Jonah 1:17 – 2:10 (Part 3)

17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
    and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
    into the very heart of the seas,
    and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
    swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
    from your sight;
yet I will look again
    toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
    the deep surrounded me;
    seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
    the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
    brought my life up from the pit.

“When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
    to your holy temple.

“Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”

10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
(Jonah 1:17-2:10 NIV)

We have looked at this passage from the text itself, and as one of the sailors.  Today, let’s use our Biblically informed imaginations to drop into Jonah’s story, not as Jonah, but as ourselves.  When I say “Biblically informed imagination”, I am saying we must stay true to the text of the Scripture passage while envisioning what it might have been like to go through this experience.

Today, let’s see this passage as if we were in Jonah’s place.

God had told you to go to Nineveh, but you hated the Ninevites.  They were barbarians, evil and cruel to the core.  You would rather see them go up in flames like Sodom and Gomorrah rather than see them repent.

You buy a ticket headed in the opposite direction, as far away from Nineveh as you can imagine.  You love God but have given up your calling as a prophet.  Nobody ever warned you that it would be this hard, and that God would expect you to go to the capital city of your most hated and feared enemy.

Mentally exhausted, you go below deck and find some large bags of grain.  You quickly arrange them into a semi-flat surface, curl up, and promptly fall asleep.

The next thing you know, the ship captain is yelling at you to wake up and pray to your god.  The ship is tossing violently, and you hear the wind howling.  The wooden ship creaks and groans with every wave.  The crew yells to one other above deck.

As the fog lifts from your sleepy mind, your thoughts quickly form:

This is all my fault.
My disobedience to the Lord has brought God’s judgment on me and this ship and crew.
I am not going back to Nineveh.
I am a dead man.

The crew has cast lots, and the lot points to you.  When they ask what you have done, you tell them everything:  You are running away from God, and the only solution is to throw you overboard.  The crew is afraid of the storm, and even more terrified of God, the God of the Hebrews.  They know His reputation and power extends beyond Israel to the whole world.

As the crew reluctantly picks you up and tosses you over the side of the ship, you suddenly realize how your emotions have carried you away to a very bad decision.  As soon as you hit the water, your natural instincts of survival kick in.

You sink below the surface of the raging sea, then resurface briefly for just a second, gasping for air.  The wind has stopped, but the waves are still crashing around an over you.  With all your clothes on, you begin to sink below the surface again.

You think to yourself – “This is it – I am going to die here.  This is my watery grave.”

Out of desperation, you cry out:  “Lord, save me!  I have no right to ask, but I beg of You, rescue me!  I only desire to serve You once again in Your temple, in Your house!”

You surface one more time, just for a moment.  Coughing up sea water and gasping for air, you see the boat a little ways off.  As you quickly turn around, you see the open mouth of a giant sea creature of some kind, and it’s right behind you.

Terrified, you duck below the surface of the water, hoping to miss it.  But it’s too late – you are swallowed up inside the fish’s mouth, along with other fish, seaweed, and everything else in its path.

In a heartbeat, all goes dark as the fish closes its mouth.  Your ribs feel like they will break as the fish pushes all the water out its gills and swallows you and the remaining contents in its mouth.

You cry out to God again, knowing that He is fully justified to let you stay right here and perish.  You beg God for mercy, the same mercy that you know he would show to the Ninevites if they turned from their wicked ways and acknowledged Him.  Strangely, you sense His presence in this living Sheol, deep in the belly of this sea beast.

The utter darkness, the burning of the beast’s stomach acid on your skin, the limited air, the smell and the heat are all overwhelming.  You wonder how long you will survive.  You count the time with each heartbeat, with each breath.  The seconds tick by into minutes, the minutes trickle by into days.  You drift in and out of consciousness.

You wonder, “am I alive, or am I dead?  Is this the belly of the beast, or is this Sheol, the place of the dead?”

Then suddenly, the great beast lurches to a stop.  Everything in the belly of the beast, including you, are ejected out on the shore.  You squint to adjust to the sunlight – you have been in total darkness for three days.

Your only thought is to worship God for His rescue and redemption.

Wherever God chooses to use you again, even going to Nineveh, you will go, no questions asked.

Over and over, you praise the name and might hand of God Most High.
It’s not your one thought, it’s your only thought.

 

May we be like Jonah with our praise today.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jonah 1:17 – 2:10 (Part 2)

17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
    and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
    into the very heart of the seas,
    and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
    swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
    from your sight;
yet I will look again
    toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
    the deep surrounded me;
    seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
    the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
    brought my life up from the pit.

“When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
    to your holy temple.

“Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”

10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
(Jonah 1:17 – 2:10 NIV)

The last time, we looked at this passage from the text itself, seeing what we can learn along the way.  Today, let’s use our Biblically informed imaginations to drop into Jonah’s story, not as Jonah, but as ourselves.  When I say “Biblically informed imagination”, I am saying we must stay true to the text of the Scripture passage while envisioning what it might have been like to go through this experience.

First of all, imagine being a sailor on the deck of the ship, completely drenched, the wind howling, the ship being tossed back and forth in the waves, holding on to whatever is nearby for fear of being swept off the boat.  Jonah has just admitted his sin of running away from his god, and this storm is his god’s doing.

Jonah, in his stubbornness, will not repent and make peace with his god; instead, he tells you to just throw him overboard to halt the storm.  Jonah won’t take action on his own to save the ship and crew; he puts the burden on your shoulders to take his life by throwing him overboard.

You have already prayed to your god, and there has been no answer.  You know the stories of old about the God of the Hebrews – how He wiped out the entire Egyptian army and how He empowered a little kid to kill a Philistine giant then made that kid a king, and so many more tales of Jonah’s God intervening in history.

You and your fellow mates are in a terrible dilemma – if you don’t do what Jonah says, you will die in the sea as the storm destroys your boat; if you do what Jonah says, the Hebrew God will take your life for essentially killing Jonah by throwing him overboard.  Either way, you’re a dead man.  You cry out to this God of the Hebrews in desperation, asking Him to spare your life and not hold you accountable for Jonah’s death.

As you and your shipmates grab Jonah and throw him over the rail, and he splashes into the raging sea.  As soon as Jonah hits the water, the wind subsides and the waves quickly dissipate.  The sun begins to peek through the clouds, and you see Jonah bobbing in the water a little ways from the ship.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a great fish of epic proportions surfaces for just a second and lunges to where Jonah had been.  With a flip of its mighty tail, the sea creature is gone, and so is Jonah.

This is overwhelming!  You and your shipmates immediately fall to your knees and worship the God of the Hebrews.  Jonah’s God has spared your life and Jonah’s life has been taken in place of yours.  You make promises to Jonah’s God to worship Him and Him alone for the rest of your days.

May we remember that the same God who spared the lives of the shipmates is the same God who is engaged in our lives.  He loves us too much to let us run away when He calls us to Himself, and will pursue us to the ends of the earth to wins us back.

May we, like the sailors, fall on our knees and worship Him today for all He has done, is doing, and will do.

 

The next time, we’ll look at this passage and experience the story in Jonah’s place.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jonah 1:17-2:10 (Part 1)

17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
    and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
    into the very heart of the seas,
    and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
    swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
    from your sight;
yet I will look again
    toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
    the deep surrounded me;
    seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
    the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
    brought my life up from the pit.

“When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
    to your holy temple.

“Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”

10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
(Jonah 1:17-2:10 NIV)

As a quick recap:

God calls Jonah – Jonah runs away.
God brings the storm to get Jonah’s attention – Jonah is still unrepentant.
Jonah tells the crew to throw him overboard to calm the storm – the crew follows God;  Jonah does not.

As we begin today’s text, I began with the last verse of Chapter 1, as it is the first verse of Chapter 2 in the Hebrew text and it fits together well as a logical block of thought.  As we read today’s text, we see 1:17 and 2:10 as bookends of the story, with 2:1 – 2:9 being Jonah’s prayer, the contents of the story.

Today, we’ll take a look at the text of the story; the next time, we’ll experience the story with Jonah.

In verse 2, we see Jonah crying out for help from the “realm of the dead”.  The Hebrew word Jonah uses is “Sheol”, the place of the dead.  And what happens?  God hears Jonah and answers.  Truly God is the God of the living and the dead!

In verse 3, Jonah acknowledges God’s judgment for his disobedience as he sinks beneath the waves.  In verse 4, Jonah knows he has been expelled from God’s sight, but yet he still turns to the Lord for rescue, because he knows the power and goodness of God.

In verses 5 – 7, Jonah describes his descent into his watery grave.  Just when Jonah felt like death’s door had slammed shut behind him, he realizes God’s rescue and redemption.  Once again, Jonah prays to the Lord for help, as he knows the goodness and love of God.

In verses 8 – 9, Jonah confesses both his idolatry (in the form of self-reliance as he runs from God) as well as the idolatry of the sailors (as they prayed to their gods to no avail back in chapter 1).  Both Jonah and the sailors turned to the One True God, the God of Israel, who heard their pleas and rescued both Jonah and the sailors.

Jonah vows to sacrifice to the Lord when he gets out of the fish’s belly; for now, Jonah will offer a sacrifice of praise with his voice.  Just as the sailors experienced a miracle above the sea, Jonah experienced a miracle below the sea.  God has clearly been their rescuer, and in thanksgiving, both Jonah and the sailors make vows to the Lord.

Three days and three nights later, God commands the fish to swim to shore and expel its indigestible stomach contents onto the shore.  The fish is relieved of its sour stomach, and Jonah is restored to life once again.  Both feel much better.

There are two schools of thought for those who believe that the story of Jonah is real.

One school of thought says that Jonah was alive in the belly of the fish for three days.  This is entirely plausible, as in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, there were documented cases of men falling overboard and being swallowed by great sea creatures (whales and sharks).  The fishing boats pursued and captured these great sea creatures after a couple of days, and found their shipmates unconscious but still alive in the belly of these creatures.  They were hospitalized and later restored to full health.

Another school of thought is that Jonah died in the belly of the fish.  All the talk in Jonah’s prayer is real – he did go to Sheol, the place of the dead and the experience was real.  And that means that God raised Jonah from the dead.

I don’t have a particular position on these two schools of thought – either is plausible.  The only question I have – which one brings God the most glory?

In today’s text, we see the meta-narrative of God’s story, the “big picture” of what God has done, is doing, and will do:  Creation, the fall (sin), redemption, and restoration.

May we have confidence that what God has done in the larger story, He is actively doing in our life and the lives of those around us, even when we run away from what God is calling us to be and to do.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jonah 1:11-16

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.
(Jonah 1:11-16 NIV)

In our previous sessions, we saw the Lord call Jonah to go preach to the Assyrian capital city of Nineveh.  Jonah deliberately disobeyed God and headed in the opposite direction, hoping that God would not spare Nineveh, but would destroy them as He did Sodom and Gomorrah.  However, running away was not in God’s plans for Jonah.  God tracked down Jonah by bringing a huge storm on the boat Jonah was in.  Jonah was found out and admitted to the captain and crew that he was running away from the Lord. As we saw, the captain and the crew were incredulous (“what have you done, Jonah?!?”) and terrified of what Jonah’s God would do to him and to them.

As we pick up today’s text, Jonah and the crew are still in the midst of the raging storm.  Faced with the fact that this storm is supernatural, brought on by Jonah’s God, and because of Jonah’s sin, the captain and crew ask Jonah what they should do to appease Jonah’s God and save their lives.  They certainly know the God of the Hebrews, but were not familiar with the details of His ways.  The last thing they want to do is to make matters worse and seal their own fate and death.

Jonah’s answer was shockingly selfish.  Rather than repent and seek God’s mercy for his disobedience, Jonah would rather die than obey God and go preach to the Ninevites.  And Jonah would not jump off the boat voluntarily to save the ship and the crew.  Instead, Jonah tells the crew that they must throw him overboard.  Jonah was avoiding the responsibility for his sins and was attempting to put the responsibility of his life on the sailors, not on himself.  Jonah needed to die to himself but was unwilling to do so.

For the sailors, this put them in an even worse predicament.  In their minds, Jonah’s God was already taking out His wrath on them because of Jonah’s simple disobedience.  How much more would Jonah’s God punish them for killing Jonah by throwing him overboard?  Remember that the rule of the day for that culture was “a life for a life”.  If they essentially killed Jonah by throwing him overboard, then they would all be killed for doing so.

In their attempt to appease Jonah’s God and avoid taking Jonah’s life, the sailors tried to row to land so they could drop Jonah off, or at least get close enough where Jonah could swim to shore.  When they were exhausted and finally gave up their human attempts to resolve the situation, the sailors knew they must do what Jonah said.

Before throwing Jonah overboard, however, they pleaded with God to not hold them accountable for what they were about to do, for taking Jonah’s life.  At this point, the sailors were more righteous in God’s sight for their attitudes and actions than Jonah was.

So with fear and trepidation, the sailors threw Jonah overboard.  And rather than God destroying their ship and taking their lives in retribution for their actions, God showed His mercy on the sailors and immediately calmed the sea.  The sailors were shocked and feared God even more for sparing their lives and calming the waves.  Their fears turned into worship and adoration and solemn vows (presumably to serve this Hebrew God, Jonah’s God, for all their remaining days).

What is our response when we sin and it affects others?  Do we repent and ask forgiveness, or do we suffer the consequences and force others to suffer with us?

The Apostle Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. (Romans 6:23 NIV).

As we’ll see, Jonah had to die to self in order to live.

And so must we.

May we die to self, to our sinful desires of self-preservation, fear, hatred, unforgiveness, and every other sin, and experience new life in Christ.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jonah 1:4-10

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)
(Jonah 1:4-10 NIV)

In our last time together, we met Jonah and heard the Lord’s calling on his life – to go to Nineveh and preach repentance.  Jonah knew what to do, but deliberately disobeyed the Lord and went his own way, boarding a ship and heading west.  Jonah wanted God to punish the Assyrians for their evil, barbaric ways.  But the Lord did not give up on Jonah, as we’ll see today.

Verse 4 begins with the Lord stirring up a storm on the sea.  This was no ordinary storm – this was the Lord getting Jonah’s attention (and everyone else’s for that matter).  This storm was so intense that it threatened to break the ship apart.

If you close your eyes for a moment, can you feel the waves crashing against the boat, see the crew hanging on for dear life, and hear the wooden boat creaking and groaning under the pressure of the load and the storm?

The crew was scared – they went from swashbuckling deck hands to little children, praying to their respective gods to save them.  They started throwing their cargo overboard in order to save the ship and themselves.

Meanwhile, Jonah is in the belly of the ship, sleeping away his troubles.  The captain woke Jonah up and told him to pray to his god.  The ship was in serious trouble, and everyone, including the passengers, was enlisted to help.

The sailors, meanwhile, decided that this must be someone’s fault.  If the gods were mad at them, there had to be a reason.  So they cast lots, and the lot fell to Jonah.

The practice of casting lots was not gambling, but asking divine help in matters that could not be determined by human reason or observation.  Even Solomon recognized God’s sovereignty in making decisions when no clear answer was evident:

The lot is cast into the lap,
    but its every decision is from the Lord.
(Proverbs 16:33 NIV)

When the sailors saw that Jonah was the guilty party, they told him to tell the truth about what was going on in his life – what would cause such a storm and the wrath of God.

Jonah told them everything, including the fact that he was running away from God, the God of the Hebrews, who was feared everywhere.  The captain and crew were terrified, and asked Jonah, “What have you done?

At this point, the captain and crew likely thought they were as good as dead, and their blood, their death, was on Jonah’s head.  This was all Jonah’s fault, not their own.

Do you know anyone whose sin and rebellion has caused others pain and trouble?

Maybe a family member?

Maybe a co-worker?

Maybe you?

Sometimes God creates a storm, not to punish, but to get our attention.  C.S. Lewis said:

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

God loves us too much to allow us to go down a path of disobedience.  He knows what is best for us, and will track us to the ends of the earth to bring us back to Himself.

No cost is too great.

No sacrifice is too much.

His love is undeniable.

May we experience the fullness of His love today.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jonah 1:1-3

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
(Jonah 1:1-3 NIV)

As we begin the book of Jonah, we see the Lord speaking to Jonah, telling him to go preach against the capital of Assyria, the city of Nineveh.

As we noted in the introduction to this book, Nineveh was on the Tigris River in northern Iraq, directly across the river from the current city of Mosul.

As we also noted in the introduction, Nineveh was an extremely wicked city.  The Assyrians were known for their brutality and their barbaric ways.  They would often sneak up and surround a town like a swarm of locusts, then force family members to watch as they maimed some family members by cutting off hands or feet or gouged out eyes.  They would force the men to watch as they raped the mothers and daughters, then forced the women and children to watch as they killed the men.

Jonah knew the brutality of the Assyrians; he also knew the kindness and love of God for all people.  When God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah deliberately disobeyed God and went in exactly the opposite direction.

Jonah Map

Per the map above, Nineveh was north and east of Jonah’s hometown of Gath Hepher, while Tarshish was pretty much due west.  Nineveh was a two to three week journey on foot, while the trip to Tarshish via boat would likely take several months.

So what would trigger such a negative reaction in Jonah that he would willingly disobey the Lord?  What would cause a man who lived his life on land to jump on a ship headed for the southern tip of Spain?

Obviously, there was some deep hatred toward the Assyrians.  Jonah knew that the Lord would spare Nineveh if they repented.  If Jonah didn’t go and preach against their evil, then God would destroy them much He did Sodom and Gomorrah.   And that would be just fine with Jonah.

If we put on our informed imagination and stand beside Jonah for a moment, what would be our response to God’s call to us?  Did we hear about losing extended family members to the Assyrian’s brutality?  Or had we possibly been a first-person witness to the barbaric ways of the Assyrians, maybe as a young child, helplessly forced to watch indescribable acts against our immediate family members?  Or would we, like Jonah, as a loyal and patriotic subject of our country, wrap our faith in God tightly around our national flag?

The text does not give us the reasons for Jonah’s mindset.  Whatever the case for his hatred of the Assyrians, Jonah decided to take his chances and run away from God and let God judge the Assyrians rather than be a part of their redemption.

What is our attitude toward other people, cities, and nations?  Do we believe that God wants to redeem all people to Himself?  Are we willing to be a part of that redemption if God calls us to do so?

More to the point, are we willing to forgive people of other nationalities, cities, and nations if they have caused us or those close to us great harm or pain?

If God forgives us for all our sins, should we not also forgive others?

Lord, it’s easy to say these words, and so much harder to do.  Overwhelm us with Your love and forgiveness – replace our hearts of stone with Your heart of caring and love so we can forgive ourselves and others as You have forgiven us.

Blessings,
~kevin

Introduction to Jonah

Today we begin our walk through the Old Testament book of Jonah.

Jonah was a person, not a thing or a place.  Jonah was a Jewish prophet in the Northern tribe of Israel, during the reign of King Jeroboam II, before the prophet Amos.  We know this because Jonah was mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25.

This book of Jonah was written about Jonah and by Jonah.  Even though the narrative is in the third person, historians and Bible scholars still attribute its authorship to Jonah.  Other Old Testament writers often employed this same third-person writing style.

The book of Jonah is a historical narrative – a true story.  Some secular historians view this book as an allegory,  a fictional story used to illustrate a principle or purpose.  Their argument is that no one could survive in the belly of a fish for three days.  How are we to resolve this debate?  Jesus made it crystal clear – He took the story of Jonah as literal fact (Matthew 12:38-41).

If you grew up attending church as a kid, you no doubt heard Jonah’s story many times.  Most children’s stories about Jonah focus on Jonah’s disobedience, and God’s call on Jonah’s life no matter what.  Jonah reluctantly agreed to obey God, but did so with a bad attitude.   God changed the city of Ninevah, then taught Jonah a lesson about Jonah’s bad attitude via a plant/tree.

What most children’s accounts of Jonah’s story leave out (for good reason) is the incredible evil found in the city of Ninevah, where God had told Jonah to preach.   After all, what parent wants their child traumatized with stories of people having their hands and feet amputated, their eyes gouged out, being skinned alive, or impaled?    We can hardly consider such brutality as adults.

Yet the people of Ninevah were all that and so much more.  The ruins of Ninevah are on the eastern bank of the Tigris river, across the river from modern-day Mosul, Iraq.  The city was founded by Noah’s grandson Nimrod (see Genesis 10:6-12).

Jonah wanted no part of giving his life up, especially to the brutality of these brutal pagan monsters.  When God said “go to Ninevah”, Jonah promptly ran the other way.

Sometimes when we disobey God, God simply uses someone else to do His will (think of King Saul, whom God picked David to take his spot, or John Mark who went home before Paul and Barnabas finished their missionary journey).

But sometimes God uniquely gifts and prepares a person to do a specific task.  God then becomes the Great Hound of Heaven, tracking down that person and calling them to do His bidding.  Moses, Jonah, and Saul (who later was renamed to the Apostle Paul) are all examples of God calling people to service despite their unwillingness to obey, then doing great things for His glory with that person.

In the case of Jonah, God used Jonah to redeem and call to Himself a pagan Gentile nation.  This was God being true to His Word to call “all peoples” to Himself.  The nation of Israel was to be the shining light of God to the rest of the nations.  When Jonah obeyed, God did, in fact, call Ninevah to repentance.  This was a praise, and also a shame on the people of Israel, whom God had called to minister to the surrounding nations.

Unfortunately, even though Ninevah repented during Jonah’s ministry, it did not stay true to the Lord.  150 years later, Ninevah had gone back to its old ways.  The city was demolished in 612 BC.  A record of the second attempt to call the city of Ninevah to repentance prior to its fall is recorded in the book of Nahum.

May we remember God’s love for all people of all lands, even evil empires like Ninevah.

May we also remember to be faithful and obedient to God’s calling on our lives.

I look forward to our journey through Jonah’s story.

Blessings,
~kevin