I had for many years pictured Jonah as a wimp. I mean, “Come on dude, you do great when you get to hang out in your own country and tell them how God is going to bless them. But you get asked to make one little trip to another country, and you chicken out!” Really? The guy seemed like a wimp.
Lately, though, I have been reading those minor prophet books, not as pretty and sweet as some books, but they have some good stuff! I was reading Nahum the other day, and got a completely new picture of Jonah. Now Jonah was not specifically mentioned in Nahum, but Nahum spent his book explaining a vision he had regarding God’s destruction of the Assyrian nation and Nineveh in particular.
Nineveh . . . now that was where Jonah was sent. In our Bible study class not long ago, we learned about a guy named Sennacherib. He was an Assyrian King. We were studying some events of 2 Kings when Hezekiah was King over Judah and the Assyrians attacked. Their brutality in those attacks was phenomenal. They impaled people, beheaded them and stacked their heads like a pyramid, and took dead bodies and basically made walls out of them at the entrance to the cities they conquered. They did not just attack Israel and Jodah either. They basically ruled the “know world” for a time and did these same things to all kinds of people. They did not make many friends.
These were some bad dudes.
Now, back to Jonah. We have all read how Jonah protested to God. The Israelites did not like the Assyrians. Can you blame them? Fighting against them as an army was fierce. Jonah was asked to go to their city, alone.
Truth be told, in those circumstances, I would have probably hightailed it in the opposite direction as well.
God calls us all to many things throughout our lifetime, just like Jonah. And we have all had those moments when they felt as intimidating as Jonah felt in his call to go to Nineveh. The threat to us may not have been physical, but we felt a threat nonetheless. We did not want to go. But just like Jonah’s circumstance, God had prepped the objective long before Jonah’s arrival and God did not leave him out there hanging alone.
God does the same with us. He preps the objective and goes with us. Thank goodness.
We can learn a lot from Jonah, but one thing I learn in particular is that my heart attitude effects me far more than it does others. Jonah performed the steps God told him too and then he went and waited. He fulfilled the steps, but his heart attitude was all wrong. When the people of Nineveh repented, God accepted and did not destroy them. There was peace in that city for that time. Jonah went to the hillside and waited for God to destroy them anyway, then was upset when He didn’t. The only person hurt in all this was Jonah.
He sat there sulking and pitiful because things did not go as he wanted them too when everyone else was experiencing some grace. He surely missed out because of his heart attitude. We do the same thing sometimes. We miss out on so much, not because we don’t perform the steps required, but because our heart attitude is wrong.
What happened to Nineveh in the end? Well, you will have to read Nahum to see!
So, what do you think of Jonah? Wimp or not? I am inclined to think he was pretty brave just for showing up in Assyrian territory. Praying I would be brave enough to show up in enemy territory if God called me.