The story of Jonah tells of a man who ran from God but eventually found his place as Go'd messanger.
Many of the books of the Minor Prophets record judgment and prophecy coming destruction, but Jonah describes the struggle of the individual prophet in coming to terms with the message he is ordered to deliver. It focuses less on the message and more on the man.
He is, indeed, delivering a message of destruction, but first, we have the story of how he is convinced to carry it. Once it is delivered and we see the repentance of Nineveh, we are taken back into the heart of Jonah so that we might see his repentance also.
Jonah Refuses to Go to Nineveh
Jonah received this message from the Lord that he should go to Nineveh and preach to them against the evils which they continued to endorse. Jonah did now want to go to Nineveh. He did not like them. They were enemies. He wanted them to be consumed by the righteous wrath of God. He got a ticket on a ship headed in the opposite direction.
A storm arose. The sailors did all they could to lighten the ship and maintain control so that the ship did not sink. Finally Jonah said, “This is all because of me. Throw me overboard and you will be spared.” They tried for a while, but eventually they did as he said, and the storm abated.
The Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah. People who try to find fault with the Bible point out that a whale is not a fish, but a mammal. I doubt if the scientific community at the time of the writing of Jonah made this distinction. Maybe at the time, there were other fish capable of swallowing a man. This is not a debate I wish to continue.
The second chapter is Jonah’s prayer when he finds himself in the belly of the fish. He is contrite. He was dying in the water with seaweed wrapped around his head, but God rescued him. His testimony is “Salvation comes from the Lord.”
Jonah gave the fish a stomachache and the fish up-chucked him on dry land. We might hope that Jonah took time enough for a bath on the beach, but perhaps the smell and disarrangement of his clothing was part of the impact.
Nineveh Had a Revival
Jonah received the message again that he was to go into Nineveh preach the coming destruction of the city and its inhabitants. This time he went. Nineveh, that great city, heard the words of righteousness: forty more days and the city will be overthrown. The people responded and proclaimed a fast. Even the King heard the message and put on sack cloth and sat in ashes.
When God saw their repentance, he withdrew the judgment and spared Nineveh.
Jonah waited to see the show
“This is what I thought would happen. You, O Lord, are slow to anger and compassionate. I didn’t even want to come here. I might as well die.” Jonah’s anger carried a petulant tone.
Jonah went to a hill east of Nineveh and found a place to watch under a little lean-to out of the sun. A vine grew up and its leaves gave him relief from the hot sun and scorching wind. The next morning a worm attacked the vine so that it withered and died.
Jonah’s anger and self-pity erupted again, and he said, “I wish I were dead.”
The Lord said, “You are angry that the vine died. You didn’t plant it or water it. It was a volunteer. If you pitied the vine, why shouldn’t I pity the one-hundred- twenty thousand people who lived in this city who didn’t even know righteousness from evil?
Read more about Jonah here or in the Bible.