This is part of a 7-day series on Jonah in the Lent 2016 reading plan.
The smiling felt-figure man next to the big, blue whale on the storyboards of our childhood: this is how many of us know the prophet Jonah. His story is memorable and fun to tell, a classic case of what not to do when God calls. But like all redemption stories, there is more to the book of Jonah than meets the eye. There is more to see than the irresistible spectacle of a man being swallowed whole by a fish.
Matthew Henry says the book of Jonah is “best understood by those who are most acquainted with their own hearts.” Because at its heart, Jonah is a story of salvation. It’s not about the fish. It’s not about the Ninevites. It’s not even about Jonah.
The book of Jonah is about the saving work of Christ and the boundless mercy of our sovereign God.
Jonah’s story foreshadows Christ’s sacrifice (we’ll see Jesus Himself draw this parallel in next week’s reading), but it also goes a step further: it illustrates the unreasonable forgiveness available to us because of Christ’s sacrifice.
A rebellious Jonah runs from God, repents when he sees of the vastness of his sin, and is pulled from the depths of his self-made pit by a merciful God.
A wicked Nineveh, undeserving of God’s compassion, repents and receives the same mercy.
Like the older brother in Jesus’ parable of the lost son in Luke 15, Jonah is angry at the Father’s unabashed display of mercy. He is ironically offended by God’s truly free grace—balking at the Lord’s mercy toward Nineveh while sighing with relief as he receives it for himself.
But grace is, by definition, undeserved. The distance between a sinful humanity and a Holy God can only be spanned by His saving mercy.
Like Jonah, the lost son, and the Ninevites, we too are invited to come clean. We are invited to repent and return to the arms of a God who pursues us at our worst, rescues us from our darkness, and rejoices over us as His beloved child.
May we hear the Father’s call as we read Jonah’s story. And may we be drawn to repentance, running toward the only One who knows and restores our wayward hearts.
Written By Amanda Bible Williams