Who Was Jonah & What Can He Teach Us?
“Let him who has my word speak my word faithfully” (Jer. 23:28).
As parents of ten children, my husband and I have spent many fun hours reading Bible stories. One story that understandably captures the imagination of young and old alike is the story of Jonah and the big fish. It is a fish tale of epic proportions!
Who Was Jonah?
Outside of the book that bears his name, Jonah makes only one other appearance in the Old Testament. Second Kings 14:25 anchors Jonah in Israel’s history as a prophet doing what prophets do—speaking God’s word to God’s people, specifically to the king of Israel. The Lord used his word spoken through Jonah to rescue Israel during a time with an evil king, an evil people, but a compassionate God!
As we enter the story of Jonah, the apostate northern kingdom of Israel is fifty years away from being deported by the wicked Assyrians who God will use as a rod of punishment against his people for their rebellion. The Lord told Jonah to go to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, to cry out against them because of their great wickedness. We might not think this unusual, but, in fact, it was the first time God sent one of his prophets with a message for heathen Gentiles. What did Jonah do? The same thing we might have done—he ran the other way! He found a ship, paid the fare, and went to the bottom for a good rest. What did the Lord do to get the attention of his wayward prophet? He hurled a great wind bringing a great storm which caused great panic to the ship’s crew. As the terrified crew worked frantically to save the ship and their lives, our man Jonah was fast asleep, oblivious to the storm and the danger all around him.
The Church Today: What Can We Learn?
The church in America, like Jonah, has been commissioned by the Lord as his prophet to go and be his witness in the world (Matt. 28:18-20). We are his light-bearers in a dark and stormy time. Are we, like Jonah, asleep in the bottom of our comfortable ship not even aware that a storm is raging all around us threatening disaster? Will we wake up and repent of the sin which has crept into the church making us dull and unable to discern the storm? Or will we remain isolated and asleep behind our masks of fear?
Our enemy, the great deceiver, prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. We are to resist him, firm in our faith (1 Pet. 5:8-9). As the captain of the army, our Lord has given us armor and weapons to fight the battle (Eph. 6:10-17). He has also given us brothers and sisters. It is a battle we fight together! Scripture is full of “one anothers.” Hebrews 10:24-25 instructs us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, but to encourage one another, stirring one another up to love and good deeds all the while holding fast to our hope without wavering. The Lord is faithful to his promises! Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 1:7 that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind. We need to prepare for this battle by having our minds renewed daily by the Word of God, which is living, active, and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword.
Awaken, O Church
Jonah finally awoke, was thrown into the stormy sea, and swallowed by the big fish sent by a loving God. He repented of his sin, and God gave him a second chance to deliver the message. Jonah’s mission to Nineveh was so successful that all the Ninevites repented and the Lord spared their city from destruction.
Do we believe that God will do great things through his restored church, bringing about the repentance of sinners and sparing our land from destruction? I truly believe that he wants to. Just as the Lord used that great storm to call his beloved servant back, he is using today’s great storm to call his beloved church back to active service.
It is time. Awaken, O church. Repent and take up the mission before you.