Read Jonah 1
Jonah Flees From the Lord
1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 6 The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”
7 Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)
11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.
17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
We are all probably familiar with the story of Jonah running from God and being swallowed up by the large fish, before being spit out in the land where God originally told him to go. We are also likely familiar with the lessons about God carrying out His purposes and fulfilling His plans despite our willingness to obey. However, another important lesson weaves its way through this book.
We see Jonah’s anger and frustration with God as a thread throughout this story. And why is Jonah mad? Because God loves those Jonah considers his enemies. Jonah is a biblical example of us on the days we ask God, “Why does it feel like the bad guys always win?”
We are not told in this chapter why Jonah runs in the opposite direction of Nineveh, but we know that he falls asleep aboard the ship. When God sends a storm to wake Jonah up, even the pagan sailors are able to discern that this is not a normal storm. They ask Jonah to explain himself and, somewhat hypocritically, he claims to worship the God “that made the sea.” Remember, based on what we know about Jonah from 2 Kings, there should be some skepticism about Jonah’s statement. If he truly worships the God who made the sea, why is he running from that God? We also can be skeptical about Jonah’s request for the sailors to throw him overboard. While this might initially seem unselfish, it could also be another way to run from what God is telling him to do. A way to die and escape everything that Jonah feels is unjust and unfair.
But God foils his plans when the big fish enters the story. Just as Ephesians 2 tells us, God has planned in advance good works for each of us to do. Jonah was no different. We will see in the remainder of the book how Jonah’s anger at God remained, despite God’s relentless and merciful pursuit of him–the same merciful pursuit that angered Jonah when it was aimed at his enemies.
We can read this book as a question to all of us: are we ok with God loving our enemies? As The Bible Project explains, the book of Jonah is like a mirror that allows us to see the worst parts of our character magnified. God puts up with the Jonah in all of us. The good news is that the vastness of God’s mercy is for all of us.
- Do you feel angry when it feels like the “bad guys” are winning? If so, what do you do with those feelings?
- Read Matthew 5:43-48. These verses are a reminder that it is easy to love those who love us, but as Christians, we are called to something greater.
- If there is anyone that you can identify as an “enemy”, spend time today praying for that person rather than allowing seeds of anger and bitterness against them to grow in your heart.
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