Jonah and the giant fish is one of many bible stories I recall hearing as a child. I didn’t gather anything from it other than a man apparently was swallowed by a big fish, regurgitated, and lived. I also remember reading it a few years ago and learned that Jonah was running from a direct command from God. As a result, he ended up in an unfavorable position. Well, they say 3rd time's a charm. I think I finally understand the importance of this Old Testament story. Here’s what the book of Jonah taught me.
1.) Others can suffer from your disobedience.
Jonah was instructed by God to go into the great city of Nineveh and let the people know that their way of living was displeasing to God. Jonah disregarded God’s command and boarded a ship to Tarshish in an attempt to flee. While Jonah was on the ship, God caused a great wind storm to descend onto the ship — so great of a wind that it almost wrecked the ship. The wind was so terrible that the people casts lots to determine who brought the terrible hardship upon them. Jonah confessed that he was running from the Lord and that he was the cause of their troubles.
Jonah 1:12 (KJV) And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.
Sin is not singular. It is plural. The sin within my parent’s marriage directly affected me. I was 17 or 18 years old when the divorce was finalized. I am 30 years old now and it still bothers me. They were married 20+ years but allowed corruption into their marriage, and it ruined a family. I sometimes allow fear of a failed marriage to creep into my mind because of what happened between them.
My younger brothers didn’t have the privilege of living in a stable two-parent household because of sin. The effects of the divorce are still present as it has left strained parent-child relationships within our family. While as far as I know there are no ill-feelings harbored against one another, the lasting negative effects far outweigh the sin. Jonah did not intend on his sin effecting anyone else but it did. My parents did not intend on causing any harm on me or my siblings but they did. Be mindful of your disobedience — you never know who you are inadvertently harming.
2.) Obedience results in blessings to others.
As the story goes, Jonah was vomited from the great fish after he petitioned the Lord in prayer. Jonah then went forth to Nineveh and told the people the city would be overthrown in 40 days. The king of Nineveh as well as the people took heed to Jonah’s warning. In fact, the king ordered the city to fast and pray to God for their transgressions. God heard their cries and forgave them.
In Chapter 4, God says the population of the city was more than 120,000. Jonah’s obedience saved more than 120,000 souls from destruction. It is essential to obey God’s commands. We as Christians are commanded to go into the world and preach Jesus.
Mark 16:15 (KJV) And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Your “preaching” may not be in a pulpit. God blesses us in different ways to direct praise and glory back to him. My avenue of preaching is via writing. However you “preach” it is essential to bless others. You could aid in someone’s salvation and bless someone’s life by simply obeying God's commands.
3.) You will run into bigger problems running away from God.
This point is obvious. Jonah was swallowed by the great fish because he was running from God in disobedience. We are warned in Colossians 3 of how disobedience can bring about the wrath of God.
Colossians 3: 5-6 (KJV) Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
There is nothing scarier than the wrath of God. Yet, God is extremely merciful. Take for example the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. God’s wrath was not kindled against her, but he did instruct her to go and sin no more. We should take heed to God and not gamble with our souls.
4.) Don’t be a hypocrite.
I was surprised of what I read in the 4th chapter of Jonah. After God forgave the people of Nineveh, Jonah was highly upset with God. Like, literally legit mad that God did not destroy the city. He basically told God that he knew God was merciful and slow to wrath; therefore, he initially refused to go to Nineveh. Jonah, completely encompassed in irrational thinking, asked God to take his life from him. God asked him should he not have spared more than 120,000 souls. The book of Jonah ends abruptly with God asking him that question.
In my opinion, Jonah was completely out of line He was also sinister to be upset that people were saved. But what I find more interesting is Jonah’s short-term memory of his own deliverance.
Jonah 2: 1-2 (KJV) Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice
How can Jonah be upset that people were saved for calling on God when he did the same exact thing? While I think Jonah was extreme in wanting a city to feel the wrath of God, Christians can have the same tendency to be hypocritical. How can we look down on those who are struggling with sin when we were previously guilty (some still guilty) of committing sin?
1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (KJV) Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
We have to come off the high-horse and humble ourselves. We are no better than the next person. If someone is struggling in their sins, don’t turn up your nose in condescending distaste. Pray for them and show love as we are commanded.
The book of Jonah tends to be aimed at children due to the nature of the story. Yet, I learned more life lessons from reading it as an adult. Let's allow Jonah serve as a lesson to us.This classic children's story taught us our obedience or disobedience can lead to either blessings or hardships to others. It taught us to never run from God, and it taught us not to be hypocrites. These are lessons that both children and adults alike can cherish for a life-time.
Amen. Be blessed people, and have a wonderful day!