The story of Jonah is often remembered as a childhood Bible story and usually associated with a whale(although according to the text, it was “a great fish”)
However, it is much more than that. It's a prophetic book that spends more time on the prophet than the prophesy. The message lies in the life of Jonah and how he responded to God's message.
In Jonah 1:2 God declares his message to Jonah,
“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
Jonah immediately took action, but he did not follow the command of the Lord. He fled to Tarshish, which was exactly the opposite way from Nineveh.
3 things to consider when reading the book of Jonah:
PICTURE OF A RUNNER
Jonah's first reaction was to run from the presence of God. As the story unfolds, we see just how impossible that is. God is the main character of this story. Not Jonah, the great fish, or the people of Nineveh. This is the story of God's relentless pursuit after the prodigal prophet, Jonah. He is who is behind the scenes guiding the wind that made the stormy sea, the conviction in the hearts of the Assyrians, and the vine that grew to give Jonah shade.
PICTURE OF RELENTLESS GRACE
The people of Nineveh were known for being terrible sinners. Their land was stained red from all the shed blood of their enemies, they built pillars of human heads, and they killed them by ripping their skin off and leaving them in the sun to die. God wanted those people to experience His grace.
PICTURE OF RESURRECTION
Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”
He answered,“A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.
Jesus spent three days and three nights in the grave, and Jonah spend three days and three nights in the fish. The book of Jonah shows us the foreshadowing of Christ's resurrection.
The fact that Jesus mentions the story of Jonah should make us all the more eager to study it! If Jesus found it important, we should too!
Jonah was bitter against God's grace on the Assyrians. He may have thought “anyone but them, God!” He didn't feel that they were deserving of His grace. Jonah wasn't deserving of God's grace, and neither are we, but He extends it to us anyways. Do we have barriers between people like Jonah? Do we think “Oh, not those people, too far gone for God to save.”?
Jonah tried to escape God's calling by fleeing to Tarshish. Are we trying to escape from God's call in our own lives? We all have a Tarshish. We all find our own escapes: shopping, work, busy schedules, etc. Our Tarshish is only a temporary distraction from the Lord. The book of Jonah is a perfect example that we can never hide from God and His plans.
So let's stop running, and enjoy God’s grace, favor, goodness, peace, provision, protection, joy, and strength!