Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple. ‘The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. – Jonah 2:1-6 ESV
The book of Jonah has so much to teach us about our God and his qualities. Many of the learnings can be missed in the book of Jonah for 2 reasons. First it is in the TOP 10 of the shortest books in the Bible, #9 on the horizontal chart of shortest books. The second reason I believe much is overlooked in Jonah because of the infamously BIG FISH and the similarity to Pinocchio-three days in the belly of a whale- although the Bible says GREAT FISH. Listening to Karen Heimbuch recite the book of Jonah whilst the London Symphony played music analogous to Disney’s Fantasia allowed me to hear the love of God and His long-suffering, His slow to anger, His compassion, His not wanting any to perish! The MSG 2 Peter 3:9 paraphrases Peters words: God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the end because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.
Leader, the prayer above is Jonah prayer on his deathbed, Jonah has been through hell. He was running from God- going in the opposite direction of the will of God and God loved him enough to shake the foundation of his security. He raised a great storm, to wreck Jonah’s self-serving plans because God wanted to use Jonah for God’s glory, for Jonah’s good and to save the Lost of NINEVEH, some 120,000 people. God has prepared great works for Jonah and for us (Ephesians 2:10)- God was not going to be deterred. God used Jonah and Jonah was part of the greatest revival in the history of the world and impacted over 120,000 and is talked about today thousands of years after his short life ended. And we have to ask ourselves; why was Jonah running from all this fame and glory that God had for him? So he prayed to the LORD, saying, “O LORD, is this not what I said while I was still in my own country? This is why I was so quick to flee toward Tarshish. I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in loving devotion—One who relents from sending disaster. (Jonah 4:2) Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, a ruthless and warlike people who were enemies of Israel. Nineveh’s destruction would have been seen as a victory for Israel. Most likely, Jonah probably wanted to see Nineveh’s downfall to satisfy his own sense of justice. Does this sound like anybody you know? Anybody you look at in the mirror?
Conduit, it is written, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Exodus 33:19) In the book of Acts Peter tells us that GOD IS NOT a respecter of persons. To be a respecter of persons is to practice discrimination, favoring certain people and not others. The foot of the cross is level; everyone is a sinner in need of a savior. Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells us the parable of the pharisee, and the tax collector and Jesus tells us that the one justified was the one who humbled himself and not thought himself worthy. Matthew 20:1-16 tells us the parable of the workers in the vineyard; The owner of a vineyard hires day laborers at various times throughout the day, all having the knowledge of being paid a certain sum of money for working. Some worked all day, some worked half the day, some worked just a short time- all received the same pay, and those that worked longer got very angry. They felt they DESERVED something more than they were promised, based on other’s efforts, or lack thereof, and Jesus responded: Do I not have the right to do as I please with what is mine? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (v15-16) The book of Jonah is about God’s love, and God’s character. God had mercy on Jonah, and on the sailors on the boat who in time of despair were willing to seek after Jonah’s God, instead of their own gods of fame, wealth, self, sex- building their own kingdom, instead of God’s kingdom. Again , does this sound like anybody you know? God had mercy on the evil occupants of Nineveh, when starting at the top, with the KING, they all repented: changed their mind, turned away and turned to God. If you read the whole short story of Jonah, it takes 9 minutes to read, you will see that in Jonah’s anger at God, Jonah cried out to God to die and God still comforted Him in his distress- even though he was playing the victim and being a drama king. Conduit, it is time to share God’s compassion with those you know. People are low, and they are scared- the fear of the pandemic, the fear of the unknown is destroying hope. The TIME IS NOW to tell your friends, your family, your co-workers of God’s love and long-suffering: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28)