God could have let him sink in the sea, drowned by his own determination to run from Him. After all, Jonah was supposed to be God’s prophet. Clearly, he had heard the call to go to Nineveh. But Jonah ran in the opposite direction, hopping aboard a boat he hoped would rescue him from his God-ordained expectation.
Jonah miscalculated one important truth: God’s power over all of creation. There is no place in heaven or earth that escapes God’s notice or presence. As the stormy seas surged and threatened to kill all aboard that ship, Jonah submitted. Volunteering to be thrown overboard to save the crew, Jonah explained his sin and the men reluctantly agreed to appease Jonah’s God. As the waves rolled over Jonah’s head, so did God’s compassion and forgiveness. Summoning a large fish to swallow Jonah, God’s prophet sat for three days in the fish’s stomach—plenty of time to repent and return to God. By the time the fish vomited Jonah on dry land, he was ready to preach to Nineveh.
The truth about God Jonah did understand was His amazing compassion for forgiveness, which was precisely why he didn’t want to preach in Nineveh in the first place. They were the last people on earth in his mind who needed another chance. Jonah would have been much happier had God just exercised His justice and wiped them off the face of the earth.
But God’s goodness shined again, this time through heathen Nineveh. After the king and the entire city listened and repented, God forgave and stayed His judgment. Jonah’s ensuing depression revealed the division between his heart and God’s. With the same patience and kindness extended to Nineveh, the Lord gently tutored Jonah in the higher calling to trust God and love others. If his experience in the ship didn’t sink in the truth, Jonah’s withered vine should have. God is in control, and His will to love others is better than our desire to judge them. When we align our hearts with His, we reap the blessing of joy and peace.
Jonah makes us question. What motivates our actions and alliances in the church today? Is any group or person outside God’s invitation to grace?