Jonah, son of Amittai, was a reluctant prophet who lived in the time of Jereboam II of Israel [2 Kings 14:25]; he preached only one sentence to his appointed audience. Jonah's book, a literary account of events of Jonah's ministry to Nineveh, may have been written as a historical account or composed as a parable, but either way its message is the same.
- Although Jonah was reluctant to act as God's prophet to pagan, vicious Nineveh, God was not reluctant to extend his grace to Jonah's sailors, Jonah himself, and ultimately to Nineveh. Jonah wanted to keep God to himself and his people, but he found himself inadvertently evangelising his sailors as well as the Ninevites.
- Meanwhile God showed he was not limited to acting through an intermediary prophet; he used a storm, a great sea-monster, a vine and a worm to demonstrate his sovereignty over Jonah, the sailors, the Ninevites and, almost in passing, over all of creation.
Something I found interesting while reading about the argument for the historicity of Jonah*:
"Ambrose John Wilson in the Princeton Theological Review of 1927 mentions a case analogous. to that of Jonah. A member of the crew of a whaling ship in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands was swallowed by a large sperm whale which had been harpooned, his boat being upset by a lash of its tail. The whale was killed and dissected and on the third day the missing sailor was found inside the stomach of the animal, doubled up and unconscious. A bath of sea water soon revived him, but the skin of his face, neck and hands, exposed as it had been to the action of the gastric juice, was bleached to a deadly whiteness and never recovered its natural appearance; otherwise his health was not affected by this terrible ordeal.1
In another American periodical, Bibliotheca Sacra, G. Macloskie, of Princeton University, has taken the trouble to demonstrate how even the true whale may be able to rescue a man from drowning. He points out that, as the whale is an air-breathing animal, it has to expel from its mouth cavity all superfluous water immediately after having received its food. Now if any other air-breathing creature should get mixed with its food and be carried by the influx of water between the monster’s jaws, the intruder would be transferred from the water in which it was drowning into the air supply of the whale itself. It could not enter the whale’s stomach because of the narrow inlet, but it might reach the great laryngeal pouch, which starts from below and in front of the larynx and runs down the front of the neck on to the chest. It has thick, elastic walls, and a cavity quite large enough to receive a human body, and to supply it with air for breathing.2"
"One greater than Jonah is here," Jesus declared of himself [Luke 11:32]. Unlike Jonah, Jesus was not a reluctant prophet. He preached his message of the coming kingdom of God widely and well for three years before his death [Matthew 4:17] ... and then Jesus rose again to verify and again proclaim his message [Acts 1:3].
Not everyone believes the story of Jesus' resurrection. Sometimes I shrug and think, "that person was never going to change their mind about God". But the truth of the matter is, neither would I have changed my mind about God if it were up to me. If not for God's intervention, I would still be an unrepentant pagan. So I thank the LORD that he taught me to believe through the sign of Jonah, as it was brought to fulfilment in Jesus' resurrection.
> Do you believe that Jesus rose from the dead? What impact does this have on your faith in Jesus?
I thank you for the cross.
But I thank you even more for your resurrection.
Thank you for granting me belief in you.
* From Aalders, G. Ch., 'The Problem of the Book of Jonah' (London: Tyndale, 1948) p. 5-6.
1. A. J. Wilson, ‘The Sign of the Prophet Jonah,’ Princeton Theological Review, vol. xxv. p. 636.
2. G. Macloskie, ‘How to Test the Story of Jonah.’ Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. lxxii, pp. 336f.