If you’re like most people (including me), a when you think of Jonah, a whale comes to mind. Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh to prophesy as God tells him to, and he is swallowed be a “big fish,” where he dwells for three days. Pretty incredible story. What’s even more incredible, however, is we think that this is the main point of the story. That is not the case.
God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh to bring them a message of repentance. God is going to bring disaster upon the city if they do not turn to Him, but Jonah doesn’t want to go. Why? Jonah doesn’t want to go to Nineveh because it was the capital of Assyria, the wickedest nation of Jonah’s day. The Assyrians were known as a “merciless and savage people” with a cruel army described as “ruthless and effective.” The Assyrians were known to burn cities, burn children, impale their victims on stakes, behead their victims, and chop off their hands. If a city resisted their attacks, they would cut off the heads of the city’s leaders, rip open the pregnant women and kill their babies (they believed the spirit of the god of the nation lived in the babies), and hanged military leaders alive on sharp poles. They would throw the heads of defeated armies into the walls of a city they were attacking. Those they captured were led into exile with fish-hooks through their jaw; they would be forced to walk hundreds of miles. They would also force those who they captured to become part of their armies.
This is the nation to which God sends Jonah, telling them to repent and turn to Him, because God is going to judge them if they don’t. Jonah doesn’t want to go because he doesn’t want Nineveh to repent! He doesn’t want this wicked nation to receive the forgiveness of God after all they had done! But God loves the Assyrians. Even though they were a wicked, terrible people, His heart is to see them redeemed – for them to turn to Him and recognize that they need Him. They need to ask for His forgiveness, and they need to realize how badly they need His mercy. Do we, like Jonah, think some people don’t “deserve” the mercy of God? Do we think that some people are too wicked to ever receive salvation? If this is the case, we need to check our hearts. Aren’t we wicked? Haven’t we sinned against the Lord? We are just as deserving of hell as anyone else, the only difference is that we who believe in the saving work of the cross are spared from the wrath of God by the blood of Christ.
So what happened to Nineveh? Jonah eventually got there, gave the message of repentance, and the Assyrians actually turned to God. Unfortunately, their repentance and humility before the Lord didn’t last. We see this in the book Nahum, where Nahum prophesies about the impending judgement of this nation which had taken Israel into exile. His prophecies would come true; Assyria was defeated by Babylon in 612 BC.
The next books to read will be Isaiah, Micah, Obadiah and Habakkuk. Isaiah takes approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes to read. Micah takes about twenty minutes, and Obadiah and Habakkuk will take you less than fifteen minutes to read both.
Main Idea: Jonah attempts to flee from the Lord who has instructed him to prophecy destruction to Nineveh; when Nineveh hears the prophecy, they repent and believe God. (God’s mercy for all nations and people).
Reason Written: Shows the results of rebelling against the Lord and repenting and turning to Him.
Timeless Truth: No one is too “far gone” that God cannot draw them to Himself (Jonah 3:5-10)
Main Idea: Nineveh would be judged because they had taken Israel into exile.
Reason Written: Written to warn the capital of Assyria, Nineveh, that judgement was coming against them.
Timeless Truth: Mercy for the wicked and unrepentant has an expiration date (Nahum 1:8; 3:1-7).
Main Idea: God asks Hosea to marry and love an unfaithful woman as a symbol of God’s faithfulness, and Israel’s unfaithfulness.
Reason Written: Predicts the fall of Israel due to their unfaithfulness, but promises restoration.
Timeless Truth: God calls His people to 100% faithfulness (Hosea 3:3).