Going back to the book of Jonah. Think God doesn’t have a sense of humor?? This short story can be comical. “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish.” God chooses Jonah for a missionary trip to Ninevah (think – Vegas baby!!). Jonah answers the Lord and says “I don’t think so!!” Instead of following Gods’ command to go to Ninevah..he goes the complete opposite direction towards a city called Tarshish. Running hard and fast away from God – sound familiar? “But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god.” All the pagans on the ship at least had the good sense to pray to the Gods they knew. But where was the prophet who was running from God? “But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”” Yup, running from God, on a sinking ship, Jonah the prophet was sound asleep!! So, being woken up by the captain and asked who he is, Jonah answers – “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Next, watch how the pagans on the ship do all the right things, while Jonah gives up and tells them to throw him overboard. “Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” So Now Jonah has simply given up, and the pagans on the ship are praying to the Hebrew God. Full conversion!! Finally in chapter 2, In the belly of the whale, Jonah decides NOW it’s time to pray – “Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish,”Jonah 2:1 ESV. After Jonah prays, the whale of course vomits him out onto dry land, and Jonah finally listens to God. “Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.”Jonah 3:4-5 ESV. Jonah sounds enthusiastic doesn’t he??!! “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.”Jonah 3:10 ESV.
SUCCESS!! The entire ship he was fleeing on, as well as the whole city of Ninevah (120,000 strong) repented as a result of Jonahs trip. If that is the measure of success, Jonah was the most successful prophet in the entire Old Testament!! Was it because Jonah was all about the Lords business and focused on the task at hand?? NO!! This is about the power of God working through even the least of us, about God turning all things for the good of those who know and love Him. Even when we don’t do it all perfectly, even when we blatantly go in the wrong direction, God can turn it around and bring something great out of it!! Almost seems like we could teach the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ out of this tiny little book….
Jonah 1:1-17 ESV