The Jonah experience portrays man’s futility every time he tries to run away from the presence of God. The presence of God is a realm that every human should occupy constantly for the fulfillment of destiny, because an ejection from this realm either by personal choice or through sin is an injection of a storm that leads to a sinking destiny filled with sorrows and regrets.
The servant of God, David, a man after God’s heart understood that his personality was tied to the presence of God, and that without His presence, he had no personality.
‘’Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me’’ ~ PSALM 139:7-10 (NKJV)
Jonah, like many in the world today, have expressed their reservations, by giving reasons why they would not obey God’s instruction, and hence have proceeded on futile journey’s that negate the purpose of God for their lives.
The Jonah experience portrayed in the book of Jonah enlightens us on how deep God’s love is, and that His thought towards us is focused more on the salvation of our souls rather than destroying us.
‘’Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? Says the Lord God, and not that he should turn from his ways and live?’’ ~ EZEKIEL 18:23 (NKJV)
In my Christian walk, a lot have been said about Jonah, with many demonizing him by laying more emphases on his personality as a disobedient man, rather than taking home God’s message for us through that scripture. The book of Jonah is “pregnant” with messages and lessons, and I would like to share a few with you:
LESSON 1: THE WAYS OF GOD ARE NOT OUR WAYS
The Bible in the book of Isaiah 55:8 makes us understand that, the thoughts and the ways of God are not ours.
Jonah was a man who had a grudge against the people of Nineveh, because of how his people were treated by them, and like many today, why would their enemies receive God’s salvation?
‘’But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, Ah Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!’’ ~ JONAH 4:1-3 (NKJV).
Jonah was so aggrieved that he asked God to take his life, because it was better for him to die, than for his enemies to receive salvation from God. This is what hatred does, because it makes us to disobey our maker who is an embodiment of love. The love of God is not based on lip service as could be found amongst men, but practical through His actions, and for this reason, He took Jonah through a practical class session to illustrate to him the true meaning of love. This He did by giving Jonah a chance to preach the message of salvation to a great city at the edge of experiencing God’s wrath because of their sins, but Jonah felt indifferent about God’s plan insisting that Nineveh be punished for all they have done to his people.
There are times when people question several actions taken by God in their lives, because to them it doesn’t just make sense. So why would God send Jonah to a place like Nineveh after all they did? God’s decisions are informed by the end product of every given situation, while men are more concerned about what they see in the present. The salvation of Nineveh was more important to God than Jonah’s personal grudge with the people of Nineveh. There are many believers today, who pray for their perceived enemies to die, but surprisingly these perceived enemies do not die, because their salvation is more important to God than your personal grudge. However Jonah’s actions through his obedience to God saved a whole city with a population of over 120,000 persons from being overthrown by God, and I know heaven was happy that day.
LESSON 2: GOD USES THE STORM TO WIN SOULS
The book of Jonah 1:4, makes us understand that God was responsible for the mighty tempest on the sea, but this great turbulence afforded us the opportunity to have an idea of the occupants on the ship. A man’s real nature is revealed when the sea is either calm or when there is a mighty tempest.
‘’Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god…” JONAH 1:5 (NKJV)
It was apparent that all the occupants on the ship with the exception of Jonah were all unbelievers. The mariner’s call to their various gods to stop the tempest failed, as the waves of the sea continued to rock the ship violently, and as a result they sought for Jonah to call upon his God, peradventure that He might save them from the ravaging tempest. This was an open declaration by the mariners that their gods have failed them, and therefore had no confidence in them. Their desperate need for salvation provided Jonah with an avenue to tell them about his God, as he described Him as the God of heaven, who made the sea and dry land (JONAH 1:9).
Jonah was carrying out the act of evangelism during the storm, and their knowledge of Jonah’s identity and the God he served, made them greatly afraid with their response to Jonah saying “why have you done this?’’ The mariners who formerly cried to strange gods, began to call on the name of the Lord saying “We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord have done as it pleased You”. This was an open declaration of God’s supremacy, and the Bible tells us that the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows (JONAH 1:14-16).
LESSON 3: THE BELLY OF THE FISH IS A PLACE OF CONVICTION
‘’Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” JONAH 1:17 (NKJV).
In the case of Jonah, it was a fish, but in the present day, God prepares certain situations or events that tend to swallow us, but He spares our lives like Jonah when we run from His presence. These events may take more than three (3) days like the case of Jonah, but might extend to months or even years when we fail to submit to His will. However, a man who runs from the presence of God, is a man who feels he can be delivered through his physical abilities, strength or even by mortals, because many thought they could do it on their own without God, but when they got stuck along the way with no exit points, they remembered that they have a God who they have forsaken.
The bible does not bare any record of Jonah praying to God to calm the sea when they almost suffered a ship wreck but instead he offered himself to be thrown into the sea, because he would rather die than preach the message of salvation to his perceived enemies.
God uses the belly of the fish or the belly of situations that have swallowed us to convict us of our sins and self righteousness. Jonah prayed to the Lord from the belly of the fish saying “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple” JONAH 2:7 (NKJV).
What a great spiritual revival in the belly of the fish! The belly of the fish became a place of conviction and Jonah repented from his sin, waiting to hear the next instruction from God.
LESSON 4: MANY LIVES ARE DEPENDENT ON YOUR OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S INSTRUCTION
Have you ever thought how many souls have been lost or destroyed by your single act of disobedience to God’s instruction?
This was the case of Jonah, because the survival and salvation of the people of Nineveh was tied to the obedience of Jonah to God’s instruction.
What would have happened if Jonah never made it to Nineveh, the people wouldn’t have believed God, and as a result they would have incurred God’s wrath.
Do you know that a country who is about to incur God’s wrath because of sin might be waiting for you to deliver the message of salvation, thereby saving their souls from eternal destruction?
The people of Nineveh believed God through Jonah’s message of salvation, and they humbled themselves by proclaiming a fast, putting on sackcloth from the greatest to the least, even to the king. This is the power of God which is resident in His word to convict us of our sins and turn us towards the path of righteousness.
LESSON 5: LOVE IS THE GREATEST EVANGELIST
The book of Jonah gives us a great insight about the depth of God’s love for humanity. He is more passionate about saving us than condemning us, because He is a God of a second chance. He offered the people of Nineveh a second chance because He loved them despite all they might have done to Him, and He also spared the life of Jonah because He had a great lesson of love to teach him. The people of Nineveh returned to God as a result of the message they received from Him through Jonah.
God is an embodiment of love, and it is only through love that souls can be won for the kingdom of Heaven, hence it is our duty to shun hatred and embrace love, if truly we want to be ambassadors of Christ.
God Bless You.