Looking through the book of Jonah, an overarching theme is that Jonah grossly misunderstands the Lord. By examining three main failures in his understanding of God’s character and His steadfast, gracious, enduring love, we see that Jonah’s understanding of the Lord he claims to serve is shown up as seeing God as too small, God’s compassion as too limited, and God’s worship as too pagan. What about ours?
Before we move on to Jonah and the fish, there’s an important lesson for us yet to be learned. The sailors take up a significant portion of chapter one. Their response to the storm and Jonah is very instructive. The lessons there will help us to ask questions today like, “What do the people around me believe about God?” and “How do they respond to evil?”
Jonah is a little book with a big lesson. It teaches us the truth that God’s people aren’t just supposed to know the truth; they’re expected to share it with those who don’t. In this first chapter, we’re introduced to Jonah, a prophet who rejected God’s calling. His rejection was rooted not in fear, but in a disdain for the people he was called to preach to.
There remains one final surprise in the book of Jonah, and perhaps it is the most astounding of all: the prophet resents God’s mercy toward sinners. Why would someone act this way towards sinners and towards God? Chapter four peels back the layers of our own hearts to reveal the sin within.
What would you think if one of the many cruel leaders in our world suddenly changed his ways? What if he stopped oppressing the weak, ceased being unjust, and ended his violent aggressions against other nations? This is precisely what happened in ancient Nineveh. When God extended mercy towards the great city of Nineveh, the king and people repented. This chapter of Jonah gives us a picture of what it looks like when God extends mercy rather than judgment.
Jonah is a powerful short story with many twists and surprises. The main purpose is to teach us that God offers mercy instead of judgment towards undeserving sinners. In the first two chapters, we see how the prophet Jonah receives mercy even though he is a rebel who refuses to follow God.