And Jonah stalked
To his shaded seat
And waited for God to come around
To his way of thinking.
And God is still waiting
For a host of Jonahs
In their comfortable houses to come around
To His way of loving
— Thomas Carlisle
Have you ever thought about what happened to Jonah in the end of his life? In the Book of Jonah it is clear that God reached His goal in ministering to the Ninevehites, but what do you think happened to Jonah? For those who aren’t familiar with the story, Jonah was an Israelite who received a clear calling from God, to go into the land of Nineveh and warn them of the judgment that would fall on them if they did not repent. Instead of obeying God, Jonah thought he could flee from God and ignore his calling. God responds to Jonah by sending a great storm and eventually instructing a large fish to swallow Jonah. While in the belly of the whale, Jonah pleads with God to rescue him, and God hears his cry and causes the whale to spit Jonah out. Again, God reminds Jonah of His instructions to go into the land of Nineveh and to preach the good news of the True King and to call them to repentance. Jonah obeys, the people repent and believe in God, and in turn God chooses not to punish the land as He initially intended – great ending, right? Well it would be, but the book doesn’t end there.
But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.”
Jonah 4: 1-2
Shortly after preaching, the Bible tells us that Jonah was bitter and angry because God showed His mercy on a group of Gentiles.
Jonah was called to minister to a group of sinners, as all Christians are called to do, but the Bible shows that his heart was not in it. Can you imagine, the very man, who days before, had pleaded with God to spare his life, was now asking God to take it away? Similar to Jonah, we are all called to go out and to be missionaries in a lost and suffering world. There is hope for those who are in this world, and if we do not act accordingly, some may never repent and turn to Jesus Christ for salvation. It is just as much our responsibility to go out into the world and to preach the good news as it was for Jonah to go into Nineveh. God will never force any of us to act on His great command, but if we do obey His calling, He wants us to put our whole heart into our mission.
Jonah’s heart was not in it, and because of that, he was unable to rejoice at the salvation of hundreds of souls. We serve a God who loves the world so much, that He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross, in order that we may live. How much longer can we stay silent? How much longer can we run as Jonah did from our true calling to go into all the world and preach the gospel? Jonah was an example of many of us believers who want the benefits of being a child of God, but don’t want to take on the responsibility that comes with it. It is our responsibility as believers to act in accordance to the Word and to take the message to the ends of the world.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you”
Matthew 28: 19-20
At the end of the Book of Jonah, God teaches him a lesson regarding his negative attitude, but we never know what ultimately happened to Jonah. Did he recognize and finally understand God’s loving nature or did he wallow in his own selfishness, waiting on God to come around to his way of thinking? It’s time we stop acting like Jonah, leave our own comfort zones, and “come around to His way of loving.” It’s time we examine our hearts and wholeheartedly commit to serving Him – preaching His good news to everyone around us. If we truly believe in the promises of God, then we will do whatever it takes to ensure that the world around us gets to experience the same love that we do on a daily basis.