Jonah ran from God and God pursued him.
Stuck for three days in the darkness of the belly of the fish, Jonah has nothing else to do but sit in the stench and think. In his prayer to God, he acknowledges that God is merciful and his love is steadfast. He states that salvation belongs to the Lord. And God makes the fish vomit Jonah out onto dry land.
Jonah’s story is not a cautionary tale of a man who disobeyed God. Jonah’s story is not even about Jonah-it is about a great and merciful God who shows us abundant compassion when we disobey.
To Jonah, his stay in the fish’s belly was a consequence for his bad choices, albeit an act of God’s mercy. However, it was so much more than he could imagine. It was actually a foreshadowing of Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross.
There is an obvious parallel here with Jonah and Jesus. Just as Jesus was dead for three days and resurrected, Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and then was ejected from his fish belly grave.
There is another story in the New Testament where there is a boat in a great storm; where the sailors are terrified they are going to die; and where the one who can save them is asleep in the boat, just as Jonah was.
You can find it in Mark 4:35-41. The sailors are of course, the disciples, and the one asleep is Jesus. But in this story, Jesus calms the wind and the waves, whereas Jonah jumps ship. The disciples were familiar with the story of Jonah. Jesus sends them and us a clear message that he is the Savior-the Only one who can save them and he will never jump ship.
Jonah, sitting in the filthy stench of a fish’s belly, with his finite understanding had no idea how God was unfolding his story. He had no idea his story was foreshadowing the coming of the Savior of the world!
How often do we sit in our own stench, dwelling on our circumstances, asking God why he has us there? We forget that we have no idea how he is unfolding our story.
In our doubt, we discover that God’s knowledge is infinite and ours is limited.
God tells Jonah again to go to Nineveh and this time, Jonah obeys. But, his journey of doubt does not end here. After he warns the people of Nineveh about their sin, the people of Nineveh actually repent-they mourn over their sin and believe in God. Therefore, God shows them mercy and spares them from disaster.
This. Ticks. Jonah. off. In Jonah 4:1-3, we see that Jonah thinks God is withholding something from him by sparing his enemies.
Jonah is so over dramatic. It makes us laugh because we are so like Jonah. We think we see God doing mighty things for others and we question whether God is withholding something good from us- we easily forget that he just saved us via a giant fish.
God knows Jonah’s heart and he sends Jonah to do His work anyway. He does not give up on Jonah.
God does not give up on us in our doubt either. Our doubt does not disqualify us from mission or from worship. God could’ve let Jonah drown and found someone else to do the mission, but He didn’t because he cared about Jonah and about changing Jonah’s heart. He cares about you and your heart too.
In our doubt, we discover that God uses us in spite of our doubt.
Jonah goes outside of the city to pout in the heat of the day. God graciously grows a plant over him to give him shade. The next morning, God sends a worm to eat up the plant and again Jonah screams, “just kill me now! I’m better dead than sitting in this heat!.” (Jonah is a little extra.) Again, he doubts that God really cares about him.
Jonah doubted because he was fixated on himself and his circumstance and not on the character of God.
Jonah asked God, “Why did you spare these people? I don’t like it. Why did you kill my plant? I am so angry.” Notice how God does not answer his questions with a reason. Instead, he answers Jonah with Himself and His own character of mercy and compassion.
He says, “Jonah. I am a merciful God who loves lavishly. I just showed great mercy to my enemies-and to even their cows! Surely, I will show you my great mercy and lavish love. Jonah, even you are merciful toward a plant, how much more will I show you mercy! I am not withholding from you-I am including you in my great plan for the world. I love you.”
There Jonah ends-on the revelation that God is a compassionate God, slow to anger, and abounding in love.
In our doubt, we discover God often does not give us the answers, but he gives us himself.
And knowing him deeply, my friends, is the most precious gift we can receive.
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Part 4 Coming Soon!