The Big Picture
from the Jonah reading plan
Nahum 1:1-8, 15 | Nahum 2:13 | Nahum 3:5-7
What happens in Nineveh, stays in Nineveh. It wasn’t the Assyrian city’s slogan, but it probably could have been. The Assyrians were known as a fierce, brutal people who treated their enemies and prisoners with no mercy. God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh because of “their great evil.” We don’t get details in the book of Jonah, but Nahum, who prophesied about the eventual overthrow of Nineveh, calls it a “bloody city” and describes the empire’s “unceasing evil.”
So why Nineveh? Why bother to send Jonah, of all people, so far away to such a wicked place? Jonah seems to be asking the same questions when he decides to disobey God’s instructions. After all, it seems pretty pointless when there is plenty of wickedness and need for repentance happening right in Jonah’s backyard.
Beyond being a great Bible story for kids (not to mention the creators of VeggieTales) and a bizarre illustration of God’s great mercy, Jonah’s book does seem a bit out of place with the greater Israelite narrative. Sort of like a “filler episode” in the lineup of minor prophets. You almost expect Micah to open with “Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem…”
The truth is, we don’t know precisely why God included Jonah’s story in His plan. Some scholars find interesting timing in the fact that, soon after Nineveh repented, Israel fell to the Assyrians. Perhaps after their change of heart, the Assyrian people were less cruel to their captured prisoners, including the Israelites.
Even though we can’t always see the big picture of God’s plan, we can trust His ways. He has a purpose in everything, even runaway prophets, great fish, and wicked cities. And for each one of us.
Has God ever asked you to do something that didn’t make sense to you at the time? What happened?
Is there a situation in your life right now where you need to trust God with the big picture? Talk to Him about it.