Lessons from Jonah

Lessons from Jonah

 

Chapter 1: Share the Love

Have you ever had to give something to someone you didn’t think deserved it?   Well, you’re not the first. The prophet Jonah was called to share God’s word with Israel’s worst enemy. He refused to do it and learned the hard way that a self-righteous, non-kingdom perspective leads to catastrophe. Self-righteousness can cause people to become prideful, judgmental, disobedient and far removed from a loving nature.
 

As Christians, we should remember to maintain a kingdom perspective that God’s love, grace and mercy is offered to everyone. Romans 5:8 states, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We all deserve judgment for our sins, but God’s loving kindness allows us to receive his gift of mercy. Like Jesus, we should share the “Good News” with everyone, even with people we don’t think deserve it.

 

Chapter 2: Loving Discipline

Have you ever had to discipline a child for being defiant? Parents lovingly discipline their children not as a punishment, but to get them back on the right track. King Solomon knew that parents discipline out of love when he wrote Proverbs 13:24 “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”
 

Sometimes God has to discipline us when we get off track.   Through distress or some other means, God disciplines us to repent, return to him, pray or just to get us back in line with his will. In Jonah Chapter 2, the prophet Jonah turned to the Lord in prayer from inside the fish. His distress was not a punishment for his defiance, it was discipline. In his helpless, hopeless situation, Jonah prayed and repented for his sin of disobedience. God saved Jonah, but it was his situation in the fish that brought Jonah to realize his sin and his own need for salvation.

 

Chapter 3 Only True Repentance Leads to Salvation

What does true repentance look like? In Jonah Chapter 3, the city of Nineveh heard God’s message through Jonah and repented because of their great sorrow. In Jonah 3: 6, the king of Nineveh’s response is recorded, “When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.” The king experienced God-centered sorrow for his transgressions to the point of turning toward God and refraining from doing the things he ought not to do. It was a true repentance.
 

Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 7:10 that, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” This scripture explains that only a God-centered sorrow leads to remorse and a true turning away from sin, which in turn leads to salvation. A self-centered worldly repentance because of painful consequences of sin ultimately does not lead to a change inside someone, nor salvation. It was only when God saw Nineveh turn away from their evil ways that he decided to spare the city from judgment.

Repentance opens up the way to establishing your relationship with God. Repenting in your heart turns you away from the sin in your life and turns you toward God and his ways. It is the first step to salvation.

 

Chapter 4: Have Faith in God in All Circumstances

Have you ever seen someone given a wonderful gift when you didn’t think they deserved it? How did that make you feel? In Jonah chapter 4, Jonah gets angry with God for sparing the city of Nineveh from judgment after its people repented. Nineveh was a city located in Assyria, the enemy of Israel. Jonah may have felt that the enemy of his nation deserved God’s wrath instead of the gift of forgiveness. God answers Jonah’s anger in Jonah 4: 11, “And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
 

In Acts, Ananias is told by the Lord to help Saul, an enemy of Christians. Ananias’ response is recorded in Acts 9:13-14, “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” Even though Ananias was afraid, he acted in faith and obedience. He healed Saul who went on to become Paul, the Apostle of Christ to the gentile nations.

No one knows God’s plan in detail, except God. As a prophet of God, Jonah should have acted in faith as Ananias did. Instead, he let his feelings for the Assyrians guide him instead of his faith in God. As Christians, we too are to live by faith. We are not to judge hypocritically or self-righteously. We are called to “test everything,” discern through the Spirit, but not to judge.