Summary: There is certainly more to the story than can be gained by a casual reading. But one thing is for sure, Jonah was a man of contradictions.
THE MAN WHO DID NOT UNDERSTAND GRACE
© 5/2001 Mark Beaird
What would you think if I said that the prophet Jonah was hard-hearted, unloving and maybe even a racist? Would that offend you? It really should not, given the facts.
We have often overlooked the heart of Jonah and often portrayed him as a man of God who was reluctant to follow the call of God on his life, but later a man who changes his mind, is used of God and becomes the hero of the story. But if we really look into the scripture we will see a much different picture. Jonah was not the hero of the story—God was. Jonah was, in reality, the villain.
Given the facts about Jonah’s attitude we might wonder why God would even use him for such a mission. After all, there were other prophets that God could have sent to deliver the message. In fact, when Jonah ran from the mission it could have been that he was hoping that God would send someone else to preach to the people that he evidently disliked so much.
There is certainly more to the story than can be gained by a casual reading. But one thing is for sure, Jonah was a man of contradictions.
I. HE WAS A MAN FILLED WITH HATE—PREACHING GOD’S LOVE.
A. Why was he filled with so much hatred?
1. Was it because he despised the Ninevites?
“Jonah told God exactly why he was angry. He objected to God’s sparing Nineveh. Since nowhere else in Scripture do we have any trace of such hatred of the foreigner—despising him, yes, but not hating him—Jonah’s motive could only stem from what Nineveh had meant in Israel’s past and what he expected it to be in the future.” Expositor’s Bible Commentary
2. Was it because he saw himself as being above or better than these people?
It was F.B. Meyer, I believe, who once said that when we see a brother or sister in sin, there are two things we do not know: First, we do not know how hard he or she tried not to sin. And second, we do not know the power of the forces that assailed him or her. We also do not know what we would have done in the same circumstances. Stephen Brown, Christianity Today, April 5, 1993, p. 17. (A-Z Illustrations.com)
B. Why was he preaching?
Obviously Jonah feared God and realized that he could not escape the mission to Nineveh.
Note Jonah’s change of mind. “And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you." Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Jonah 2:10-3:3 NIV
II. HE WAS A MAN SEEKING JUDGMENT—PREACHING GOD’S MERCY.
A. Why did the repentance of the Ninevites bother him?
1. It was genuine.
2. It was extreme.
Jonah 3:3-10 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city--a visit required three days. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish." When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. NIV
B. Why was Jonah opposed to the mercy of God?
Jonah 4:1-2 reads, “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” NIV
Jonah was angry. The Ninevites had done nothing to deserve God’s mercy. God was only sparing them because He (God) was “gracious and compassionate.” Jonah’ character is clearly seen. But God’s character is also revealed. Even in the O.T. God reveals that He is a God of grace and mercy. God is the true hero of this story.