Summary: No one is too bad for the love of God
No one is too bad for the Love of God
The word of the Lord came to Jonah. Jonah was a prophet who lived and prophesied in the reign of Jeraboam II - 2 Kings 14:25 .
Jesus himself vouches for the authenticity of the story. cf. Matt.12 39-40 and Luke 11.29 and 30.
Interestingly the name Jonah means a dove. It was a dove who in Noah’s time in Genesis 8,11 who showed Noah that the Grace of God had taken effect because the waters had receded. A sort of divine messenger.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah and told him to go to a place that was dangerous, like calling us to go to Beirut and call on the warring factions to repent.
He was given a terrible task to call the most powerful nation on earth at that time to repent. Ninevah is called by the prophet Nahum that bloody city (Nahum 3:1). Not just for the wars it started but for its cruelty to its captives . For example when Ashurnasirpal was king he regularly cut off the hands and feet and the noses and the ears of his captives and put out their eyes and raised mounds of human heads.
So what did Jonah do. Instead of going up to Ninevah he went down to Joppa to catch a ship to Tarshish in Spain, which is near modern day Gibralter. Tarshish was a prosperous city having a lot of mineral resources - silver (Jer.10.9.) and iron , tin and lead (Ez.27.12).
Joppa was a small seaport near to Jerusalem. It is known today as Jaffa. It was the same place where Peter was staying about 900 years later when the Lord called him to go to the house of Cornelius thereby bringing the Gentiles into the Church - Acts 10, 5-48. Peter had to overcome the same prejudices as Jonah had against the Gentiles also enjoying the Grace of God.
It is interesting to compare the fact that it is from Joppa that the story of Jonah starts - i.e. where Gentile Ninevah in Old Testament times receives the grace of God and it is from the same city in New Testament times that the story of the integration of the Gentiles into the the Grace of the New Covenant and acceptance in the Church begins.
Jonah, unlike Peter was disobedient in Joppa and took off in exactly the opposite direction - to the other end of the world.
In Jonah 1 v.4 we read that the Lord sent a storm to recall Jonah from his disobedience. And eventually Jonah tells the sailors to toss him into the sea and the sea ceased to rage. Actually the Grace of God came to these people too although we do not know how lasting their repentance was in Jonah 1:16.
And in Chapter 2 we see that Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of the whale. It took Jonah three days to turn back to being obedient to God and enable God to use him to realise Ninevah’s salvation.
Jesus in Matthew 12 39 and 40 alludes to the sign of Jonah
He answered, A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of a huge fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and nights in the heart of the earth The men of Ninevah will stand up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah and now one greater than Jonah is here.