The Book of Jonah – A Most Unexpected Deliverance (part 4)

People are desperately looking for hope, for meaning, for understanding, for purpose, for relief from suffering, for forgiveness of all the wrong they’ve done. The God of the Bible offers all of that and we as Christians are in the same position as Jonah. We have the words of life for those in desperate need—though they may sound like words of death.

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jonah-calling-nineveh-to-repentance-antique-engravings
Jonah Preaches to Ninevites by Gustave Doré, 1866. From bibleodyssey.org

This is the last lesson in a four-part series on the spectacular book of Jonah. Many of us are familiar with the general narrative, but it’s easy to assume we know the whole story because we heard it in Sunday school as young children. Truth be told, this is no little kid’s fable. Jonah teaches us about defying God, resenting His calling, hating His people, and yet still receiving His mercy. Jonah is a man of extremes. His radical emotions and knee-jerk responses startle me awake to realize the absurd extremity in myself: my own running from God, my own resistance to His will for my life, and how much greater God’s love for me is than my own shortcomings. 

These posts are based off of Bible study lessons. They’re meant to be worked through with a Bible, a notebook, and a few friends. You’re more than welcome to read through these on your own, but I encourage you to invite a friend to work through each post with you. Ask each other the questions I pose, share your thoughts and feelings and questions with one another. These posts are long, so don’t feel pressured to work through a whole part in one sitting. And of course, I’d love for you to leave your own thoughts, insights, and questions in the comments below! 

Recap and Introduction

Last lesson, we worked through Jonah 3 and noted all of the similarities between it and Jonah’s first two chapters. There was plenty to compare and contrast. What were a few parallels that stood out to you? Take a minute to think back and share with your friends. Here’s a few things that especially stood out to me. God’s call was the same, but this time, Jonah “rose” and went to Nineveh (Jonah 1:1-3 and 3:1-3). God hurled Jonah’s message at Nineveh in the same way He hurled a storm at Jonah (Jonah 3:4 and 1:4). Jonah went as deep as the roots of the mountains before repenting; it only takes five words for all of Nineveh to repent (Jonah 2:6 and 3:5-9). In both Jonah 1 and 3, pagans turn to God in faith and beg for mercy; in both cases, God shows mercy and they become His people (Jonah 1:16 and 3:9-10). 

Once again, let’s answer this question: What is the main point of the book of Jonah? It’s not about the fish. The main point of the book of Jonah is that God is merciful; God has brought a most unexpected deliverance. God has shown mercy in every single chapter, every step of the way. Go ahead and take a few minutes between you and your friends to list every way God has shown mercy in the book so far. 

Where has God shown mercy? First, He doesn’t immediately smite Jonah the moment he steps in a direction other than Nineveh. God saves the pagan mariners who were put in harm’s way because of Jonah’s rebellion. He appoints a fish for Jonah in the midst of his rebellion, before he repented. He redeems Jonah and restores him as a prophet, again commissioning him to rise and go to Nineveh. God chooses to not immediately destroy Nineveh at Jonah’s proclamation, but instead declares “Yet forty days.” Finally, and most dramatically, God relents from His destruction as He sees the Assyrians’ changed hearts (remember John 14:15). 

What has been Jonah’s response to God’s mercy thus far? When Jonah was saved from drowning, what was his immediate reaction? He prayed and sang and worshipped; in short, he wrote Jonah 2. At the end of our last lesson, I said that the effect of God’s mercy produces gratitude and a new beginning. St. Paul models this perfectly in his conversion between Jerusalem and Damascus. Jonah in chapters 2-3 is another prime example. Despite no change in circumstances, the change in his heart was so great that he went to Nineveh anyway. Jonah 3:10 would be the perfect ending for a “happily ever after” story: Jonah’s redeemed, God saves Nineveh, all’s well that ends well. Jonah, however, is no fairy tale. Real life is far messier than that. We began this series by talking about Jonah’s overwhelming dread—Jonah 1:2-3 showed us that his source of dread was God Himself. Now we get to see what Jonah  meant. For a refresher, let’s start in Jonah 3:9-10. 

“Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.”

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 3:9-10, NASB)

Jonah’s Anger

What is Jonah’s response to these events?

But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.” (Jonah 4:1-3)

Why did Jonah run? What did he dread? Jonah was so disturbed at the thought of Assyrians being forgiven that he’d wanted to die so that they never got the chance to repent. Jonah is furious that God is exactly who He says he is. These words in verse 2 might sound familiar; they’re found throughout the Old Testament in prayers and praises to God.1 All of these are quotes and references to Exodus 34:6-7, one of the most important and spectacular events in the Old Testament. Exodus 34:6-7 could be considered the climax of a story that unfolds through Exodus 32-34: the construction of the golden calf, God’s anger with Israel, Moses’ intercession on Israel’s behalf, and the renewal of the covenant. I highly encourage you to read that passage on your own now before moving forward. 

In Exodus 33, God told the Israelites to go forward and take the land of Israel. However, God informed them that He would send an angel before them to defeat their enemies instead of going with them Himself. Moses pleads on behalf of the Israelites, asking God “how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:16). 

Moses’ request is for God to display His glory to the nations. God replies “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name” (v17, emphasis mine). Next, Moses asks the Lord to show His glory to himself. What a bold request, and how incredible it is that God allows it! Exodus 33:19 is God’s response to Moses’ final request: “And He said, ‘I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you.’” Of all the ways God could choose to reveal Himself to His people, He chooses these exact words:

Then the Lord passed by in front of [Moses] and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” (Exodus 34:6-7)

Jonah takes these beautiful glorious words and throws them in God’s face. Jonah 4:1 literally translates to “It [God sparing Nineveh] was evil to Jonah as a great wrong.” What’s his response to these events? “Kill me. End my life. Death is better than this.” There’s no gratitude. This is the opposite of a new beginning. Jonah seems to be back to where he was before, if not lower.

What do you think of this?  How does Jonah’s reaction make you feel? Take a second to process and talk with your friends. Honestly, my first reaction was one of disbelief and disgust. What happened to his change of heart? How could Jonah be so hateful? Another response could be more empathetic to Jonah’s rage. The Assyrians were unbelievably evil; I could see how one would be upset for them “being let off the hook.” What about you? Are you angry? Confused? Empathetic? 

Once more, what do you expect God to do with Jonah? Should God finally destroy him? He’s had plenty of chances. Will God let him off the hook? Will He Ignore him? Will He show mercy? Yes! But how? God is going to ask Jonah three questions.

The Plant

The Lord said, “Do you have good reason to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4)

Jonah’s made it abundantly clear why he’s angry. God wants him to evaluate his feelings. Deep, passionate conviction can just as easily justify evil as it can good. When we worked through Jonah 1, we noted that Jonah was sleeping in the boat as it was on the verge of sinking—that’s how comfortable he was. Our takeaway was this: Don’t appeal to your feelings as if they’re objectively true and right. God makes Jonah reflect on his disgust and fury and will to die when He asks “Do you have good reason to be this angry?”

Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. (Jonah 4:5)

How does Jonah reply? It’s sort of a non-response. Jonah doesn’t answer God; instead, he leaves Nineveh and settled himself on top of a hill to watch what happens to the city. He builds a shelter for himself so he can stay there for as long as it takes. Though he offers no words, Jonah shows by his actions that he is almost demanding God to destroy Nineveh. The prophet sits on the hillside furiously waiting for fire to fall from heaven, wanting nothing more than for them to be killed but certain that they wouldn’t. 

The NASB translates the word referring to Jonah’s structure as a “shelter.” Other translations use “tent” or “tabernacle,” but my favorite translation is the ESV’s and KJV’s “booth.” The word in Hebrew is סֻכָּה (sukkah).2 Jonah’s original audience would have immediately recognized the significance of this word; in English, all translations other than “booth” obscure the reference to the Feast of Booths. Jews have an annual festival where each family builds a tent (a.k.a. a booth) and lives in it for a week. This annual tradition has continued from the time of Moses and Joshua to the present, according to God’s command in Leviticus 23. Booths symbolize God’s provision and the covenant between Him and them. The booth itself serves as a continual reminder that for the other 51 weeks of the year, they don’t live in tents. God has provided for them. God delivered their ancestors from Egypt and from the wilderness, and His faithfulness has continued to their own generation.

Most importantly, it’s a reminder that God is with His people. Even when the Israelites were fleeing from Egypt, even when they did live in tents in the wilderness, and even after they settled in the promised land, God Himself saw fit to dwell in a tent among His people. God’s presence resided in the ark of the covenant, within the tabernacle of the Lord. The booth was a tangible, lived-in symbol of God’s faithfulness and incredible mercy. Jonah building a booth is deeply ironic, and Jews would have immediately picked up on that; the prophet sits fuming at God and waiting for the destruction of Nineveh while sitting in a shelter specifically constructed to remind him of God’s mercy. 

What we’re about to see unfold is a parable, but unlike the stories Jesus tells His disciples, this one plays out in real life. There are a lot of questions we might ask concerning the details of these events. Like the fish in Jonah 2, let’s remember to not lose sight of the main point. 

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. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.” (Jonah 4:6-8)

What do you notice? What stands out? Take a moment to share your thoughts with your friend. Here’s what grabbed my attention. God’s response to Jonah’s stubborn heart isn’t to immediately destroy him. I keep noticing this because I keep expecting the opposite! God’s mercy far exceeds what I expect: Jonah is furious at God, he is arrogant and hateful and murderous in his heart. God’s first thought is to give Jonah a shade plant to relieve his suffering in the hot sun. What a small, simple kindness! How overwhelmingly underserved! 

Dayenu, “It would have been enough”

Indulge me for a brief aside. When I see how vast and deep my own sinfulness is, I know how great my need for God’s mercy is. Nothing short of the cross could cover my iniquity. Yet, sometimes I find myself believing that because my wickedness is so great, I should only receive “big mercies” that set me right before God. I know I deserve nothing but wrath, so receiving forgiveness at the cross is more than enough for me. “How could God give me anything more when He’s already given me so much?” is the question of my heart. God’s question is the exact opposite: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Hallelujah! Consider Luke 11:11-13, or Matthew 7:9-11. If earthly, evil fathers know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more does God give His children blessings? 

For as long as I can remember, my family has annually celebrated a Christian Passover Seder the Saturday before Easter. Like a traditional Seder, we work through a Haggadah that retells the exodus from Egypt with various foods and props. Ours, however, also shows how Jesus is the true fulfillment of the Passover. My favorite part of the ceremony is when my family reads the lyrics to “Dayenu,” a traditional song that’s been sung for centuries. I’ll add a link to the full song in English and Hebrew as well as a short description of it below.3 The song is a long list of examples of God’s exceeding mercies throughout the exodus story. After each mercy, the family sings the refrain “Dayenu (it would have been enough)!” Here’s a few stanzas: 

If He had split the sea for us,

and had not taken us through it on dry land

— Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had taken us through the sea on dry land,

and had not drowned our oppressors in it

— Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had drowned our oppressors in it,

and had not supplied our needs in the desert for forty years

— Dayenu, it would have been enough!

If He had supplied our needs in the desert for forty years,

and had not fed us the manna

— Dayenu, it would have been enough!

“Dayenu” has become a constant refrain in my heart. If God had given me Himself through the gospel and nothing else, it would have been enough. He didn’t have to give me good health. Nothing necessitated Him blessing me with a love and talent for teaching. After the things I’ve done and the mistakes I’ve made, God has had no reason to bless me with a job doing something I love, a comfortable house to live in, great friends, a wonderful girlfriend, a family of fellow believers, financial stability, unlimited access to music through the internet, and countless other gifts I all too often take for granted—no reason, other than the fact that He is a good Father. It’s got nothing to do with what I’ve done; it’s all about who He is. 

Similarly, we can shout “Dayenu!” when we read Jonah. If God had spared Jonah from drowning but did not restore him as His prophet, it would have been enough. If He had sent Him to Nineveh again, but had let the Ninevites kill him on the spot, it would have been enough. If God had destroyed the Ninevites rather than relenting, it would have been enough. If God had simply spared Jonah from deserved destruction again in Jonah 4, but had not given him a plant to shade him from the sun, it would have been more than enough—and yet, appointing the plant for Jonah’s relief is His first thought. What a God we serve!

The Worm and the Wind

All this praise we give to God in response to appointing the plant, but that’s not the only thing God appoints for Jonah. He also appoints the worm and wind. What? God sends hardship and discomfort? Yes, and it is still mercy. Uncomfortable circumstances can tempt us to doubt God’s goodness. We are eager to worship Him for the easy, comfortable, happy things in our life. We’re inclined to accuse Him of injustice when He sends us anything else, rather than wonder what we can learn from our experiences. C.S. Lewis famously stated “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”4 How is this still mercy? When God sends hardship to one of His children, it is never an act of retribution. It is an act of discipline. God’s punishment for Christians is restorative, teaching us to love what He loves, hate what He hates, and trust and obey Him in every circumstance.5 

Jonah makes a particularly good example for us because his responses are always so extreme—either ecstasy or despair. Whether one extreme or the other, his emotions are completely self-focused (“I am relieved!” and then “I am wearied!”). Jonah is only concerned with God’s mercy when he is on the receiving end; Jonah acts like he is the only one who deserves God’s mercy, as non-sensical as that is. He’s excited about the God that appoints fish and plants for him, not the One that appoints the worm and the wind. God is about to ask Jonah two more questions to shine a light directly on the state of his heart. 

God teaches Jonah

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.” Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 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 4:9-11)

I don’t know about you, but this was not the comparison I thought God was going to make. I anticipated God saying, “You praise me when life is going well, but as soon as hardship comes, you wish to die? You fickle man!” Instead, God says “You had compassion on the plant” (emphasis mine). In what way did Jonah have compassion on the plant? Ask your friend what they think. I see Jonah having compassion on it in how he grieved its death. He thought it cruel for the worm to eat the plant that had been so refreshing to him. The plant mattered to him and he was bitterly miserable when it was gone. 

Notice the things God says Jonah takes no credit for. “You did not work and did not cause to grow.” The plant “Came up overnight and perished overnight.” God contrasts this Jonah’s compassion for the plant with His compassion for Nineveh. God points out those specific things in verse 10 because they give us insight into why God has so much more a reason to have compassion on Nineveh.  “You [Jonah] did not work” but God did work to create the Assyrians: God creates all life and forms each person by His power.6 “You [Jonah] did not cause to grow” but God did cause them to grow.7 The plant “Came up overnight and perished overnight” but humans are not merely plants that grow and die. God has given us eternal souls.8 What is God’s conclusion? “Should I not have compassion on them? Should I have not sent you?”When God says that the Ninevites don’t know the difference between their right and left hand, He’s pointing to their helplessness. My pastor describes it this way: “these people are so lost and so trapped in their sin they couldn’t even begin to fathom what it would take to be right before God.”Jonah would rather have died than see these wicked, hurting, utterly helpless people repent and be saved. 

What overwhelms me most is the fact that Jonah’s prophesy declared “Yet forty days.” For over a month, Nineveh was in constant repentance. Forty days of cries and prayers and sighs echoing within its wall. Forty days of peasant and king dressed alike in sackcloth and ashes. How long did Jonah remain in the city? How long was he surrounded by tens of thousands of people earnestly set on turning to God? How radical was the transformation he witnessed, and his heart was harder than ever!

Again, how does that make you feel? What are your thoughts on Jonah? Are you so different than him? I’m not. I don’t want to preach to the Nineveh’s of my life. I don’t even let people drive slow in front of me without swearing at them under my breath. I don’t even forgive my roommates for leaving dishes in the sink without seething about it in my head for a few hours. I spend so much of my time furious unto death over the loss of my plants that I can’t even begin to care about the Assyrians around me. I forget that I was an Assyrian. Not only am I not a Jew by birth, I was an enemy of God like the rest of us! If Jonah had known us, we would have been as good as Ninevites to him. Paul describes our condition in Ephesians 2:1-3. 

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (Ephesians 2:1-3) 

We were all in the same boat. None of us knew our right hand from our left. All we had earned was wrath, but Paul doesn’t stop there. The gospel doesn’t stop there. 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9)

When I read this, I can’t help but think back to “Dayenu.” Notice how God’s mercy snowballs! God not only makes us alive with Christ and raises us with Him, He also seats us with Him in the heavenly places. This would have been enough, but God plans to show us surpassing riches for eternity. Thank God that He is more compassionate than Jonah! Where the prophet refused to show mercy, God pours it out abundantly. When the prophet fumed and seethed with anger, God speaks peace to sinners. While Jonah refused to accept his enemies as his brother in the Lord, God calls us His children. 

Jonah is Israel, We are Jonah

I haven’t touched on this much before now, but Jonah is a representative of all Israel. I don’t mean to say he wasn’t a historical figure. He was, but he is also a representative of God’s people. Jonah in his extremities is a caricature of how the Israelites (and all too often Christians today) behave toward “outsiders.” Israel was enthusiastic to celebrate the blessings they received from God, but they were equally enthusiastic to see God’s curses fall on their enemies. Jonah is furious that salvation and repentance and holiness have come to “Them,” “the others,” “not us.”

Throughout much of their history, this favoritism appeared to be the case. After all, God picked Isaac and not Ishmael. God loved Jacob, not Esau. God drove out the Canaanite peoples so that Israel could receive the land God had promised them and nobody else. God had given Israel the feast of booths, so it would make sense for Jonah to not want to share his tent with an outsider, right? The truth is, the repentant Assyrians weren’t outsiders. They were children of Abraham just as legitimately as Jonah because they were children by faith.10

Even within Israel’s history from Jonah’s perspective, he could have found plenty of examples of those outside Abraham’s lineage sharing in his blessing. Remember all of Abraham’s servants who were circumcised. Remember Melchizedek, the mysterious Canaanite king and priest of God Most High. Remember Rahab. Remember Ruth. Remember Naaman. Remember the widow from Sidon and her son. God’s promise was for them, too.

Let’s go ahead and read Jonah 5:1-3 together.

…wait what? There’s no Jonah 5? That’s where the book ends?! On a question!? Yes. This is where the book ends, with a radical cliffhanger before we get to read the climax of this book. Does this mean that Jonah has no climax? Not at all. The climax of Jonah isn’t in Jonah 3. It’s not in Jonah 4. The climax of this book is supposed to take place in the heart of its readers. Jews reading this were supposed to be left with God’s question, “Should I not have mercy on the undeserved? Do you do well to celebrate their ruin and grieve their salvation?” The Jews would have been shocked; salvation, even for the gentiles? Even for the Assyrians? They get mercy, too? God sends them a messenger, too? They also get to hear the gospel? 

That question still applies to us. God is asking us “Should I not have mercy on those you deem undeserving? Those whom you refuse to show mercy to?” Do you realize that nonbelievers are desperate to receive the gospel? Nonbelievers are begging to receive Jonah’s message from a prophet of God. They are dying to know the Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations. 

People are desperately looking for hope, for meaning, for understanding, for purpose, for relief from suffering, for forgiveness of all the wrong they’ve done. The God of the Bible offers all of that and we as Christians are in the same position as Jonah. We have the words of life for those in desperate need—though they may sound like words of death. We, too, have been called to rise and go not just to Nineveh but to the ends of the earth. Everyone, everywhere: that’s our mission. Our message is what the angels declared to the shepherds at Bethlehem “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people…there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Jesus’ charge for His disciples in the great commission is no less than this. Read what Jesus proclaims in Matthew 28:18-20. 

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) 

Christ asserts His authority and gives us our orders. We’ve been given a mission to extend mercy to the whole world, but not without a great comfort. We do not go alone. Our Lord promises to remain with us every step of the way. Through every streak of rebellion and subsequent storm; when we find ourselves at the roots of the mountains or in the belly of a fish; when we bring terrifying words of love to people desperate for salvation; whether we face death at their hands or witness miraculous repentance—through it all, Christ is with us, eternal Emmanuel, His Holy Spirit resting in the tabernacle of our hearts. 

We’re left with a cliffhanger. What happened to Jonah? Does he finally see how rotten his own heart is? Does Jonah repent or remain in his hatred? I honestly can’t say. We’re never given an answer. Luke 11:29-35 confirms that the generation of Ninevites who repented were genuine and will stand with all true believers in heaven. The fact that Christ compares Himself to Jonah is reassuring. The fact that we have this book inclines me to believe Jonah did have a change of heart; who else could have written it? But again, I can’t say for certain, and again, I’m confident that’s not the point. The question we’re left with is not “What did Jonah do next?” but instead, it’s “What will you do next?” 

Application

In closing, I have two questions and two challenges for you and your friends to consider. First, who is the Nineveh of your life? Who is the “other”? Who could you not dream of showing mercy to? Drivers on the highway? Roommates who never clean? Your ex? Your parents? Friends who stabbed you in the back? People who hurt you? People who hate you? Maybe it’s a whole demographic of people. Figure out who they are and tell your friends. Listen to them tell you the same. 

Second, do you realize that God has called you to rise and go to the Assyrians in your own life? Matthew 28:18-20 wasn’t just for the disciples. Read Romans 10:12-15 together and discuss what you think it means for you. 

For your first challenge, go to your Nineveh. Start with prayer: pray for God to change your heart toward them. Pray for God to give you ideas and opportunities to share the gospel with them. I doubt you’ll end up street preaching like Jonah, but I hope you will have some sort of chance to represent Jesus to your Nineveh face-to-face. Pray for God to work in their hearts to receive Him as their merciful savior. Go with your friends. Share your struggles and praises with them. Take Jesus at His word. Follow the great commission. 

Your second challenge is to make “Dayenu” a constant refrain in your heart. Make a habit of noticing God’s mercies in your life and praising Him for them. If it helps you, try journaling about God’s mercy every day, in the same way you’ve written Jonah prayers every day for the last week. Constantly noticing God’s unnecessary mercy in your life will transform your heart and conform you to His will more and more every day. 

Conclusion

I hope this series is as beneficial for you to work through as it was for me to make. Taking a deeper look at this classic story has helped expand my love and knowledge of Christ in the Old Testament. I’ve become a little quicker to pray for forgiveness and a little slower to pass judgement without mercy.

I owe a world of thanks to my pastor Rev. Kevin Hass from By Grace Community Church (PCA) in Newport News, Virginia. His sermon series on Jonah was my primary resource while researching and meditating for my own lessons. Kevin’s genuine passion for Scripture, love of Christ, talent for preaching, and long friendship has been monumental in shaping who I am and how I write. Please check out By Grace’s weekly sermon podcast on iTunes!

* * * 

1 Nehemiah 9:31; Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Psalm 86:5; Psalm 86:15; Joel 2:13

2 https://biblehub.com/hebrew/5521.htm  

3 https://www.haggadot.com/clip/dayenu-english-hebrew-and-transliteration 

4 https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2976220-the-problem-of-pain 

5 Hebrews 12:4-17 is a good explanation of God’s restorative discipline. Of course, not all suffering we endure is appointed by God as discipline. For a more detailed look into various types of suffering, see Dr. Derek W.H. Thomas’ seminar “The Theology of Suffering” (https://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/seminars/suffering-the-theology-of-suffering) 

6 Genesis 2:7, Psalm 139:13-14, John 1:3-4, Acts 17:28

7 1 Corinthians 3:6-9

8 Luke 12:4-7

9 http://www.bygrace.cc/wp/resources/sermons?sermon_id=538 

10 Look to Romans 4, and also my study on Romans 8:28-9:29. 

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