Was It Really Worth the Trouble? (Jonah 3)

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Today’s chapter starts with Jonah on, what I’m sure is, a beach. He’s probably lying down on the hot sand with the sun shining down on him, thinking about the last few days’ events. Just a quick recap: he was told to go to Nineveh, ran away, got almost shipwrecked, got tossed from the ship, swallowed by a whale, spent three days inside the whale, then was spat out by the whale onto this beach. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty worn out from thinking about these things. I can’t imagine the way Jonah must feel. But God comes to him again, and commands him to go to Nineveh.

Jonah, having learned his lesson, gets up and travels to Nineveh. At this time, not only is Nineveh as sinful as I mentioned before, but it is also the capitol of the Assyrian Empire. This empire was the biggest in world, and was one of the biggest enemies of the Israelite nation! But Jonah went. On his first day in the city, he proclaimed to them “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned” (3:4 NIV). This was the moment; the moment that Jonah feared. He proclaimed the message of God to the Ninevites. At any moment the army should be coming to either arrest him, or kill him. But that didn’t happen. I’m sure their reaction astounded Jonah; he never would have thought they would have reacted the way they did. “The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least put on sackcloth.” (3:5 NIV). The king even reacted in this way (3:7-9). And because the people repented, God spared them from their punishment (3:10).

So what does that mean for us today? I see two big points in this chapter. The first is that God has a plan and knows what is best. Jonah did not trust in God that He had a good plan in place. When he was told the first time to go to Nineveh, he ran away because all he saw was trouble. He knew that going to a place that had long been against God, he would surely die. But what Jonah didn’t know is that, according to historical records, there was a recent eclipse and the Assyrians would have taken it to be a bad omen. So the people of Nineveh were receptive to a message of their destruction, because it was already on their minds! So God sent Jonah, in order to bring these people back to Him.

The second point that I see is that God want’s for us to repent of our sins and come back to Him. God planned to destroy the city of Nineveh, but He decided to offer them a choice. So He sent them the prophet Jonah to speak His message. When the Ninevites repented of their sins and turned towards God, He chose to spare them from destruction. God wants the same for you and me. We are sinful creatures, but God offers us salvation through the Cross of Jesus Christ. We simply have to repent and seek to follow Him. It’s not an easy path, but it is certainly a better one than the one that ends in punishment.

Jonah was given a task to do from God, and thought that it would take his life. While that is a possibility in the life of a prophet, the Ninevites were much more receptive to his message that he had thought. Has God given you something to do? Are you spending time saying “No” rather than doing as God has asked? If this is the case, take a lesson from Jonah. God’s task maybe easier than you think it is. I’m not here to say that it is always easy, but on the off chance that it is. Is it really worth it to add so many problems to your life?

From the Belly of the Whale (Jonah 2)

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In today’s chapter we find Jonah in the belly of a whale (or a giant fish if you prefer). It’s his third day there! I don’t know about you, but I certainly would not want to spend any time in a whale’s stomach, let alone three days. He’s reaches a point of desperation. I’m sure he doesn’t believe that he is going to get out of this fish anytime soon, or even alive. Yet, on this third day, he offers up a prayer to God. That prayer is what we find in chapter 2.

The verses that grabbed a hold of me were verses 8 and 9. To me they are a perfect foreshadow to the message that Jesus Christ will bring in a few centuries. They read like this:

“Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
But I, with a song of thanksgiving,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
Salvation come from the Lord.”
— Jonah 2:8-9, NIV

In his thinking in the whale, Jonah came to realize that he had made in own life into an idol for him. He prized it above anything God would ask of him. That’s why, when God asked him to go to Nineveh, Jonah fled the opposite direction. Jonah knew that if he did as he was told, he would likely lose his life. But Jonah came to realize that God offers grace and salvation. If he had simply trusted in God from the beginning, God might not have saved his life, but Jonah certainly would not have had to go through all this hardship of running away. But Jonah did learn his lesson from inside the whale and sent up this prayer. That’s why the chapter ends, “And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” (Jonah 2:10 NIV).

What does this mean for us today? Look at all the thing Jonah went through; he traveled a long way from home, got shipwrecked, tossed from his ship, and swallowed by a giant fish! While we may not get eaten by a whale, God has a simple message for us. Fleeing from God is a lot harder than if we just listen and follow His commands. That’s not to say that life will be easy even when we listen to God. Life is hard and God asks us to do hard things. But think about this, Jonah went through all that hardship just to have to go to Nineveh anyway. So he actually made things worse than he had anticipated.

So are you doing what God has called for you? Are you doing the things that are within His will? Spend some time reading the Bible and in prayer. This is the way that we can keep our lives focused on where they need to be. So carve out some time today and ask God if you are on the right path for your day. And if you aren’t, the great news is that God offers you salvation and grace through His son, Jesus Christ.