Jonah and the Whale: Jonah was a Nationalist
Jonah Chapter 1:1-3a "The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 3But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port.”
Jonah heard the word of the Lord clearly. "Go to Nineveh and preach." Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all have such a clear direction from God? If God would only send us a blueprint for our lives or at least send a post card with written directions. It’s not usually that easy. Even though God used great clarity with Jonah, Jonah chose to be very stubborn. He actually turned about and went in the exact opposite direction from Nineveh!
You might think at this point God would say, "Okay, Jonah. Just be that way. I really don't need you, I'll just get someone else." God loved Jonah and had prepared him and gifted him for this particular mission. It’s reassuring to know that God doesn’t easily give up on us. If Jonah had continued in his disobedience what would have happened to Nineveh? God would have sent someone else? If God determined to bring revival to Nineveh it was going to happen with or without Jonah.
Sometimes God has to teach me reality. When I begin to feel indispensable to the school in which I teach or the church in which I preach I’m reminded that God sometimes chooses us and he finds ways to use us but we must never believe that he needs us! What he chooses to do he will do with or without us
Jonah went down to Joppa, he went down into the hold of the ship and was thrown overboard and then he went down into the black, stormy waters and he was swallowed by a fish and he went down into the belly of that fish. Jonah was spending a lot of time and energy going down. Down is the general direction we all take when we are living in disobedience.
Why didn't Jonah want to go to Nineveh?
Was it because he didn’t care about souls? This can't be true because when he was in the ship and the storm was about to destroy them he sacrificed himself to save others.
Was it because he was afraid and he feared death? Not likely. Jonah seemed to have a death-wish. He requested over and over in the book of Jonah that he die.
My five-year old son, Kameron, asked his mother if he could play Super Mario Brothers on the television the other night and he was told ‘no’. He wasn’t having a good day and so he sort of went off and lost it. He came running to me and said, "Mama told me I can't play. She just ruined my life." He got really hysterical, "I just want to die." I tried to keep from smiling as I told him that by bedtime he’d probably want to live again.
Jonah seems to get a bit hysterical as he repeats over and over in this book, "Why don't you just let me die?" Jonah wanted to die. He told the pagan sailors to toss him overboard.
I believe the real reason for his disobedience was his nationalism. He loved the Jewish people. The Ninevites were Assyrians and they were bitter enemies of the Jews. "If I go to Nineveh God might have mercy on our enemies. He might spare them, he might even save them." Jonah wanted God to drop his hammer on the Assyrians. He wasn’t interested in grace or mercy even though he was about to become a great recipient of both.
It may do us all well to remember that God is not American, Chinese or African. It’s very easy to become blindly loyal to your country or your church denomination. We must remember that he is neither Catholic nor Protestant. He is neither Methodist nor Baptist. God loves us all unconditionally. We must learn to put our loyalties in proper perspective and love others as Christ has loved us.
Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.