Bent Out Of Shape – The Story Of Jonah

Quite often we see the story of Jonah used to illustrate the truth that we ought to listen to God and obey what He says. If you get it wrong the first time, you’d better get it right the next time, kind of thing…The conclusion isn’t wrong: we ought to listen to God, and we ought to obey what He says (Deuteronomy 6.4, Ecclesiastes 5.1). However, using the story of Jonah might not be the best way to make this point. Maybe you’ve seen this before:

The LORD’s message came to Jonah a second time, “Go immediately to Nineveh, that large city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah went immediately to Nineveh, in keeping with the LORD’s message.

(Jonah 3.1-3a)

The explanation usually goes something like ‘See, God spoke, and Jonah went…’. 

So is the main message of Jonah a moral lesson for you and me about obedience and being faithful to God’s call? Well, that is in there for sure, but is it the primary message? 

Contrary to what many preachers and interpreters say, that is not the primary point of Jonah. The primary point of Jonah is not about how Jonah should have obeyed, it’s about how God continued his redemptive plan despite Jonah’s disobedience. 

Think about this – 

God’s plan was one man.

God’s plan for Nineveh was one man, Jonah, 
and that was sufficient.
God’s plan for mankind was one man, Jesus, 
and that was sufficient.

David Guzik wrote this:

“Jonah gave his life to appease the wrath of God coming upon others. 

But…death did not hold him – three days and nights later he was free of imprisonment, he was alive and free.”

Think: read that again and swap Jonah for Jesus:

Jesus gave his life to appease the wrath of God coming upon others. 

But…death did not hold him – three days and nights later Jesus was free of imprisonment, he was alive and free.”

(emphasis added)

What is the story of Jonah really about then?

It’s about the truth that Jesus is the better Jonah.

It’s about how the Ninevites needed Jonah to preach a message of repentance and forgiveness, and we needed Jesus to do the same. 

It’s about how through one man God worked the salvation of an entire nation.

It’s about how God’s plan was one man.

Published by James Travis

Pastor of Saar Fellowship in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Married to Robyn and Dad to our two boys.

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