Thoughts From The Story of Jonah

Jonah is a prophet of God. Yet, according to the story, he does everything opposite to what a typical servant of God would do.

4 min read

We all know the story of Jonah. We know how he ran away from God because he didn't want to convey the message God gave him to relay to the Ninevites. It is a bit curious to see this story in the bible. Jonah is a prophet of God. Yet, according to the story, it appears that Jonah does everything opposite to what a typical prophet or servant of God would do. He disobeys God, flees from God, gets angry with God, and argues with Him. He hates and feels vengeful against the Ninevites. He just does not act like a typical prophet of God. However, there are certain things we need to pay close attention to. There are certain things about Jonah that seem redeeming in regard to his character.

When Jonah decided to go to Tarshish instead of Nineveh, he needed to go there by boat. He found a ship that would take him there. No ship would head to sea if they knew there was a storm coming so it was obvious the weather was perfect for sailing. But as soon as they were out on the sea a great storm broke out that threatened the lives of the Pagan sailors. They were all praying to their gods for deliverance but no deliverance was forthcoming. They went to look for Jonah so he too can pray to his God. But where did they find him? They found him at the bottom of the boat sleeping. He was asleep?

A storm-tossed boat is taking in water and it is on the brink of sinking. The pagan sailors are tossing their payload into the water for fear of drowning and Jonah is sleeping like a baby. Does this bring to mind a similar event? Didn’t this exact same scenario happen with Jesus? The disciples were in a boat with Jesus and a storm threatened to sink the boat and drown everybody. But Jesus was sound asleep in a little corner of the boat. How does somebody sleep when they're soaked and wet and tetertautering around by the shaking of the boat during a violent storm? There had to be something in common between Jonah and Jesus. What was it? Neither one had any fear. The reason Jesus had no fear is rather apparent considering who He is. The reason Jonah had no fear is a little more curious.

The fact that Jonah told the sailors to toss him overboard shows he had no fear of dying. Maybe one of the qualities God saw in Jonah and chose him to be His prophet was because of his fearlessness. But the curiosity about Jonah doesn't end there. He was running away from God knowing that was impossible. He was running away because he was disobeying God’s command to give a message to Nineveh. Yet, although he was running away from God and being disobedient, it was because of him that the Pagan sailors were converted and worshiped the God of heaven. Now how does that work? There is a big lesson here.

God does not need us. He will save whom He will save and there is nothing anyone else can do about it. God’s agenda will not be hindered or interrupted. Did the Ninevites get the message God intended to send them? Yes. And who relayed the message? Little old disobedient Jonah did. Jonah hated the Ninevites because they were such cruel and murderous folk. Yet, in spite of Jonah’s hatred toward them, they were all converted and became worshipers of the God of Heaven because of him. Now how does that work?

There is something about the story of Jonah that defies the standard “Servant of God” typology. Jonah’s behavior does not present a good model for a faithful and obedient servant of God. What we can get out of this is that God will accomplish His will regardless of any human intervention. We can either get with the program or get out of His way. It is like a flea trying to stop a locomotive.

Many say that the reason the Ninevites listened to Jonah was that his skin was bleached due to the digestive acids of the fish that swallowed him. His odd appearance captured their attention. This is nowhere told in scripture so this is not something factual. If this were true, how was Jonah able to breathe for three days? He was in the stomach, not the lungs. Fish have no lungs. It is best to attribute Jonah’s survival to a miracle, not to any explained scientific reasoning.

God used Jonah as His messenger in the same way God used His own Son as a messenger. It was the message that was of relevance, not the messenger. If Jesus had no message to give to God’s people, His relevance would have been of little importance. Christ brought God’s salvation to the world. He is the “Word of God” personified. He is the “Lamb of God” who gave His life for sinners. But He was only accomplishing the will of His Father. Had Christ not fulfilled the will of His Father, nothing He would have said or done would have been relevant or important.

“I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” (John 5:30)

“Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.” (John 8:28)

Let’s keep in mind that God can only save those who choose to be saved. There is a line God chooses not to cross. Our choices dictate our destinies. So choose wisely.