Jonah 1:1-2 – Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me." (NKJV)
Everyone knows the story of Jonah — God provides a big fish that swallows Jonah. We all know the Bible story … or do we? I would suggest that the story teaches:
- God can put us on the right path even when we are disobedient;
- We cannot hide from God;
- We can communicate with God anywhere, even inside a fish;
- God is patient despite our childish, selfish behaviour;
- There is forgiveness and grace even for evil people; and
- We may be angry over circumstances which are part of God's plan that we do not understand.
Nineveh was the capital city of the ancient Assyrian empire. It was a centre for the worship of Ishtar, the goddess of love, beauty, desire, fertility, war, justice, and political power. Biblical scholars describe the Ninevites as unthinkably violent and immoral.
God asks Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell them to repent, but instead, he boards a ship and flees in the opposite direction. God sends a nasty storm. When Jonah realizes that he is the reason for the storm, he tells the sailors to throw him into the sea. After three days inside the big fish, he prays and tells God that he will go to Nineveh.
Surprisingly, the Ninevites repent, so God spares the city. I would expect Jonah to rejoice that he was successful in God's mission, but he is angry because he apparently wanted to see those evil Ninevites destroyed.
As a kind of object lesson, God grows a vine to provide Jonah with shade, then destroys the plant the next day. Jonah is angry about the plant's destruction. God reminds Jonah, "You have had pity on the plant … and should I not pity Nineveh?" (Jonah 4:10a,11a NKJV)
Will you consider these four questions?
A – What is your Nineveh? Remember that we cannot hide from God — we cannot run away — He will find us.
B – How is your prayer life? Do you believe that you have to be in a specific place at a specific time in a specific position to pray? Is this working for you, or is it an excuse: Not here — can't talk to Him right now. Jonah prays from inside the belly of the fish. God is accessible to us 24/7 worldwide.
C – What anger may you be holding on to — perhaps not understanding the why?
D – Lastly, forgiveness: Are we like Jonah, unprepared to forgive a Ninevite in our past? Isn't that inconsistent with what God shows us through this fish story?
Prayer: To each of us, You give a Nineveh task. Help us to discern Your instruction. During the times in our lives when we try to run and hide from You, draw us ever closer to Yourself. Help us to grant forgiveness to those from whom we may have withheld it. Quell our anger at circumstances that we do not understand. Amen.