Written by Julie Tsoukalas
We can glean a lot from the book of Jonah. While we can’t really relate to his exact experiences (they were pretty extreme), if we take a closer look, there are a lot of relatable nuggets.
One thing we see is that Jonah’s sin affected other people. The terrible storm happened because of his disobedience, but the immediate consequences affected others (1:4-5).
– Stress on a boat he didn’t own
– Fear among the men in the ship
– Loss of cargo, which was loss of money for the sailors
Still Jonah was seemingly unaffected by his sin. He was sleeping while everyone else was working like mad to save a ship that would likely go down. Sometimes our sin affects other people more than it affects us- at first. Jonah was still in trouble with the Lord, but the immediate consequences were for those around him.
Another thing we see is that the person in sin is the only one who can make things right with God. The other people affected by the storm wanted to do something to make it all go away, but it was up to Jonah to step up and make it right. You can pray for a person in sin, but you can’t get right with God for them. (1:11)
Jonah was swallowed by a fish and in its belly 3 days and 3 nights. This is when he prays. Not when the ship was in the tempest. Not when others begged him to call out to his God. Not when his sin was affecting others. Only when he felt the painful consequences himself did he cry out. (2:1)
Jonah cried out because of his affliction, but he brought those consequences upon himself. The Lord didn’t just throw Jonah into the sea- Jonah caused himself to be thrown off the boat. Our sin can cause us to suffer consequences we don’t like. It’s easy to get angry, and blame God for what is happening, but it isn’t God’s fault that we disobey him. (2:2-3)
God was still merciful in the midst of Jonah’s consequences. He sent the fish to swallow Jonah, who otherwise may have drowned in the wild sea. Sometimes things that feel like punishment are really God’s mercy keeping us from worse consequences. (3:1)
When Jonah finally obeyed, and went to share the message with the people of Ninevah, he was very angry and EXCEEDINGLY displeased because the people repented and received compassion. Jonah forgot he was also very recently in disobedience to the Lord himself, but God showed him compassion! It’s just like human nature to want mercy for ourselves, but for others to receive justice, especially if they’ve wronged us. (4:1-3)
The biggest lesson we can take from Jonah’s story is not to walk in the flesh. Spending time in the presence of the Lord, in His Word, walking in obedience, and doing His will, keeps us from sin, keeps it from affecting others, and helps us rejoice in obedience.