The children’s story about Jonah and the whale presents the prophet in a rather rosy light: After three days in the fish’s belly, he relents and goes merrily on to Nineveh. End of story.
The Bible narrative has the same components (storm, big fish, repentant Ninevites) but a totally different context. From the moment Jonah chose to flee till the end of the book, his heart was in rebellion against God.
The inhabitants of Nineveh were Assyrians, a people known for their aggression and cruelty. Since they were the sworn enemies of Israel, Jonah had good reason to despise them. However, God loved the Ninevites and desired their repentance. The challenging task of ministering to them carried an additional purpose: breaking Jonah’s unloving spirit— an attitude so strong that he preferred to die rather than see the enemy saved (Jonah 4:3).
God longed to mold the prophet’s character to reflect His own—He wanted a willing, loving servant, but Jonah resisted at every turn. Pride and hatred drove him ever deeper into rebellion. Note that while he agreed to go to Nineveh, he didn’t repent (Jonah 2:9). The Lord wasn’t fooled; He knew Jonah’s heart remained hard. So as the Ninevites rejoiced over deliverance, their minister stewed in his bitterness. Emotional and mental anguish were high prices to pay for resistance.
What keeps you from serving the Lord fully? You probably already know the area of your life He is trying to break. The process is painful, but it’s done for your good and His glory. Give in to Him.
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