God’s Love and Mercy Shown in then Book of Jonah

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April 2, 2023

This week we read the books Jonah, Micah, and Nahum. We will focus on Jonah this week.

Jonah was a prophet during the time of king Jeroboam, which was 800-750 B.C. During this time, Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. It was a large, up and coming city located on the Tigris River. Today, it is Mosul, Iraq.

The Ninevites were vicious. They cut out the tongues of their victims, they built pyramids of human skulls when they conquered a city, they sacrificed children, and worshipped other gods.  The Israelites did not like the Ninevites.

God asked Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach about its wickedness so the Ninevites could turn from their evil ways and trust God. Jonah disobeyed. He went as far away from Nineveh that he could and ended up on a ship headed for Tarshish.

While sailing, the LORD sent a great wind, and the ship almost tipped over. The sailors were afraid and started praying to their gods and nothing happened. Jonah, however, was sleeping. The captain shook him awake and asked him to pray to his god. They cast lots to see whose was responsible for this tragedy, and the lots showed that it was Jonah. They asked Jonah what to do and he told them to throw him overboard. The sailors did not want to this so that started paddling. They got nowhere. Afraid, they prayed to the LORD that nothing would happen, and threw Jonah overboard. The storm immediately stopped. The men now feared the LORD and began to offer sacrifices and vows to him.

Jonah was then swallowed by a large fish for 3 days and nights. It may or may not have been a whale. The Bible really does not say. While in the fish, Jonah prayed for deliverance from death in the sea, and the fish vomited him onto the shore.

God told Jonah again to go to Nineveh. This time he went. He proclaimed that in 40 days Nineveh would be overturned. The people and the king fasted and put on sack cloth and called upon the LORD. They gave up their evil ways. God saw this and did not bring about destruction to the Ninevite’s.

We next learn why Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. When God did not bring about destruction to Nineveh, Jonah was angry. He said to God in 4:2-3, “…Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

The Israelites, including Jonah, took joy in seeing God’s wrath put upon their enemies. Jonah said he would rather die than see the Ninevite’s saved. But here, God rebuked Jonah, and showed his mercy to Gentile nation of Nineveh.

Before we go any further, we should look at the definition of mercy. According to the Cambridge dictionary, mercy is: “kindness that makes you forgive someone, usually someone that you have authority over.”

God showed his mercy 3 times in the story of Jonah. Let’s look at them.

  1. Jonah: God was merciful with Jonah after he disobeyed God and ran toward Tarshish to avoid talking to the Ninevites. He was also merciful to him when he had a temper tantrum about God giving mercy to the Ninevites.
  2. The Ninevites: It was evident that God was merciful to the nation of Nineveh after they fasted, put on sack cloth and gave up their evil ways.
  3. The sailors on the boat: The sailors were gentiles who prayed to other gods. After they threw Jonah overboard the storm stopped. They learned about the One True God. Chapter 1:16 says, “At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.”

It is evident that the LORD loves us all and shows compassion to all. Jesus said this in John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Thus, we see that the story of Jonah is much more than a story about a whale. It is a story of love, compassion, mercy, grace and repentance.

Where are you in this story?
• Is God telling you to do something, and you are rebelling against Him?
• Are you someone who will tell others about Christ?
• Are you someone who does not know the LORD like the Ninevites?
• Do you feel others do not deserve God’s mercy?

Wherever you are in life, I pray that you will come to a saving knowledge of the LORD. He is “a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”

Next week we will read Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.


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