Jonah is a book that everyone loves to teach to their kids. Except they glance over about half of it and leave out the most important parts. In fact when I think back to all the children’s stories about Jonah I can’t remember the point of the story (if there was any). Yet there is such a great point to Jonah that children would love and that we all need to hear!
I’m sure we’ve all heard Jonah’s story, so I won’t bore you with the details. Jonah’s hatred for Nineveh & its people makes him flee in the opposite direction. The ironic thing is, even when Jonah tries to run from his God-given calling, God still uses him to spread his kingdom. After throwing Jonah overboard, the sailors on the ship “feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows” (1:16). Jonah’s trying to flee from job, and God still makes him do his job! How futile it is for us to run from God & our God-given calling. What great power & grace God has to still work through us to spread His reign on earth! God works through us, even when we refuse to. God cares so much about His people that He will work even when we refuse to, yet He still calls us to be His messengers.
Then Jonah gets swallowed by a fish and stays there for three days and three nights. And he prays a prayer that is often brushed over, yet it is so beautiful. Jonah finds himself in the pit of despair, what he calls the “belly of Sheol” (2:2), yet God still hears him when Jonah cries out to Him. Through the prayer, Jonah uses imagery from his current situation to describe how his sin has crushed down upon him to take his life. Yet in those times God hears our prayer and saves us from the crushing depths of sin. Jonah’s prayer ends with the great exclamation that “salvation belongs to the LORD” (2:10).
So then Jonah goes to Nineveh and they repent and God has mercy upon them. And Jonah gets ticked off at God’s mercy! So ticked he wishes to die (4:3)! How often do we think about God’s mercy to all people and feel absolutely pissed off that God could have mercy on that adulterer, murderer, rapist or what have you and forgive their sins in the name of Christ and bring them to heaven. That’s a really hard pill to swallow, in fact it might even be impossible. But we have to ask are we any different? Have you looked at someone with lust in your heart? Have you thought a hateful word toward your neighbour? Then Jesus says that you are no better than that murderer or adulterer. You are a sinner and deserve hell just as much as those we house in our prisons.
God shows His care for the world in a gigantic object lesson using an actual tree (cause God can do that). He brings up this tree to give Jonah shade in the hot desert sun. And Jonah is happy and loves that tree.Yet the next day that tree withers and dies. And Jonah is once again pissed off and wants to die. So God asks, “Is it worth getting angry for this plant?” To which Jonah gives his emphatic “Yes!” (4:9) So God tells him that he’s cared so much for this plant, which he did not create, he didn’t labour to make it grow, and came and passed at night. So why shouldn’t God care for His creatures in Nineveh that He created and laboured to make them grow to a city of 120 000? Is the plant really worth more than them? God cares not only for them, but even for the cattle that live in the city, and desires that they too would be welcomed into His grace. God cares for you too, no matter how sinful, evil or worthless you think you might be, you are worth His own life. And He makes you holy and righteous. God cares for you and all people of the world, no matter how evil we think they are. God so loves the world. That’s the point of Jonah.