Devotions in Jonah
These devotions were recently published as a series in The Biblical Recorder.
Most likely you know the story of Jonah from Sunday School. The first few chapters describe Jonah’s call from God to go and cry out against the great and evil city of Nineveh. Instead of obeying God’s call, Jonah traveled downward in the opposite direction of Nineveh toward Tarshish and away from the presence of God.
While Jonah was on a ship full of pagan sailors headed for Tarshish, God hurled a great wind at the sea. The storm was so strong that the boat was close to breaking apart. The pagans called out to their gods and begged Jonah to call out to his God with the hope that He would save them from death.
It is revealed that Jonah’s disobedience had brought about this judgment of God in the form of a storm. Finally, the pagan sailors hurled Jonah into the sea and the storm stopped. While this story is already amazing it also points to something even more magnificent, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we read this story through the lens of Jesus we see that the saving of pagans through the sacrifice of Jonah points to the salvation of all nations through the death of Christ (1 John 2:2). Moreover, Jonah’s rescue from death points to the resurrection of Christ from the dead (Matthew 12:40). In a certain sense, Jesus is like Jonah in that He hurled himself into the storm of God’s wrath so that we could be brought in to safety.
Oftentimes we read this story and apply it to ourselves through the perspective of Jonah. But, I believe that we are more like the pagan soldiers. It’s only because of Jesus that we are saved from the judgment of God.
Unlike Jonah, Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. It was you and I who needed to be hurled into the storm. But Jesus offered Himself on our behalf. So let us, like the pagans in the story, offer sacrifices of praise for what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
As we have already seen in the book of Jonah, the prophet’s rescue from death prefigures the resurrection of Christ (Matthew 12:39-40). In chapters 3 and 4, in the repentance of the Ninevites we are reminded of God’s grace toward us as we respond to the gospel.
In these passages we see the Ninevites repent in response to the preaching of Jonah, who had been raised from imminent “death” in the bowels of the fish. When Christ was raised from actual death He called the whole world to repent and believe in Him (Matthew 28:18-20). In other words, Christ is the true and greater Jonah that came to our “Ninevite” world proclaiming the Good News of God’s grace.
We must constantly remind ourselves of God’s grace in our own lives. As we continue in the faith it becomes easy to grow in our own self righteousness. We tend to look down on others with condemnation like Jonah did on the Ninevites. “They don’t deserve the mercy of God!”
Well, let us be reminded that God’s mercy is shown abundantly in the gospel and in the salvation of sinners who deserve nothing (Rom. 9:30-31; 11:30). That is exactly who we are. We are sinners who deserve nothing, but God in His good providence has called us by His Spirit to Himself.
Therefore, let us go and proclaim the Good News of the gospel to our fellow Ninevites! We need to pursue those who need to hear. Remember the words of Paul in Romans 10:13-15; “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Good News!”