Jonah, that prophet that tried to run away from God, continues to bring us lessons on obedience, running away from God's commands, a hatred that stops one from sharing the Gospel, and many more. His life and ministry, recorded in but four chapters, brings so many lessons to Christians old and new.
For this article, we will take a quick look at some things that Jonah's life and ministry teaches us today, in a world where man-centered Christianity has grown, and many are looking for the real deal about Christ.
1) That while our love for others fail, God's compassion knows no ends
God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach repentance to the Ninevites. Jonah didn't want to go there because the Ninevites were wicked people (see Jonah 1:2), and Jonah knew that when he came there to preach to the people, they'd repent and be spared from God's impending wrath (see Jonah 4:2).
Nahum 3:1-4 gives us an idea of just how wicked the people of Nineveh were:
"Woe to the bloody city! It is all full of lies and robbery. Its victim never departs. The noise of a whip and the noise of rattling wheels, of galloping horses, of clattering chariots! Horsemen charge with bright sword and glittering spear. There is a multitude of slain, a great number of bodies, countless corpses - They stumble over the corpses - because of the multitude of harlotries of the seductive harlot, the mistress of sorceries, who sells nations through her harlotries, and families through her sorceries."
Knowing that the people of Nineveh were wicked, Jonah naturally wouldn't want to go there to preach. Perhaps, even us today, we'd be hesitant to go to somewhere chaotic and full of wickedness to preach the Gospel.
God, however, had compassion on the people of Nineveh:
"And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?" (John 4:11)
God's compassion easily surpasses our love for others.
2) That there's no point in striving to achieve something that isn't God's will
Jonah, after receiving God's command, quickly ran away to a place far away from Nineveh: Tarshish. He tried to run away from the presence of God, and enjoy himself.
On the way, however, God caused tragic things to happen. He sent a mighty storm while Jonah's ship was at sea, and the storm endangered the lives of everybody. It only stopped when Jonah was thrown overboard (see Jonah 1:15). He was then swallowed by a huge fish - his transport to Nineveh.
Based on what happened to Jonah's life, we can simply conclude that there's no point in trying to run away from God, from running away from His purposes, and in trying to achieve our own will and not His. If anything, it will just have negative effects on us and the people around us!
3) That obedience to God will always bring God-sized results
Finally, after he was spit out by the fish, Jonah found himself in dry land. God's command to him remained the same; he was still to preach repentance to Nineveh (see Jonah 2:10-3:4).
Jonah's preaching was quite short, and he probably wasn't enthusiastic when he preached it: "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" (see Jonah 3:4) Such a preaching could sound pretty condemning and scary, and it is: it's a message of judgment.
The result, however, was nothing short of amazing. The people of Nineveh, from the king to the poorest, repented and held a fast. The fast was so great that even animals fasted and cried out to God!
"Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, 'Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?'" (see Jonah 3:6-9)
Jonah's obedience to God, albeit reluctant, brought about great results, results that only God could bring.
Jonah remains today a powerful lesson on compassion, on purpose, and obedience. We need to learn from him and his mistakes.