In the Bible, we are first introduced to the prophet Jonah in 2 Kings 14:25. “He [King of Israel Jeroboam II] was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Dead Sea, in accordance with the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher.“ Here we see him proclaiming the word of the Lord. The Lord desired to save Israel from their suffering in spite of their evil (2 Kings 14:26,27). In this account, we find no evidence of Jonah being unwilling or hesitant at all to do as God wished.
In the Book of Jonah, the Lord has a different job for His prophet. He commands Jonah to go and tell the Assyrian people in their capital of Nineveh to repent or be destroyed (Jonah 1:1,2). Instead, Jonah boards a ship going in the opposite direction. Famously he is tossed overboard and swallowed by a great fish provided by the Lord (Jonah 1:3-17). Jonah prays to God and, after three days, is spat out upon the land (Jonah 2). He does what God wants, and Nineveh repents (Jonah 3).
Why did Jonah not want to do what God wanted in this instance? Because Jonah knew that God was a “gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2). Jonah didn’t want God to forgive the people of Nineveh! He wanted God to destroy them, because the Assyrians were wicked. They were undeserving of mercy because of the crimes they had committed against Israel. They had it coming, and Jonah was unwilling to participate in their salvation.
The remainder of Jonah chapter four consists of God attempting to get Jonah to see people through His eyes: “…should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” (Jonah 4:11).
The book ends without us finding out if Jonah learned the lesson, but we have an opportunity to avoid the mistake that Jonah made. Do we see all people as people to be saved as God does? Do we see them as people He gave His only Son for? Do we see some of them as unworthy of saving?
- – Joshua Pettigrew Monticello church of Christ Monticello, AR