And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Jonah 2:10-3:4
What we have seen thus far from the prophet Jonah is not too encouraging. He is willing to prophecy when he can tell the folks at home, “We win!” When the message is one of judgment on a violent enemy, seeking their repentance, Jonah runs away. Even as Jonah suffers a unique, swallowed-by-a-fish consequence for his sin, he unrepentantly presumes on God’s grace.
Given the disobedience of Jonah, God’s next action is simply pure grace. God causes the fish to spit Jonah out onto the shore and offers Jonah a second chance to be the man of God he was called to be in the first place. God again sends him to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, with a repentance-seeking message of judgment. God gives gracious freedom and a gracious second chance.
This time Jonah obeys. He gets up, goes to Nineveh, and says to the city, in essence, “You are all doomed!” What we do not see is repentance for his sin or thankfulness for his deliverance. He does not build an altar for sacrifices as even the pagan sailors had done. Jonah belligerently complies with the command of God. I can even imagine him grumbling to himself on his long walk, trying to figure out how to do as little as possible to meet the letter of God’s command.
The grace God continues to show Jonah is good news for us as God’s new covenant children. Our calling is not the same as an Old Testament prophet, but we are called to go and make disciples of people who don’t currently love Jesus. How many of us run away from that calling? But God does not strike us dead. He does not pour out His wrath on us. He keeps blessing us and giving us new opportunities to obey.
As we read of Jonah the reluctant prophet, let’s consider how much more joy can be ours if we willingly follow Christ and answer His call to make disciples God graciously spared Jonah the punishment he deserved. God kept using Jonah. Nonetheless, Jonah holds fast to his rebellious heart, and Jonah is miserable.
My prayer for you today is that you will not be like Jonah, but will instead know these words of John H. Sammis to be true:
Trust and obey, for there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.