toward all people. We should never look at anyone and say, “They are so wicked… they deserved to go to hell.” We should pray for them and, above all, tell them about the love of our merciful God and the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 1 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)
Ephesians 2:1-5 [NASU]
James C Sanford