Jonah is a fascinating book, a masterpiece of literature, and a powerful illustration of God’s character. Let’s look at the characters and their responses to God.
Jonah—a “prophet of God” with definite ideas of his own about what is and isn’t appropriate for him—or God!—to do. (Ironically, he’s the only one in this story who would not cooperate!)
Pagans of two sorts—the ship’s crew and the inhabitants of Nineveh—who readily responded to God when confronted with His power.
Forces of nature (“props”) that did as they were told in order to fulfill the purposes of God—a huge fish, a leafy plant, a worm, and a hot east wind. God used these to both give and remove His protection of Jonah.
I do have to smile as I read about Jonah’s temper tantrum in chapter 4. Like an unhappy two-year-old lashing out, trying to beat up on his longsuffering dad.
But God can take it. His great heart shines through this whole story:
–Dealing patiently (though severely—who wants a ride in a fish’s belly?) with his rebellious servant.
–Sovereignly arranging the affairs of the world to accomplish His purposes.
–Loving and forgiving the wicked and the ignorant: “Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”
How do people respond to a prophet’s message? In quick succession I see widely varying responses to Jeremiah’s warnings:
Fear. People who heard the warnings realized this was serious and needed to be heard by the king. (36:16)
Deny. After King Jehoiakim heard each section read to him, he cut it off and burned it, showing no sign of repentance (nor his officials). (36:23-25)
Ignore. King Zedekiah would not listen to Jeremiah. (37:2)
Shoot the messenger. Jeremiah was flogged and imprisoned in a dungeon (37:15) and later thrown into a muddy cistern to die. (38:4-5)
Repent and obey. Sadly, I don’t see an example of this one in the book of Jeremiah. But how about the Ninevites to whom Jonah preached? Do the pagans put “God’s people” to shame?
When God’s word doesn’t agree with my plans or priorities, what do I do? Bend the rules? Make excuses? Ignore it? God, help us to humbly accept Your rebuke, repent, and experience the joy of seeing You work in our world!
Two women are the heroines of the story in Judges 4. Both had key roles in defeating Israel’s enemy, but in very different ways. One was an up-front public figure—Deborah. She was a prophet and also a judge who would hold court under a palm tree. When God gave her a message for Barak, sending him to gather an army and fight their oppressors, Barak insisted on Deborah going with him! So she was not only a prophet and a judge but a co-general of a victorious army!
But the final stroke was dealt by another woman, Jael, who never even left home! When the fleeing enemy general stumbled into her tent (a supposed ally), she tucked him in for a nap and then finished him off. Quite a daring deed as well!
God has a special purpose for all kinds of people—the outgoing public figures and the quiet homebodies. What if either of these women had declined to do their daring deeds when God prompted them and gave opportunity?
When I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10