Some stories in the Bible are so well-known that we can easily skim over them and imagine there is nothing new to learn. When we turn to the book of Jonah, it’s tempting to assume that we’ve heard it all before. Yet God’s Word is living and active. Even when we study a passage that we’ve read many times before, the Holy Spirit can reveal something fresh and new. As you read through this familiar book, may He stir something new inside you. Our hope is that you see this story from a different perspective and discover something fresh, not just about Jonah, but also about yourself and about God.
From the Jonah Reading Plan
Our study of Jonah has painted a fairly unflattering picture of the prophet. Cowardly. Selfish. Lazy. Judgmental. Whiny. At first glance, he seems an odd choice to foreshadow Jesus’ burial and resurrection. Yet God chose him. Chose him to carry the message to the city of Nineveh. Chose him to pre-figure the most significant miracle in human history.
After the remarkable repentance of the Ninevites, Jonah is angry that God actually is who He says He is, throwing God’s very words about Himself back in His face. Jonah has fallen victim to binary thinking about God and life in general. Either God is gracious and merciful OR He brings judgement to the wicked.
Finally. After a few detours, in Chapter 3 Jonah finally does what God tells him to and goes to Nineveh. Jonah’s message is short and sweet. He doesn’t tell them what they’ve done wrong. He doesn’t tell them about God. He doesn’t even tell them what they are supposed to do. He simply issues a warning that destruction is coming.
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.
We all know that person with a knack for making everything all about themselves. Maybe he always one-ups your stories or perhaps she manages to insert herself into every conversation. Worst of all is the constant complainer, that person who finds the negative in every situation and takes even minor inconveniences personally.
A blinding flash fills the sky, followed a crack of booming thunder that seems to shake the whole house. The wind howls like an other-worldly being, tossing about trash cans and patio furniture, as the rain lashes against the window in a relentless onslaught. Even in a snug house, a severe storm can be a frightening experience.
When you were a child, did you ever try to run away from home? You may have packed a bag and headed down the street, fully planning to never return. But eventually, you came back – perhaps even minutes later – and were reunited with your family.
Even if you didn’t grow up going to Sunday School, you’ve probably heard the story of Jonah and the Whale. A favorite of the flannelgraph set, Jonah’s heroic story of rebellion, consumption, rescue and ultimate completion of his task can be seen in literary archetypes from Pinocchio to Odysseus.