Jonah: An Introduction to a Prodigal God with Prodigal Mercy

Now the Word of the Lord came to Jonah …

With all of its drama and extraordinary events, people have become fascinated with the story of Jonah. Whether from coloring books or children’s story Bibles, from childhood, the tale of a man swallowed by a great fish and regurgitated alive, 3 days later, has captured our imagination! Yet how many, knowing the story so well, know the true import and significance of Jonah?

For one thing the book of Jonah is biographical. Jonah was a historical figure sent on a particular mission from God to reach a specific group of people. So broadly Jonah will bring us face to face with missions and evangelism. Then, as one who ran away from his calling and mission, Jonah will provide a mirror into our own heart and its propensity to wander from God’s call. As Jonah’s journey is traced, we see the inner workings of his heart – his fears, his motivations, his moods – with which we can identify and learn from his example. Yet there is still an even greater value to studying the book of Jonah.

Jonah has significance far greater than God’s localized concern for Nineveh. The book is not about a great fish! Neither is Jonah ultimately about the man who wrote it. Also, it is more than a guide to overseas missions for Christian evangelists. And while we will learn about ourselves, Jonah is about so much more. The book of Jonah is primarily about Jonah’s God. We will learn more about God and His mercy and His dealings with His people in Jonah than we will about Jonah himself, or our own self. In Jonah the doctrine of God and the depth of His mercy come alive in the experience of this man. Jonah is a vital link in the history of redemption as it reveals to us the unfolding purposes of God and His prodigal loving mercy for a prophet and a people.

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4 thoughts on “Jonah: An Introduction to a Prodigal God with Prodigal Mercy

  1. Pastor Joe, I am so excited to begin this journey with you and our brothers and sisters in Christ. I know you will bring to life this book of Jonah. Our hearts , eyes, and ears have been opened by our father. Can’t wait to hear what the spirit of God will give us through you.
    Bill

  2. The people of Nineveh were certainly among the most wicked people on earth and represented a foreign nation as they were not part of the Jewish nation. In fact, Jonah is the only Old Testament prophet sent as a missionary to a foreign country. So, why did God have mercy on this wicked city and want to spare them His judgment? The answer is I don’t have a clue and neither did Jonah. Outside of the Jewish nation, everyone was in darkness and could do nothing to please God. In fact, I don’t have a clue why He had mercy on me, for I was certainly His enemy before He called me. Jonah would also have been very familiar with David’s comments in Psalms about hating God’s enemies. So, was Jonah guilty of not wanting to provide aid and comfort to his and God’s enemies? It would not appear that Jonah’s sin was his general attitude towards the Ninevites. All Jews, especially Jewish prophets would have understood how wicked these people were. Jonah’s sin was his “displeasure” with God’s decision to spare these people His wrath. He was actually passing judgment on God. Jonah went further than hating God’s enemies; he hated them to the extent that he did not want God to save and love them. He had the gospel of salvation, but did not want to share it even when God asked him to do so. Jonah’s message from God to the Ninevites was to “repent” and turn from their wicked ways, so they could be spared the wrath of God. Doesn’t this sound familiar! Jonah’s mission was not to provide aid and comfort and to tell the Ninevites that God loved them, accompanied by care packages to show His love. No, the message was a warning. It certainly included God’s love, and Jonah was certainly wrong for not going.

  3. Great observations Frank, thank you for sharing! I agree completely with your points. Ultimately Jonah’s sin was his displeasure with God’s extravagant mercy which went beyond the bounds of his own expectation. DId not the Pharisees have the same attitude whenever Jesus suggested mercy would be extended beyond the borders of the nation of Israel?

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