Book 32 of the OT, having 4 chapters. This minor prophetic book was written about 760 BC by Jonah, and shows the extent of God’s grace. This book differs from all the other prophetic books in that it majors on the life of the prophet and only one verse states his message (Jnh 3:4). The book of Nahum gives further insight into the wickedness of Nineveh. Amos was also a prophet about this time. Time to read: 10 mins.
Key people: Jonah, boats captain and crew.
Outline. The prophet Jonah was given the task of going to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria (Israel’s most dreaded enemy), and calling the people to repent (Jnh 1:2). Jonah tried to run from God’s directive wanting the city judged rather than experience divine mercy, forgiveness and blessing if they turned from their sin (Jnh 4:2). God used various means, including a large fish or whale to ensure Jonah carried out his mission – even if it was reluctantly. This book shows the patience of God to His servant, who was slow to co-operate, as well as His unfailing compassion in reaching out to those who don’t know Him.
Main lesson. God didn’t want to judge even Israel’s enemy without them having had the opportunity to repent as He wants all people to come to salvation (Jnh 1:2, 3:2,10, 4:11; 1 Tim 2:4). Although no one deserves God’s mercy, His salvation is for all who will repent and believe. He requires that we share the gospel with others, even those we might not like. Do I need to repent of my reluctance to witness to those I consider beyond redemption or think should not be saved?
Key verses and thoughts: * Jonah ran away from the Lord and found a ship going in the opposite direction (Jnh 1:3). He tried to flee from his responsibility and the presence of God. Running away got him into trouble, which impacted onto others. We can’t escape God’s Spirit convicting our conscience. Do we face up to our responsibilities and challenges or try to escape from what God requires of us? We won’t have peace of mind until we are obedient. Circumstances, on their own, are not a valid means of divine guidance, as indicated here when there was a ship going in the opposite direction to his calling.
* “In my distress I called unto the Lord and He answered me” (Jnh 2:2-9). Help from any other source was gone. In absolute desperation Jonah gets earnest, acknowledging that God alone is his only possibility of rescue and states he would fulfill his promises – God responded giving Jonah another chance (Jnh 2:10-3:3). Do I try all sorts of possible solutions to the dilemmas I get myself into because of my rebellion and disobedience or do I readily admit my sin and genuinely repent?
* “You are concerned about a plant, I am concerned about the many people involved” (Jnh 4:10,11). Yes, this was a cruel nation and Jonah knew God would cancel His plans to destroy them if they repented. God confronted Jonah about his self-centred values and lack of compassion for the eternal destination of the 120,000 inhabitants who were in utter spiritual darkness. Am I moved by what touches God’s heart or am I just interested in my own little selfish world?
See also: disobedience, enemies, guidance (divine), Jonah, Nineveh, prophet, second chance.