When you ask most people about the story of Jonah, the first (and perhaps only) thing that comes to their mind is the whale or as the Bible says “Great Fish”. But there is so much more to the story. Jonah was a prophet called by God to preach repentance to the sinful town of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. Jonah refused to go, because he didn’t think the Ninevites were worthy of salvation, and instead went in the opposite direction to escape the mission God had chosen for him.
Jonah 1:3 … Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish.
After boarding the ship, a terrible storm hit. The men on the ship determined Jonah was the reason for the storm and threw him overboard.
Jonah 1:15-17 … So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows. Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
There, from deep within the belly of the fish, Jonah asked the Lord for forgiveness and God saved Jonah. Jonah 2:10 … the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
Jonah went to Nineveh and preached repentance to the people. They listened to his warning and turned to the Lord and were forgiven. Jonah was not happy that the Ninevites were given grace. Jonah 3:10-4:4 … When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. 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. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.” The Lord said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”
We are all like Jonah at times. We don’t always like what God is calling us to do and we sometimes choose to go another direction. God allows us to make our own choices, even those that will lead to suffering. He also allows us to repent and seek His will. God saves us from the belly of the fish and commands us to fish for men. Matthew 4:19 … “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
God calls us to preach the Gospel to the entire world, but we may feel some people are not worthy of His grace. We are right in feeling that way, because not only aren’t “those people” worthy, but we ourselves are also unworthy. Yet God wants all to be saved. 2 Peter 3:9 … The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
So if we are truly wanting to do God’s will we must share His message of salvation with everyone we can. God wants everyone to be lead to the cross! Then it is their choice if they wish to accept Jesus as Savior or reject Him.
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