The Story of Jonah
Quite a story! He was reluctant to go to Nineveh and not without good reason. These were, to say the least, not the nicest people in the world: they were “bad people”, they were total heathens! More than that, as a bible believing Jew Jonah would have read the prophecies of his predecessor the prophet Amos and he would have seen what God decreed and predicted through Amos about Nineveh. So he would have had a biblical basis for not wanting to go there. It was not just that he knew God would have compassion on them but that they might kill him. He knew that, on the face of it, they were destined for judgement as the prophet Nahum had predicted (and this happened at a later point when they turned back to their pagan ways). He had good reason not to go. Let’s look at Jonah as a type of Jesus.
All Hebrew prophets are a type of Jesus, a type of Messiah, every one of them foreshadows Him in some way, Jonah is no exception The first place we read about Jonah in the bible is in 2 Kings 14:25A.
He (Jeroboam) restored the boarder of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher.
Notice that Jonah was sent to his own people the Jews first. Only after this was he sent to the gentiles. In Matthew 15:24A we read the following: But Jesus said “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Jesus was first sent only to His own people, then only at a later point was He sent to the non-Jews. We are told that Jonah was from this particular area Gath-hepher. This is walking distance from Nazareth. The Sanhedrin overlooked this in John 7:52A when they stated, “you are not also from Galilee are you? Search and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee.” They were wrong, Jonah came from Galilee! He’s the only one except for Jesus who was also from there.
God sends a tempestuous storm whilst Jonah is asleep in the boat and the other people are frantic about this. In a similar way in Mark 4:37-38 a fierce gale arose and Jesus is asleep in the boat whilst the disciples are also frantic.
Jonah was willing by his own choice to lay down his life to bring salvation to others, including gentiles by advising the men on the ship to throw him overboard (Jonah 1:12
“For this reason the Father loves me because I lay down my life that I might take it up again, no one is taking it from me but that I lay it down of my own initiative.” John 10:17-18
The most well-known comparison of Jonah typifying Messiah is in his own death and resurrection. Contrary to what we were taught and led to believe at Primary school whilst re-enacting the story of Jonah in the form of a play. A careful reading of chapter 2, one can determine from the use of language that Jonah describes the nature of his death by drowning ( Jonah 2:5), the place of departed spirits Sheol (Jonah 2:2), “the earth with its bars closed upon me for ever.” This expression of physical death is also used elsewhere i.e. Job 38:17; Is. 38:10; Ps. 9:13; & 107:18.
“Yet have you brought up my life from the pit.” The word pit is synonymous with Sheol or Hades this is an expression of resurrection. This is also used of Christ in Psalm 16:10
Jonah Changes His Mind But Not His Heart
The Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time to arise and go to Nineveh to deliver the message of salvation. This time he agrees to make the journey and declare God’s message. To his dismay the Ninevites, from the common people to the king, respond and indicate their repentance by ceremonial fasting, sackcloth and ashes. Even the animals are forced to participate in this humbling behaviour.
My children remind me from time to time that daddy goes to work with the “naughty boys” every day. I worked in prison for almost seven years and took them to two open days so they could see what prison is like. Some would argue that those who are incarcerated are the lowest of low of our society. Others would say, lock them up and throw away the key. Without a shadow of a doubt there are those I work with which have caused individuals much harm. Do they deserve God’s grace and message of salvation/deliverance? Hebrews 13:3 Remember the prisoners as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves are in the body. Jonah’s heart is still unchanged and he reacts with anger and confusion. Why would God have mercy on people who had abused the nation of Israel? Perhaps hoping that the repentance is not genuine, or that God will choose another strategy.
Many more things could be said and taught from the book of Jonah but space does not permit me to do this. In conclusion I would like to make several observations: This book teaches that God is universal, He is the God of both Jews and Gentiles. God is willing to save both Jews and Gentiles. It also teaches the principle of delayed judgement. Eventually, Nineveh does suffer a judgement, and Nahum the prophet gives the details of Nineveh’s destruction. Of course, Nahum’s prophecy is the one Jonah would have preferred to prophesied, but that was God’s will for Nahum, not for Jonah. Sometimes God will delay judgement because of repentance. God will not cast away His servant because of faithlessness. Although Jonah was faithless, God still responded to him in mercy. It teaches the nature of ministry; the results may not be what one expects. One might expect good results and get good ones. But whether they are good or bad, God is responsible for the results. The minister’s responsibility is faithfulness. Finally, a believer should not react to the grace given to another believer without remembering the grace that was given to him. It must be remembered that God deals differently with different believers.