Summary: We don’t often dwell on the last chapter of Jonah - it’s a real downer. We last see Jonah still sulking over Nineveh’s salvation. What possible reason could God have for ending the book this way?
OPEN: How many of you have heard the story of Jonah? (every hand went up)
Now, how many of you believe Jonah was a righteous man? (most raised their hands)
How many of you believe he wasn’t a righteous man? (a small show of hands)
I personally believe Jonah was a righteous man. In fact, I believe he was unquestionably a better man than I am or ever hope to be. After all, God entrusted him with the responsibility of preaching to the town of Nineveh – 120,000 people – and because of his preaching they repented of their sins and God spared their city.
The book of Jonah is a great story.
Jonah, the prophet of God is told to go preach to the town of Nineveh and tell them to repent or God would destroy them…
But Jonah doesn’t want to go. We’re not told why he rebelled against God’s command (perhaps the Ninevites had been responsible for some tragedy in his life or family), but Jonah was so determined NOT to preach to the city of Nineveh that he decides to board a ship and travel to a city way on the other side of the civilized world – the city of Tarshish.
Tarshish was about as far as you could get away from Nineveh and still be on the map
Jonah not only rejects God’s command… he thinks he can run away from God. But, of course, God had other ideas.
Jonah 1:4 tells us that “the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.”
The storm is so ferocious that the sailors (who are accustomed to the harshness of the sea) were scared out of their wits. They began to make sacrifices to their gods, they threw cargo overboard to lighten their load. And then, they realized they had a prophet on board – Jonah. So they approached Jonah to ask him to pray to his God. Jonah, of course, realizes that this is all his fault and he tells the sailors "Pick me up and throw me into the sea and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Jonah 1:12
Jonah 1:17 tells us that “the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.”
Inside the belly of that whale, Jonah repented and prayed for forgiveness. At that, God caused the whale to have stomach problems… and the great fish spit him out onto the shore.
Jonah washed himself up, and proceeded to go to Nineveh and preach the message God had given him.
Wonder of wonders, the people repented. The King himself of the city took off his royal garments, put on sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Then he declared that everybody in the city was to fast and repent of their sin.
The people repented… AND GOD SPARED THE CITY. It’s a great story. Jonah must have been one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament. Jesus even compares His own death and burial and resurrection to Jonah’s time in the whale:
“…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. Matthew 12:40
What a great story… Jonah preaches a powerful sermon that causes an entire city to repent of their sins…but hardly anybody ever likes the end of the book of Jonah… which reads: