Summary: God demonstrates in His dealings with Jonah how great is His grace and patience toward us, and how His sovereignty is over all things.
JONAH CHAPTER ONE
Here’s an old joke!
Three athletes are about to be executed.
One is a short dark haired hockey player; one is a bald headed tennis player, and the third is a tall blond haired soccer player.
The guard brings the dark haired hockey player forward and the executioner asks if he has any last minute request. He replies ‘No’ so the executioner sets him up and then turns and shouts to the firing squad: “Ready! Aim…”
Suddenly the hockey player yells out: “Earthquake!” Everyone is startled and starts looking around, and in the confusion the hockey player runs away and escapes.
The guard brings the next victim along: the bald headed tennis player. The executioner asks if he has any last minute request. He answers in the negative, so the executioner gets him ready then barks his order to the firing squad: “Ready! Aim...”
Suddenly the tennis player yells loudly as he can: “Tornado!” Everyone is distracted and starts to look up at the sky, and the tennis player quickly makes his getaway.
By now the tall blond haired footballer has got it all worked out. The guard escorts him forward and executioner asks if he has any last minute request. He replies ‘No’ and the executioner turns sharply to the firing squad and shouts: “Ready! Aim...”
And the soccer player bawls out: “Fire!”
We’ve all been in situations from which we’ve wanted to escape. I wonder if you’ve ever shot yourself in the foot by your decisions?
In God’s prophet Jonah we see a man who tried to make a getaway because he wanted his own way and not God’s way. As a result he suffered for it, but at the same time God’s measureless grace was displayed as well.
God had given Jonah a task – to proclaim God’s message to the city of Nineveh, capital of the foreign Assyrian Empire. But Jonah didn’t want the job. God said ‘Go’. Jonah said ‘No’. He took off. Instead of heading for Nineveh some 500 miles east of Jerusalem, he went sailing west towards Tarshish in Spain some 2000 miles away.
The question is: why? Why disobey? We can see some answers in the words of God’s command: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preached against it because its wickedness has come up before me.”
(1) Jonah was afraid. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, a great enemy of Israel. It was great in size and status. It was also a wicked place - evil and opposed to the true God. It was Infamous for being brutal and merciless. ‘What will happen to me, a Jew, walking into that city declaring a provocative message?’
(2) Jonah was prejudiced. His thoughts probably went something like this: ‘These people belong to a foreign and godless nation; they have rejected the true God. They don’t deserve for God to have anything to do with them; why should they benefit? It’s the Jews who are God’s chosen people; the Assyrians have no place with Him.’
(3) Jonah was scandalized by grace. Jonah had enough knowledge of God, sufficient theological sense, to work out that God, by giving the Ninevites this warning, intended blessing for them! ‘God is so gracious that maybe He intends to spare the Assyrians. Yet, these people are Israel’s great enemy – surely it’s best they’re left spiritually dead and buried.’