A man being swallowed whole by a large fish?! And then prayed to God while in the belly of a humongous creature for three days?!
Sounds like a fairy tale story, isn’t it?
Well, not unless you read the story of prophet Jonah. Interestingly, the book of Jonah consists of only 4 chapters, 48 verses, and just over 1,300 words. You can read the entire story in just 15 minutes.
Beautifully balanced, deep and profound Jonah’s adventure opens a window into the heart of God. Let me share with you seven great lessons from the book of Jonah.
1. God is not happy when people do bad things
Nineveh, the city to which Jonah was sent by God, was the capital of Assyria. The city is known for its wickedness and had a reputation for being cruel that is hard for us to fathom. Ancient records from Assyria boast of this kind of cruelty as a badge of courage and power.
However, God does not tolerates sin and had instructed Jonah to deliver a message about an impending judgment unless they have repented. Remember, he hates sin but loves the sinner.
2. Instead of making excuses, use your talents to fulfill God’s mission
Jonah ran away from God as he does not want Him to extend the same love to his enemies. When bad things happen to good people, we seek God to satisfy our quest for an answer. But when bad things happen to bad people, we seem satisfied and thought they deserved that to happen.
As for the people of Nineveh, Jonah thought they deserve punishment. After all, they are their enemies and had known for their cruelty. Whenever we decide to disobey, we can always find excuses like prophet Jonah. What we need is courage and let God use our talent to share His message.
3. Hiding or running away from God’s will is not a solution
It’s human nature to hide whenever we have done something wrong. When Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God. In the same manner, Jonah hid from God as he is not willing to fulfill the task given by God.
How far will God let us go? Why doesn’t he stop us sooner? Sometimes God lets us go on and on in our sin so that we have to face the consequences of our own disobedience. Running away never gains anything except a miserable big fish story. It is always better to run to God than to try running from Him.
4. A storm is an opportunity to witness about God’s love
God sends storms to get our attention, he allows others to suffer because of our sin, and he sends someone to challenge us. In this case the captain woke up Jonah who was sleeping below deck and told him to start praying. The storm is an opportunity to introduce God and tell the people why there is a storm.
The people of the world may not want our sermons, but when the storms of life come, they definitely want our prayers.
5. Your course of action will either causes troubles or blessing with others
Jonah is the reason why there is a storm. Unlike Joseph in Egypt who became a blessing to Pharaoh, Jonah had caused so much trouble and distress. All the sailors were afraid and they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten up the ship.
Because of Jonah’s disobedience, the lives of people on board are also endangered. Oftentimes, God allows us to face the consequences of our own foolish choices.
6. God is willing to forgive the repentant sinner
Jonah wants the city to be punished because they are wicked. The reason why he refused to go to Nineveh is that God is a loving and compassionate, that he is willing to forgive the people of Nineveh should they be repented because Jonah knew God well (Jonah 4:2).
The book of Jonah is about God and how great his heart is toward prodigal sons and daughters who run away from him. God never gives up on Jonah and the people of Nineveh because He is slow to anger, loving and compassionate.
7. Celebrate when others have been blessed by God
Instead of rejoicing, Jonah became upset because of God’s compassion. The story of the prodigal son illustrates this point. While the father is so happy to received his erring son, the other son is envious with his brother. Are you happy when bad things happened to your neighbor?
When good things happened to your friends, relatives, colleague, or to anyone, learn to celebrate for his accomplishments. Its an indication of a matured faith.
A human father would probably have shrugged Jonah off in disgust and found someone else more willing to take his message, but not so our Heavenly Father. Though Jonah tried to leave the Lord, the Lord never left him.
What an inspiring message about God’s patience and unbounded grace.
“I am the Lord God. I am merciful and very patient with my people. I show great love, and I can be trusted.” —Exodus 34:4, CEV
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