Sunday, August 28, 2011

Whale of a Tale

Our Pastor chose another Old Testament Prophet for his sermon and today it was Jonah.

Why was Jonah so unwilling to obey God’s first call to go preach and warn the city of Nineveh that they had 40 days to repent or burn?

1. Jonah hated the people of Nineveh because of their cruelty to the Jewish people. They had taken many captive, raped the women and some of the soldiers had fathered children by the Jewish women. They were also deep into idolatry and the worship of false gods and were participating in witchcraft of every kind.

2. Jonah knew the kindness and mercy of our Lord, and he was deeply worried that if the people of Nineveh heeded his warning, that God might change his mind and not destroy the people and their city.

3. Jonah was secretly hoping that Nineveh’s people would get their just deserts!!

Most of us have heard the story of how Jonah decided on his own to get a ticket on a boat going in the opposite direction.

(Have you ever gone the other way when God said to walk straight and do not pass GO?)

When the GREAT storm arose, the sailors soon decided that someone must be at fault and when they drew straws, Jonah’s lot was chosen.

Where was Jonah? He was in the bottom of the boat fast asleep, with not a worry, not an ounce of conscience and happily resting on his laurels.

When he was confronted, he quickly admitted his error and suggested that in order to save themselves they must cast him overboard, which they swiftly did. 

We know the story how he spent three miserable days and nights in slime and filth, crying out to God for mercy and declaring that he would GO and do as he was told.  

Don’t you dislike the word “vomit?” but that is what the fish did - - quickly he upchucked Jonah on to dry land.  This time Jonah took off in the right direction.

The city was heavily populated, extremely large and it was a three day walk from one end to the other.  Jonah arrived and began his walk for one day. 

Then he began his prepared warning. “Repent from your evil ways, or God is going to destroy you and this city!!”   

Jonah knew it from the get go - - - immediately the people began to cry out to God with deep remorse.

From the King to lowest person in Nineveh, they all began to repent . The king commanded every one to stop their sinning, to fast, and to cover themselves in sack cloth and ashes, including the animals.

Then God changed his mind and decided to give the people a second chance. Isn’t that just like God to show mercy to those who repent and are willing to change their ways?

Was Jonah happy? Not on your life!!

"I Knew This Was Going to Happen!" was all he could say. Jonah was furious. He lost his temper.

He yelled at God, "God! I knew it—when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That's why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness!”

Jonah felt so sorry for himself that he wished he could die. Talk about being depressed!

God said, "What do you have to be angry about?"

But Jonah just left, going out of the city to the east and sat down in a sulk. He put together a makeshift shelter of leafy branches and sat there in the shade to see what would happen to the city.

God arranged for a broad-leafed tree to spring up. It grew over Jonah to cool him off and get him out of his angry sulk. Jonah was pleased and enjoyed the shade. Life was looking up.

But then God sent a worm. By dawn of the next day, the worm had bored into the shade tree and it withered away. The sun came up and God sent a hot, blistering wind from the east. The sun beat down on Jonah's head and he started to faint. He prayed to die: "I'm better off dead!"

Then God said to Jonah, "What right do you have to get angry about this shade tree?" Jonah said, "Plenty of right. It's made me angry enough to die!"

God said, "What's this? How is it that you can change your feelings from pleasure to anger overnight about a mere shade tree that you did nothing to get? You neither planted nor watered it. It grew up one night and died the next night. So, why can't I likewise change what I feel about Nineveh from anger to pleasure, this big city of more than 120,000 childlike people who don't yet know right from wrong, to say nothing of all the innocent animals?"

Isn’t it amazing how God uses a whale and a plant to show his mercy? He is not willing that any should perish but that all would come to repentance.

Jesus referred to the story of Jonah saying that even so, he (Jesus would spend three days in the grave but would rise again so that we as a people could receive eternal LIFE.

God spared Jonah and yet He spared NOT His own son so that death could be swallowed up in victory for all who believe and receive.

This post was shared at: Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday    Do visit Michelle's site and enjoy some great posts there.

Portions of the story are taken from the Message Bible.
Images are courtesy of


  1. I find it fascinating how when God shows others mercy, the ones who received it first resent it in their selfishness. Isn't that the sin that plagues our world? It is the original sin.

    I always love that story, the best part is the proof that Jonah did finally come around, attested to by the fact that he penned the story. It couldn't have been easy to write...

  2. I have indeed run in the opposite direction of God...more times than I can count. There's an awful lot about Jonah that I relate to!

  3. I enjoy hearing a familiar story retold. It makes me see something new.

    That illustration of Jonah being "upchucked" onto the beach is great!

  4. The story of Jonah tells us so much about the character of God...His mercy, His justice, His omnipotence.

    Thanks, Hazel.


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