The big fish in the biblical book of Jonah is just a detour in the drama. The British preacher G. Campbell Morgan (1863 –1945) once said, “Men have been looking so hard at the great fish that they have failed to see the great God.” Unlike the self-willed prophet Jonah, the big fish was simply following God’s command. The main character in Jonah is Yahweh, the God of Israel. Here’s a short list of twenty lessons we learn about God from the book of Jonah.
Each point below teaches that God is…
1. …A Sender (He uses flawed sinners to reach sinners). “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it…” (Jonah 1:2).
2. …Outraged by Wickedness. “…for their wickedness has come up before Me.” (Jonah 1:2).
3.…Powerful!“The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.” (Jonah 1:4) In addition to being omnipotent, the Psalmist illustrates God’s omnipresence: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139.7).
4.…The Creator! “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.” (Jonah 1:9).
5.…Willing to Hold the Guilty to Account. “Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? …What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?” (Jonah 1:8,11).
6.…Free! “For You, O LORD, have done as You have pleased.” (Jonah 1:14).
7.…Fearful and Awesome! “Then the men feared the LORD greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.” (Jonah 1:16, their greatest fear was when the storm suddenly stopped).
8.…In control of nature and nature’s creatures. “And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17).
9.…Attentive to our Prayers. “Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said, ‘I called out of my distress to the LORD, And He answered me.’” (Jonah 2:1-2).
10.…A Savior / Rescuer. “While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD… Salvation is from the LORD.” (Jonah 2:7,9).
11.…Persistent (He gave Jonah a second chance). “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it…” (Jonah 3:1-2).
12.…The Author of the Missionary Message. ‘Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.” (Jonah 3:2).
13.…Responsive to Repentance. “When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.” (Jonah 3:10).
14.…Patient. “But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.” (Jonah 4:1).
15.…Gracious and Compassionate. “For I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God,” (Jonah 4:2).
16.…Slow to Anger and willing to change His mind.“…slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.” (Jonah 4:2, from Exodus 34.6-7).
17.…A Provider and Comforter. “…so the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort.” (Jonah 4:6, from Exodus 34.6-7).
18.…One Who Gives & Takes Away. “But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered.” (Jonah 4:7).
19.…Conversational. “Then God said to Jonah, ‘Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?’ And he said, ‘I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” (Jonah 4:9).
20.…Concerned for the Lost. “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” (Jonah 4:11).
Jesus identified with the three days Jonah spent in the belly of the fish, saying, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40). And our Lord was much impressed with the Ninevites because they responded to Jonah’s preaching with repentance (Matthew 12:41).
Perhaps, Jesus saw parallels between the Jonah story and his Prodigal Son parable. In both tales, a stubborn young man ran away, came to his senses, and turned back from his rebellion. Like the prodigal son, Jonah had to learn things the hard way. God put their attitudes under construction. Happily, both stories feature repentance and forgiveness. Like the elder son in Jesus’ story, Jonah resented the Father’s forgiveness for his disobedient younger brother. Still, in both stories, God’s forgiveness stood (see point #13 above). Let it stand in your story too.