By Zhao Hua
One day when I was browsing pictures of the, I was attracted by a picture of Jonah being swallowed by a great fish in the sea. Then I opened the Book of Jonah in the Bible and saw the verses saying, “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. … And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is on us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. … So they look up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. … Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:1-4, 7, 15, 17). “Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly…. And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah on the dry land” (Jonah 2:1, 10). “And the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the preaching that I bid you. So Jonah arose, and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:1-4).
After reading these scriptures, I thought: Why did Jonah refuse the commission of Jehovah? Why didn’t he listen to God? I was very puzzled about these questions.
One day at a meeting, I talked about my confusion on Jonah refusing the Jehovah’s commission. Then a brother fellowshiped: “When Jehovah God spoke to Jonah and commanded him to go to Nineveh, that great city, to convey His words, Jonah didn’t want to go, because he thought the people of Nineveh were Gentiles, not worshiping Jehovah God, and even opposing Him. God should directly destroy them, and there was no need to convey. So Jonah didn’t do as Jehovah had bid. Then calamities befell Jonah due to his disobedience. When the word of Jehovah God came to Jonah the second time, he didn’t dare to refuse. But at that time, Jonah’s attitude was that God would definitely destroy them, so there was no need to say much. Therefore, Jonah only conveyed one sentence, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.’ From the simple way Jonah conveyed God’s words, we can see that Jonah went to Nineveh not for Ninevites’ life but for a formality. If Jonah had conveyed God’s words to the Israelites, he would have definitely talked a little more about it. Because Israelites believed in God and they were God’s chosen people. But he just conveyed God’s words to Ninevites in such a short sentence. From Jonah’s behavior we can see that Jonah didn’t have a heart fearing God. He was not mindful of God’s intentions and didn’t understand for the salvation of man, just relying on his self-will to do what God had entrusted. Jonah didn’t know God will still give people a chance to repent when He decides to emit His wrath. God cannot bear to destroy the human beings He created with His own hands and He hopes that man will be able to repent when they know their own corruption and rebellion. However, neither did Jonah understand God’s will, nor did he comprehend God’s care and thought. Moreover, he did not know that there is mercy in God’s righteous disposition too, so he defined God’s work. Then Jonah found a place to make him a booth and sat under it to see for fun how God would destroy Nineveh, that great city. Jonah thought Jehovah God would definitely destroy Nineveh, but unexpectedly, God changed His attitude to the Ninevites and decided not to destroy them because of their true repentance, bestowing compassion and tolerance upon them. It is evident that Jonah had no God-fearing heart and defined God by his notions and imagination. For the man who fears God, when he cannot understand something or God’s acts don’t conform to his conception, he will think: Everything God does is right and there is always a principle to God’s actions; we men are stupid and ignorant, incapable of penetrating the spiritual realm, and we mortal beings cannot know God. He has no conceptions or misunderstandings about God, so he can keep in his heart an obedience to God when dealing with each of God’s acts. Therefore, he will shun evil and avoid judging and resisting God.
After listening to the brother’s fellowship, I suddenly saw the light. It was because Jonah didn’t have a heart fearing God that he refused God’s commission. He judged and defined God’s work and did what God entrusted based upon his own notions and imaginations. He thought that the Ninevites are Gentiles, not the Israelites, God’s chosen people. So what’s the point in informing them? God should directly destroy them. Therefore, he refused God’s commission, which resulted in his being swallowed by the fish, in whose belly he spent three days and nights.
From Jonah’s attitude toward God’s commission we can see God’s tolerance for us humans. Even though Jonah rebelled against God and refused His commission, God still gave him a chance to repent. Jonah was swallowed by the great fish, but he wasn’t hurt. From this we can see that God despises evil things and punishes those who defy Him and offend His disposition. However, God will extend mercy and tolerance when people repent and change. God’s disposition is not only one of majesty and wrath, but also one of mercy and love.
Jonah’s actions are a great warning for us. Through this, I understand: No matter how God works on us and what God requires of us, we must not judge God’s work according to our own imaginations, but obey before God, seek and grasp God’s will and keep reverence for God in our hearts. Only in this way can we not offend God’s disposition. Just as the saying goes, “Obedience brings blessings, rebellion brings misfortune.” This saying is true indeed.
Jonah Cast Into the Sea and Swallowed
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