Ever been told a fish tale? You know, a story about “the one that got away.” With every telling of the story, the fish gets bigger and bigger.
When it comes to the Bible, the book of Jonah is maligned as a “fish tale” by those who don’t believe the Bible. The biggest fish that got away. Even among Christians, Jonah is often relegated to the status of a children’s Sunday school story.
But Jesus referred to Jonah’s experience as an actual historical event:
“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).
Despite the title, many don’t realize the focus of the book of Jonah is not really about the prophet Jonah.
It’s also not about the great fish that swallowed him.
It’s not even about Ninevah, the capital city of the Assyrians where Jonah was sent.
The book of Jonah is about the nature of God.
The events in this book are clear:
- Jonah is given a command by God.
- Jonah disobeyed God’s command and runs away.
- Jonah is restrained by a great fish.
- Jonah repents of his disobedience.
- Jonah is recommissioned to go to Ninevah.
- Jonah resents God’s compassion toward the Ninevites.
But the events are merely a backdrop for revelations about the nature of God. Consider these names and attributes of God. He is:
- Adonai – a Master to be obeyed
- Father – a parent who lovingly disciplines His child
- Forgiving – He forgives all who repent
- Sovereign – His purposes will always prevail
- Holy – sinners must repent or be judged
- Merciful – He extends mercy toward the vilest sinners
- Gracious – even when Jonah demanded justice, God extended grace.
The account of the prophet Jonah may be a fish tale to unbelievers. It may even be a misunderstood story by some Christians. But as we see the characteristics of God revealed in its pages, we gain a deeper appreciation of His nature and His ways.
Read the book of Jonah for yourself. It’s only four chapters. As you read it, how many characteristics of God can you identify?
Several years ago, I read about a man who had been swallowed by a whale and survived. When the whale spit him out, the man had no eyelashes or eyebrows, and his skin was super sensitive to the sun. Sounds like Jonah to me. 🙂
Wow, Mary – it sure does! 🙂