Living a Christian life shouldn’t be difficult but we tend to certainly make it harder than it should be. God has given us written direction to teach us how to lead Godly lives. He knew we would slip along the way so we were given his only son, Jesus Christ, whom not only walked the earth as man showing us how to live the biblical teachings but took to the cross and died for our every sin. After all of this we still find ourselves on a daily basis struggling to do what it is God desires of us. We often want our desires to be God’s and begin the internal struggle. Jonah provides an example of this struggle as he was told by God to go to Nineveh and tell them of their destruction in 40 days. Nineveh and its people had done many horrible things and many of those things were done to the Israelites, Jonahs own. This is why Jonah attempted to run from God but not because he feared Nineveh but because he hated them. Jonah tells God:
“And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.” Jonah 4:2 KJV
You see, Jonah knew that if the people of Nineveh repented that God would spare their destruction and Jonah desired to see this city destroyed for everything they had done. He was overwhelmed by his own desires and knew who God was. He knows God is a merciful God, a mercy Jonah isn’t capable of. The struggle deepens because Jonah realizes that this same mercy is why he was saved from the sea.
Extension…these 4 chapters are more than just a short story of a fish and man. They extend much further than often credited.
“For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.” Luke 11:30 KJV
Jonah was a sign for the Ninevites to repent and he doesn’t even know it. In recent history there was a fisherman that fell overboard into the sea and engulfed by a whale. In a couple of days the whale washed up to shore sick where the fisherman was discovered inside the whale and still alive. Although the fisherman survived his skin was roughly textured chalky white and remained this way permanently. I’m not aware of rather the whale survived or if the fishermen’s skin has any amount of healing but it’s safe to assume that the Ninevites heard that Jonah was washed to shore in a whales stomach and that he also showed signs such as this skin reaction. This is possibly why his appearance had much more of an impact on the Ninevites. Regardless, he was a sign to the Ninevites and they reacted to that sign.
“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26 KJV
Extending a little further we read that Jesus tells potential disciples that they must hate their father, mother, brothers, sisters, and themselves. We obviously know that Jesus doesn’t use the word hate as it didn’t exist but this is translated from “miseo” which is to detest or by extension, to love less. The context here is that we love God first. If we detest our family then we certainly aren’t concerned with their salvation but if we love Jesus then by extension we love all that he loves. It is by extension that putting God first we honor our father and mother as commanded in Exodus 20. It is a context we also see in the book of Jonah. Jonah tells God that he knew he would save the Ninevites if they repented and Jonah didn’t desire this. To follow or be led by God we must give up our own desires and seek God’s. Jonah had trouble fighting off his own desire so he went and sat alone under the heat of the sun and God brought forth a tree to provide shade and comfort for Jonah but later took the tree which also upset Jonah so God speaks:
“And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” Jonah 4:9-11 KJV
The wisdom provided here is powerful. We become so upset when we lose something personal such as our first car or something we inherited from a family member but then I’ll hear people say they pray for Jesus to come as times on earth are so bad. But God says if ignorance deprived man of his mercy there would be no man. Jesus prayed on the cross “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” By loving Jesus first it is by extension that we place God’s desire before our own because it is by extension of Jesus’ arms on the cross that we even qualify. Jesus says no one comes to the Father except through me…Jesus says that we must love ourselves less…If we can’t accept God’s mercy for others then we can’t accept God’s mercy for ourselves…If we can’t accept God’s will of salvation for all then we can’t accept God’s will of salvation for ourselves. We should be praying and asking God for more time for people to come to know Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. God says to Jonah: you have pity on the tree that you didn’t work for or make grow and question my love for and desire to save the people and cattle I created. That’s right, even the cattle. God states his claim to all of his creation. Simply put, God placed man over the beasts of the field and air for food and labor but you will still respect them as a Godly creation.
“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Matthew 12:40 KJV
The depth to which these 4 small chapters reach is amazing. They extend out across the Old and New Testaments and into modern times. They bring into context why Jesus spoke that we must love him first, that love not extended through Jesus Christ is a dead end with stipulations of race, gender, and other worldly perceptions. They show that even God’s chosen prophets struggled with worldly desires and yet still saw triumph. That even the God of the Old Testament is a loving and merciful God who desired repentance. They show that Gods word is unchanging. Jonah ran from God’s command and after being spared from the mouth of the whale God spoke the exact words as he commanded before. God proved his gentle mercy but there was no negotiating his command. They also show how no word goes wasted. Every word, sentence, chapter, and book within the word of God has reason and extends out across all times…from the beginning, into now, and to come.