Jonah—The Disobedient Prophet

We read in the book of Jonah that God commanded the prophet Jonah to preach a message of repentance to the city of Nineveh, and that Jonah disobeyed God’s command. Instead of going to Nineveh to proclaim a message of repentance, Jonah went the opposite direction and blatantly disobeyed God’s command. This is recorded in Jonah 1:1-3,

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Jonah felt that the people of Nineveh deserved punishment for their wickedness. Jonah was not willing to preach the message of salvation to the city of Nineveh, knowing that should the city repent of their sins, God would relent and not punish the great city. Many a time, we are like Jonah. It is often easy to preach the gospel to our close friends and loved ones. However, when we are called to share the gospel to our “enemies,” we would rather that they perish in hell than be given the gospel of salvation. Yet, our Lord Jesus Christ commands us to preach the gospel to all nations in Luke 1:8,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

It is also God’s will that none should perish but that all should come to repentance and be saved. God says in 1 Peter 3:9,

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.

The issue with Jonah is his unwillingness to forgive the sins of the great city of Nineveh. Hence, his reluctance is seen in his disobedience to God’s command. We must realise that we too were once sinners like the great city of Nineveh. As much as God has forgiven our sins, we ought to forgive the sins of those who offended or mistreated us. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He died for the whole world, even the worst of sinners—Jesus Christ died for us all. If we are honest with ourselves, we have also done terrible things, though perhaps not manifested by our outward actions but clearly in our hearts. We may harbour hatred, jealousy, covetousness, and sinful desires which, should it be revealed, would have turned the face of God away from us. Since God has forgiven us of our grave sins, we must be willing and gracious to bring the gospel to all, even the greatest sinners.

There are many testimonies of how God could bring the greatest sinners to salvation, who in turn did great things for God. John Newton was a slave trader. When the gospel was given to him, he repented of his sins and glorified God in his life and wrote the all-time favourite hymn, “Amazing Grace” which never fails to bring comfort to us when we sing it. It is likewise for apostle Paul, whom God turned around from being the persecutor of Christians to become a great evangelist. This is what Paul later confessed in 1 Timothy 1:15,

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

May we have the heart of God, slow to anger and abounding in mercy as Jonah glorified God in Jonah 4:9,

I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.

Let us learn to forgive as much as God has forgiven our sins. Let us obey God’s command to go and preach the gospel to the lovable as well as the unlovable. May God grant us His grace and enable us to preach the gospel!