‘On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!”’ (Jonah 3:4 NLT)
Most people who attended Sunday school will no doubt know the story of Jonah. Whenever it was taught when I was in Sunday school the title of the lesson was always ‘Jonah and the Whale’; and that’s often the case when people speak about the story today.
The emphasis on the whale leads many to conclude that the story is but a parable or part of biblical mythology, since they doubt that anyone could have really been swallowed by a whale, and then be spewed out alive after three days.
Arguments over the legitimacy and reliability of the story seem to me only to cloud the issue and miss the real point.
Jonah had been given an important job to do by God; go and preach to the wicked people of Nineveh.
But he was scared.
Perhaps he thought the people might lynch him. Perhaps he thought the people might actually listen and turn to God, when he’d rather them be punished.
Either way he ran in the opposite direction to get as far away as he could.
The task given to Jonah reveals God’s love for all people no matter how wicked. It shows that his concern reached beyond Israel to the whole world.
Jonah was called by God to take a message to Nineveh, which he eventually did; and what a message, only eight words long, yet it had the desired result from God’s perspective: the people of Nineveh, from the greatest to the least believed and turned to God
All of us as Christians have been called to take a message this world, and ultimately it’s not a very long one either:
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16 NIV)
It also is a message of God’s love for this world that they are called to believe.
Will we follow God’s call and share the message, or will we run in the opposite direction out of fear?
Jonah’s running away was an act of disobedience to God and when we as a church are inactive in our evangelistic efforts we are also being disobedient to the call of God.
But, when we share our faith with others we may be surprised at what happens; some, maybe the greatest, maybe the least will turn to God, and then it will have been worthwhile.
So, rather than ‘Jonah and the Whale’ why not think of the story as ‘Jonah and the Grace of God’; now that’s a whale of a tale.
Father, Give me your heart of love and grace for this world so that I will be motivated to share the good news with others.
Have a good week sharing God’s grace.