Jonah has always been one of my favorite “minor” prophets in scripture. Maybe it’s the feeling that God is sending you into something you don’t want to do. Maybe is the fact that God forgives even when we run.
Maybe it’s because it shows that God can do what God will do even when we don’t give our best effort.
Maybe it simply shows us that any action we take that is obedient to our role as ministers (and everyone in church is called to do something) is an action that can change the lives of others and bring them to God.
So, I love this book. And, so, for the next few weeks, I’m going to share a series of posts tracking through the Book of Jonah. Simply put, Jonah is the story of one of the most epic of all resets and it should give all of us hope for the times we need resets in our relationship with God.
So, let’s begin where the book begins:
1 The Lord’s word came to Jonah, Amittai’s son: 2 “Get up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it, for their evil has come to my attention.”
3 So Jonah got up—to flee to Tarshish from the Lord! He went down to Joppa and found a ship headed for Tarshish. He paid the fare and went aboard to go with them to Tarshish, away from the Lord.
Let’s get a question that you might be asking about the Book of Jonah. I’ll ask it for you: Did this really happen?
So, let’s step through what we see in these first three verses so that you can answer that question for yourself.
First, it begins simply with God’s “word” coming to Jonah. Scripture gives us several instances of God’s word coming to prophets and priests. Sometimes it seems it comes in a dream. Sometimes it’s the Spirit or voice of God speaking. Sometimes it’s simply the nudging of God to go in a particular direction.
And, God is still speaking today, still uging people to move and take action.
Then, there is Jonah. There is some very specific information about Jonah that we discover here: He is the son of Amittai. And, why is that so important? There could’ve been all kinds of people with the first name of Jonah, but we now know Jonah’s last name. We are dealing with a very specific Jonah.
That’s important because there is another mention of this very specific Jonah in another book of the Bible. It comes from 2 Kings 14:25:
He was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Dead Sea, in accordance with the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher.
So, Scripture points to us that Jonah is indeed a prophet who lived during the reign of Jeroboam II in Israel.
And, what about Nineveh? Nineveh was a city in the Assyrian empire. In terms of modern geography, Nineveh is located across the river from Mosul, Iraq. During the rule of Jereboam II, Assyria was a hated enemy and, at one point, Israel was forced to pay tribute to the Assyrians.
Prophets carried God’s message to people and, sometimes, that messsage went against kings and kingdoms and nations. The message that Jonah is to carry to the city of Nineveh is a warning from God.
So far, all of this is consistent with scripture and history. There is a God. There is a Jonah. There is a city of Nineveh. And, there is a tough message from God.
So, let’s continue with what comes next. God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and Jonah chooses to run away from God by going to Joppa and getting on ship bound for Tarshish.
Joppa (called Jaffa) today is located near the oldest part of Tel-Aviv, Israel. Remember, God tells Jonah to go to the center of Iraq (to the west of Jonah) and Jonah goes to the east, to Joppa (on the opposite site of Israel) to get on a boat bound for a city located in Spain near the place where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranian Sea come together.
In terms of geography, Jonah is attempting to run as far as he can in the opposite direction. In terms of God’s command, Jonah is trying to say, “No,” in the biggest way possible.
And that’s where we stand in these first three verses, God gives a prophet a mission and the prophet chooses to run as far as possible in the wrong direction.
Maybe you find that to be pretty believable. Maybe you know it because you’ve had moments (maybe even right now) where you are running in the opposite direction of where you know God wants to be.
If you’ve ever run from God, if you’ve ever needed a second chance or if you’ve simply needed a reset in your relationship with God, then welcome to the journey of Jonah.
This isn’t just the story of a prophet. It’s our story and it’s very believable.
Reignite My Story is based on fact that every life story can be reset, renewed and redeemed. For more life lessons, visit www.reignitemystory.com. For more, like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter at @reignitemystory. You may also send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.