The name ‘Jonah’ has come up quite a bit recently to both Brandon and I. We both recently read Jonah in our Bibles and discussed it briefly, we’ve both mentioned Jonah to people near and dear to us, Brandon has had it coming to mind on and off, and today while I was driving by a church their electronic sign out front said plainly, “JONAH” It did not change during the time that I drove by and on the way back from my destination it was back to rotating announcements.
I remember hearing the story of Jonah as a child, probably a favorite to tell young kids as it was about the man who disobeyed and was in the belly of a whale for three days until God caused the whale to “spit” him out. Of course most Bible stories are very edited when told to children and I can’t remember much else I was told of it.
Jonah was called by the Lord to go and warn the people in Ninevah that if they did not repeat of their evil ways their city would be destroyed (Jonah 1:1-2). Jonah did the opposite of what the Lord told him and went the opposite direction of that city and paid a fair to ride on a ship headed to Tarshish. Jonah was running away from the presence of the Lord. We do not know exactly why; maybe fear, doubt in himself… maybe he just didn’t want to. We don’t know.
While Jonah was on the ship to Tarshish a large storm arose. All the men were throwing cargo overboard in hopes to gain more control of the ship while Jonah was fast asleep below (Jonah 1:4-6). The men of the ship, terrified, cried out to their gods and cast lots to see who was to blame for what had come upon them. As it turned out it was Jonah. Once they knew this they inquired of him as to what he did to cause such an anger from his God and he told them how he ran away from what the Lord God had told him to do. He then told them to cast him into the sea, which they did, and God caused a whale to come and swallow him whole.
Jonah spent three days in that whale. I can’t fully begin to imagine how terrible and terrifying that must have been, wondering if you’re slowly being digested by this giant beast. Jonah finally had enough and cried out to God to save him and repented of his ways.
Jonah 2:6-10 KJV I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. (7) When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. (8) They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. (9) But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. (10) And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
Jonah finally goes to Ninevah and does the job he was told to do in the first place. He tells them to repent of their evil ways or the Lord will destroy them all. They repented.
Jonah 3:6-10 KJV For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. (7) And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: (8) But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. (9) Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? (10) And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
That’s about as far as I would assume most children are told of this story (that I can remember personally, at least). I never remember anyone ever sharing the end of Jonah’s story in the Bible, how Jonah was angry that the Lord didn’t destroy the city and went off to basically sulk.
Jonah 4:1-11 KJV But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. (2) 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. (3) Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live. (4) Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry? (5) So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.
I would say it’s safe to assume that, like most of us, Jonah was angry and bitter. He had been through so much already, especially having been in the belly of a whale for three whole days, and now the city wasn’t going to be destroyed like he thought it would. He wanted to see it destroyed. He didn’t want what he went through to be in vain. Someone had to pay. Of course if he had just done what he was told to begin with he wouldn’t have been on a ship on rough seas, he wouldn’t have had to deal with the crew, he would not have gotten swallowed by a whale and stuck there, alive, for three whole days. He was grateful to be saved from the storm and the whale but how dare God repent of his anger towards those who did evil! They must have been so much worse in Jonah’s eyes than what he himself had ever done.
Jonah 4:6-11 KJV (6) And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. (7) But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. (8) And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live. (9) 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.
Can you see the tantrum here? How many of us are throwing tantrums for our own lives and we didn’t even have to spend three days in a whale! Where’s the compassion, Jonah? We can become so easily concerned with what is going on in our own little worlds and what we feel is agonizing to deal with (talking mostly for myself here) we easily forget the people in God’s world. We are just dust and ashes. We are called to do what God calls us to do and it’s by His grace alone that He even tells us why. It’s so easy to become wrapped up in what God has planned for our own lives that we can ignore the fact that God still has plans for others too. We can easily overlook the fact that God loves each person we may personally struggle with as much as He loves us. We’re only being asked to do what God needs us to do for right now and He will never give us more than we can handle with His help.
I guess I should admit that I’ve been going around whining about how tired I am of things right now. I’m tired of the corruption in this world. I get tired of waiting for what the Lord has planned for us in our future and it’s difficult to see what He has planned in the now. I get tired of dealing with a lot of the things I deal with on a regular basis. I get to a point that I don’t know how to handle it and without God and the supportive people around me (who aren’t always available) I easily become overly weary, which can really cause problems. There’s a lot going on in so many directions and it’s enough to make your head spin sometimes. I wrote this post mostly for myself but if it happens to apply to anyone else all I have to say is:
We need to stop being Jonah.
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 4:10-11 KJV