Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. Jonah 1:1-2 KJV
The book of Jonah opens with God’s mercy.
Their wickedness has been seen and God’s response is to send His prophet to that place.
Jonah was an Israelite who lived in the days of the kings.
2 Kings 14:23,25 KJV —23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel began to reign in Samaria, and reigned forty and one years. 25 He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gathhepher.
God is both righteous and merciful, thus He sent a warning to these people by His prophet.
But His prophet didn’t want the people of Nineveh to hear God’s warning.
He wanted them to experience the judgement and have no opportunity to receive mercy.
Jonah 1:3 KJV — But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
The character of God is so full of mercy that He didn’t allow Jonah to remain in his sinful choice of “fleeing”.
(Scripture makes it clear there is no place we can go to “get away” from God. Psalm 139:7-10 KJV)
Instead, God sent a set of circumstances which Jonah could not ignore.
Jonah 1:4 KJV — But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.
The sailors are terrified and begin to call on their gods, then they realize there’s this passenger whose sleeping in the ship, not crying out to his God.
Jonah 1:6 KJV — So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.
These sailors sense this storm is nothing normal.
Jonah 1:7 KJV — And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.
Jonah knew God was in this and he tells the men to throw him over board, but the sailors don’t want Jonah’s blood on their hands.
So, they try to save themselves by their own efforts.
Jonah 1:13 KJV — Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.
God uses Jonah’s rebellion to bring a ship load of men to knowledge of Him.
Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee. So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.
Jonah 1:14-16 KJV
God’s mercy on Jonah’s disobedience is used to spread mercy on a group of foreigner sailors.
But Jonah also feels the consequences of his sin.
Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah 1:17 KJV
Most of chapter two of the book of Jonah is his prayer to the Lord.
Jonah 2:1-2KJV — Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, And said, “I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.”
There’s a debate as to whether Jonah was alive or actually suffered death during his time in the great fish, but either way the stunning part of this is the mercy of God.
And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
Jonah 2:10 KJV
God’s patience is apparent,in that He again speaks to Jonah.
And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
Jonah 3:1-4 KJV
The next part is incredible.
So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
Jonah 3:5-9 KJV
These people are pagan and don’t even worship God, but they humble themselves and are saved.
And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
Jonah 3:10 KJV
Truly, God is a merciful and compassionate God.
Psalm 86:15 KJV — But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.
As followers of Christ Jesus we need to understand the character of God and to reflect it in our own.
If God is both merciful and righteous, so we should be.
Proverbs 21:21 KJV — He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour.
Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You for Your Word. Thank You for the story of Jonah. Lord, thank You that we see both justice and mercy in this story. Thank You that You used Jonah’s disobedience to reach a bunch of sailors. Lord, I don’t want to suffer the consequences of disobedience. I don’t want to sin against You in any way. Lord, please guide me and teach my wayward heart how to be quick to love, steady I’m compassion, wise, discerning, and merciful. Lord, thank You that You can use even my mistakes to teach me about mercy. Lord, let me never take it for granted, but always remember the high price You paid. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.