Jonah: More than a Fish Story
by James Dumas
The long years of exile the Hebrews developed a strong sense of superiority and exclusiveness of the Jews over the Gentiles. Only they were in the circle of God’s mercy and care, but not all Jews felt that way. There were those who understand the greatness of God’s love. They were the instruments of God to witness and bring salvation to the world. God’s call was to be nation of priests representing God in a fallen world. Jonah one was not who could not accept God’s love outside of his circle. The big message is wrapped up in a refusal and rescue of Jonah, revival of a city and regret of Jonah, and a resentful and resistant prophet.
Refusal to go and rescue of Jonah: Jonah 1-2
Refusal and rebellion of Jonah: Jonah 1:1-3 Refusal to obey God’s instructions. Run in the opposite direction from the “face of God”. Rescue: Jonah 1:4 – 2:10 Storm: and a sinking ship: v4 It’s not just a storm on the sea, but a storm in the soul. Search for a cause: Religion suddenly becomes important. It’s a ship full of religion. Sleeping prophet v5b-8 Jonah had removed himself so far from hearing God’s voice even as the storm raged. Sacrifice: the cargo first then the admitted cause Jonah. Vv9-17 Salvation for Jonah was the stomach of a big fish. Sincere prayer: Jonah 2:1-10 Distress brought prayer. Death a reality. 2:7 Determined to serve God. 2:8-9 Delivered by God’s mercy and grace. 2:10
Revival and Rescue of Jonah 3: – 4:2
Restoration of Jonah to preach. His message was in his character judgement not deliverance. Revival Jonah 3:5-10 Fasting, faithful prayer to call on the Lord. Faint hope. Jonah 3:9-10 Regret of Jonah: Jonah 4:1-2 Hebrew word for angry is exceedingly displeased or burned up.
Resentful and resistant prophet Jonah 4:3-11
Request to take his life. Jonah considered himself to be a failure. He was depressed and failed to grasp God’s love and mercy for all people. Reproof: God’s questions: “Do you really have a reason to be mad? Is your anger justified? Resting Place: 4:5-6 A lean-to shelter with branches to shade. Response of God. plant, worm and scorching sun and wind. Object lesson: Anger with me over a worm killing a plant! Compassion for a plant but not thousands of people.
The account ends with a question: Should I not be concerned about a great city? Jonah sat in the sun watching for destruction. A contrast between God and Jonah. Jonah’s compassion was selective while God inclusive. God is gracious and patient. Seeking to save and redeem, but Jonah was selective and impatient. Everyone can respond to a divine call and instructions. Have you heard the call to repent? Have you heard the call to go and witness to God’s love? How have you responded? It’s your decision now. God has called. How will you respond.