Published 8:53 am Thursday, April 11, 2024

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On one occasion, God asked Jonah to go to a place called Nineveh and preach to them telling them to return to God. However, Jonah didn’t want to help the people there. In fact, he wanted them to be punished for their sinfulness. So instead of listening to God, Jonah made a decision to run away from God, and his responsibilities and the people of Nineveh. He refused to do what God asked him. In his flight from God, Jonah went to the sea where he found and boarded a ship that was destined for another city far from Nineveh. After paying the captain of the ship, Jonah went in to the lower part of the ship and went to sleep.

Not long after the ship had set sail, it encountered a very bad storm. The storm was so violent that the ship was tossed to and fro and was in danger of being destroyed. To help lighten the load of the ship, all the men started to throw all their packages and bags overboard in hopes that the ship would not be sunk and that they wouldn’t drown. It wasn’t long before the captain of the ship went to find Jonah who was still sound asleep in the lower parts of the ship. He said to Jonah, “How can you sleep? Get up and pray to your God, maybe he can help us!” What the captain didn’t realize was that Jonah didn’t just believe in any god; he believed in the one true God and that He could help them.

Seeing the storm had not ended, they cast lots to determine, (at least in their minds), who was at fault. The Lot fell on Jonah. He would eventually confess that he was running from God. Regardless of how hard they tried to reach land the storm continued to batter the ship and drive it further from the shore. They eventually decided that Johnah was at fault. They felt he must have been a really bad person for God to do such a thing. In their discussions they asked what god you believe in, and what had he done. They wanted to know if they could do something to make the storm stop. Jonah’s conclusion was that they could throw him overboard, into the sea and the storm would stop.

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While the men were fearful for their lives, they didn’t want to hurt Jonah by throwing him off the boat. So instead, they tried to row the best they could, but the storm just got worse. Eventually they threw Jonah into the sea. The storm immediately calmed, and the sea became still. It was then that the men on that ship realized that Jonah believed in the one true God and prayed to Him. It now seems that the captain and the crew, as they looked out to sea, saw a huge fish come and swallow up Jonah. According to the scriptures, the fish sent by God kept Jonah from drowning. And he was in the belly of that great fish for three days and three nights.

Just imagine what it must have been like to be in the belly of that great fish. The smell would no doubt have been terrible. There are no windows, and lots of strange things floating around that you can’t see because it’s so dark. While we can only imagine, Jonah really knew what it was like. And he probably wondered if he would ever see the light of day again. While Jonah was trapped inside the fish, he prayed to God.  He asked God for forgiveness while he thanked God for not allowing him to drown. After the third day, the great fish spit Jonah out onto dry land. This was no doubt God’s answer to Jonah’s prayer. Again, God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell the people there to repent of their sin. This time Jonah obeyed God and immediately left for Nineveh.

When Jonah arrived in Nineveh, he told the people what had happened to him as he warned them that God would destroy them if they did not repent. Interestingly, the Ninevites listened and obeyed Jonah’s message from God. They repented of their sins and prayed to God for forgiveness for all their sins. They were so moved by the preaching that even the king of Nineveh listened to God and commanded that all people turn to God. When God saw that they were penitent, he made a decision to not destroy them as He had planned.

Consider today, are you like the people of Nineveh? If so, you should hear the message of God and in the same loving manner He will forgive you. Perhaps you are like Jonah, you are one that knows the power and the love of God and refuse to share that message (the Gospel) to the world. If you are like either of these, then you need to, like the Ninevites, repent of your sin and come to God. You can come to God today by repenting of your sin (Acts 2:38), confessing Jesus is the Son of God (Matt. 10:32), being baptized (1 Peter 3:21) and living a faithful life (Titus 2:12).

(Tony Hoss is minister of the Centerview Church of Christ, Elizabethton)