The Old Testament book of Jonah is only 4 chapters long but it contains many truths and lessons about the nature of God and of man. The high-level overview of the book is as follows: God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh to deliver a message, Jonah refuses and flees via a boat to Tarshish. God sends a great storm while in route, Jonah is tossed overboard by the crewmen and is swallowed by a great fish where he remains inside for 3 days. Jonah has a change of heart and cries out to God in repentance, God responds and the fish vomits him out. Jonah goes to Nineveh, gives the message and the people repent thus resulting in being spared God’s judgment of destruction. Jonah leaves the city in anger and makes a place to sit and watch to see what God would do and all the while is very unhappy about God’s decision to not destroy the people of Nineveh. That in a nutshell is the book of Jonah at a surface level reading. However, there are many lessons to be learned and applications to be made which exist below the surface from Jonah.
In this brief devotional I am going to focus on two important life lessons that can be applied to our lives today.
Jonah 3:1 - Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”
Jonah 3:10-4:1 - When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.
Jonah 3:1- This verse serves as a great reminder that even when we run from God’s plan for our lives (as Jonah did in chapter 1) His plan still does NOT change. Moreover, not only does his plan not change, he also openly accepts us back in relationship when we repent from our running and our sin. Then when we approach him in humility, brokenness and thanksgiving he not only hears our prayers but responds with a restored relationship of fellowship with him.
Jonah 3:10-4:1 - These verses reveal much about the heart of man and how even believers can still take for granted the forgiveness of God and so quickly sin against him. Now yes, the Ninevite people were wicked, violent and an enemy of Israel. However, God had given Jonah a specific mission to go and warn them of God’s coming judgment of destruction. When the people responded to Jonah’s prophecy with repentance toward God they were spared God’s judgment of destruction. Rather than trust in God’s sovereignty and rejoice in his decision to grant mercy to the people of Nineveh, we see that Jonah responded in anger and was very displeased.
These scripture passages in Jonah offer two significant observations (one of God and one of man).
Observation number 1 (of God)= God remains faithful to his plan for us even when we are faithless and disobey. He stands waiting for our repentant heart to restore us relationally with himself and to restore us to the fulfillment of his plan for us.
Observation number 2 (of Man)= Our inherent sinful nature predisposes us to take God’s forgiveness and grace for granted and replace gratitude with selfishness. Jonah displayed this behavior even after experiencing God’s forgiveness and restoration from the great fish and after fulfilling God’s mission. Jonah still remained angry and his actions and attitude ultimately showed his questioning of God’s decision to bestow the very same forgiveness he himself received from God to the people of Nineveh. How quickly Jonah forgot his own need for forgiveness and how his own sin is so abhorrent to God.
The first application for us today is: We need to stop running from God and his will for our lives. He knows best for us and created everyone for a purpose. The sooner we surrender our lives to Christ and yield to HIS will, the sooner we can begin to experience genuine spiritual fulfillment in our lives and be used to our full potential for the kingdom of God.
The second application for us today is: God has granted us unmerited grace and forgiveness through our belief in Jesus Christ and we have done nothing to earn His salvation or forgiveness. Therefore, we have no POSITIONAL right to resent God for extending forgiveness to every other human being who puts their trust in Christ no matter what they have done. Moreover, we (Christians) also have no RELATIONAL right to deny forgiveness to each other when we are sinned against because we have been granted forgiveness and grace by God which covers ALL of OUR sins. To be consistent in our worldview and Christian walk, we are called to love even our enemies and forgive those who sin against us. Remember, our sin is just as vile in the eyes of God as the sin of those committed against us is in our eyes.
I encourage you to take a few minutes today and read the book of Jonah again or perhaps for the first time! Jonah serves as a great reminder of these and many other timeless truths.