Jonah's effort to avoid God's will; His second commission; Nineveh repents; Jonah's displeasure
The Lord commanded Jonah: Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry (preach) against it; for their wickedness is come up before Me. But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD (Jonah 1:2-3). Jonah was probably delighted with the good news that the judgment of God would soon fall upon Nineveh. He could not believe that the mercy and love of God would extend even to Israel's enemies. So, he decided not to be a missionary to Nineveh. He must have felt fortunate when, on the very day he arrived in Joppa, he discovered a ship sailing to Tarshish, the most remote of the Phoenician trading places and in the opposite direction from Nineveh.
For a while, events seemed to favor Jonah's vacation plan and gave him such peace of mind that he was soon fast asleep on the ship (1:5). However, favorable circumstances when avoiding the will of God are only temporary and they never lead to a pleasant end. The sailors became fearful when a great storm arose. Then, hearing that Jonah was fleeing from God, in an effort to appease Him, Jonah was thrown overboard, only to be swallowed by a big fish. After three days of soul searching, a repentant Jonah was vomited onto dry land by the great fish. He then became the greatest evangelist of his day, and saw the entire city of Nineveh repent of its wickedness. God could have chosen another prophet and let Jonah sink to the bottom of the sea, but God was merciful, demonstrating His love toward both the prophet and the repentant people in Nineveh. The willingness of God to forgive even the greatest of sinners who repents was made known when Nineveh's king and his people repented and were spared from the destruction prophesied by Jonah.
Jesus confirmed the historic truth concerning Jonah when He proclaimed: As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's (great fish's) belly; so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here (Matthew 12:40-41).
Reprinted from Bible Pathway International, Murfreesboro, Tennessee.