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The Reluctant Prophet

Jonah is best-known from his famous encounter with a whale (see the Fact Finder question below), but the often-overlooked reason that Jonah was at sea was because he was attempting to run away from what the LORD had told him to do:

"1:1 Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 1:2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. 1:3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. 1:4 But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken." (Jonah 1:1-4 KJV)

"1:15 So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. 1:16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows. 1:17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." (Jonah 1:15-17 KJV)

"And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time"

Back on land, with his lesson not to disobey the LORD firmly "anchored" in his mind, "Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD."

Sackcloth

"3:1 And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, 3:2 Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.

3:3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey [i.e. it took 3 days to walk around the perimeter of the city]. 3:4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

3:5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.

3:6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes [see Sackcloth and Ashes]. 3:7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: 3:8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. 3:9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?

3:10 And God saw their works [see Works Means Obedience], that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not." (Jonah 3:1-10 KJV)

Jonah was successful in his mission, but he would much rather to have "failed" - at least in the sense of the people of Nineveh rejecting his warning. Jonah (rightly) viewed the people of Assyria as a major threat to Israel - and would much rather have preferred to see The Lord destroy them - another profound irony. Nearly all of The Lord's prophets had little joy because most were ignored and rejected; the one that was successful, Jonah, was also unhappy because of the people that he was successful with.

It was however a plain assurance and proof that The Lord has compassion and forgiveness for anyone who repents and obeys Him. Again, to emphasize: "12:41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here" (Matthew 12:41 KJV).

Map Of The Assyrian Empire

"4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. 4:2 And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. 4:3 Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.

4:4 Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?

4:5 So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city. 4:6 And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. 4:7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. 4:8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

4:9 And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?

And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.

4:10 Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: 4:11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?" (Jonah 4:1-11 KJV)

Fact Finder: How did Jonah's "three days and three nights," as plainly spoken of by the Messiah ("12:40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" Matthew 12:40 KJV) get ignored by much of the Christian-professing world? How did it cause people to assume the wrong day of Christ's resurrection?
See The Son Rose As The Sun Set and Sun Worship.


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