What does it say?
Perhaps you noticed that Jonah appears in 2 Kings 14:25 during the reign of Israel’s Jeroboam II. This is also why we read Jonah at this time. God calls Jonah to take his message to Nineveh, capital of the evil Assyrian empire and archenemy of Israel. From a human perspective we understand why Jonah tried to run in the opposite direction. Everyone and everything in this book obey God except Jonah. God-fearing seamen throw Jonah overboard at his own request to save themselves from a horrible storm sent from God. In some way God miraculously preserves Jonah inside a large fish (whale) and three days later finds himself yet alive and onshore with a second chance to obey his God-given commission.
Jonah goes to Nineveh and preaches a brief message warning of God’s impending judgment. What results is one of the great revivals of history as everyone from the king down repents and calls upon God for mercy. God spares Nineveh and Jonah is furious and suicidal. Jonah retreats to the shade of a gourd (perhaps the shady castor oil plant) and waits to see what happens. When God destroys his shade, Jonah is even more furious and suicidal. The point demonstrates that God cares more for the people of Nineveh (and even their livestock) than Jonah cares for a plant.
What does it mean?
Yet again our Bible reading reminds us that God’s mission depends upon God, not upon you or me. God chose Jonah to be his messenger for reasons known only to God. Despite Jonah’s rebellion and bad attitudes, God uses him to provoke one of history’s great revivals. God accomplishes his purpose, but Jonah loses the personal blessing of being an obedient servant.
We see here God’s heart for the peoples of the world. Despite Nineveh being an oppressive and wicked nation, God gives them space to respond to his message and be transformed. The Bible is not just about Jews and Christians; it is about God’s steadfast love for all the peoples of the world and his desire for all to worship him and bring glory to his name. Sadly, his word had to come twice to Jonah before it could go once to Nineveh.
How will I respond?
What is an attitude of mine that needs to be changed today to put my life more in alignment with God’s plan to take his word to the nations? Do I really care about people not like me? My enemies? Can I give or go? Can I begin a savings account to go on a short-term mission and learn more about what God is doing today?