I’m trying to decide if the story of Jonah is encouraging or depressing. Jonah hears from God, resists, reconsiders, starts a revival, then turns suicidal. Here is the breakdown:
Encouraging: Jonah is used by God even though he is imperfect. Reluctance and disobedience are forgiven, and Jonah gets a second chance (along with the greatest fish story ever). Jonah then fulfills his calling and starts a revival in Nineveh.
Discouraging: Jonah resists God’s call because he wants to see Nineveh destroyed. This causes him to attempt to hide from God. God gives him a second chance, and he goes to Nineveh. When Nineveh is spared from God’s wrath Jonah gets annoyed. He sets up a little shelter outside of town in the hopes of seeing Nineveh get blasted. A vine covers the shelter and provides shade, but then dies. Jonah is miserable and wants to die.
Verdict: Here are my thoughts. When I think of the story of Jonah I think of a big storm, a big fish, and a cat wearing burlap (the latter is due to a book I had as a child, which showed Jonah as a mouse and the Ninevites as cats, and after Jonah preached the cats became repentant and put on sackcloth robes). But I think this is all secondary. The main character in this story is God. The book of Jonah illustrates God’s mercy, patience, and grace. Jonah shows us how pathetic and sad human selfishness looks in comparison to God’s love.
Sadly, I am Jonah all too often.