Today begins our study of the book of Jonah! This is an interesting and unique book in the Bible, and I encourage you to watch this quick video before you read any more!
The book starts off with a command from God for Jonah to go to the great city of Nineveh. Nineveh, the capital of Assyria & Israel’s enemy, was a wicked place. Right from the beginning, we see the disobedience of Jonah. God tells him to go one way, but he goes the opposite.
Disobedience has consequences, and we see that immediately here. God brings a fierce storm that could destroy the ship that Jonah was on. Interestingly, the sailors on the ship, who were pagans, realized that this storm was a punishment from some deity for wrongdoing while Jonah, the prophet of God, slept and did not pay attention to the work of the Lord.
When the sailors cast lots to see who brought this storm upon them, it became clear that this was Jonah’s fault. When they asked Jonah why this storm was upon them, he answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land” (v.9). This statement gives us insight into just how disobedient Jonah is! Jonah knew the extent of God’s power and authority over Creation, yet still disobeyed.
You know the rest. Jonah is thrown into the sea, swallowed by a fish, and stays there for three whole days, but you know who doesn’t get attention in this story? The sailors. These were pagan men, worshiping idols and living for themselves, but one encounter with the Creator God changed their lives forever. After this encounter, the sailors worshiped God, while the prophet disobeyed him.
So what can we take from this story?
I think the entirety of the book of Jonah foreshadows the coming of an upside-down Kingdom of God where the first are last, and the last are first. We see sailors and other wicked people repenting of their sin and following the Lord while the prophet of God is disobedient, hard-hearted, and unloving. Sound a little familiar to Jesus’s time? When Jesus came to earth, the tax collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners flocked to him in repentance and worshipped him while the religious leaders of the time rejected him.
Bottom line: Jesus attracts messed up people.
And for us churched folk, if we aren’t constantly recognizing and repenting of our messed up-ness, then maybe we aren’t truly understanding how God’s Kingdom works. God isn’t interested in our outward works of religiosity without us having a repentant heart and deep inward love for Him. Our “obedience” isn’t obedience without the right heart attitude.
Think about one way that you have been disobedient to God recently. Repent of that sin, and ask God to create in you a clean heart (Psalm 51).
By: Lucas Taylor — West Campus Pastoral Ministry Apprentice