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It all began with a fish, or whale.
Here was a bunch of people called the Ninevites who lived in a city that would take three days to walk across. Hence, it was called the “great city.”
The thing is, they were not the type you would invite to your Bar-B-Que. They were described in the Bible as “wicked.”
So, here’s how the story goes, Jonah, the prophet of God, is commissioned to go to the Ninevites and tell them that their conduct is not on. But Jonah does a runner and goes the opposite way and jumps on a boat.
Well, a mighty storm overcame the boat, and they were all going to drown. Jonah said, throw me overboard, it’s my fault. But the sailors had a conscience and were reluctant, but, needs must: they threw Jonah over and the storm calmed. The sailors prayed and thanked God. Afterwards, the men sacrificed to God and showed their gratitude.
Now here comes the amusing part. God sent a large fish — probably a whale—and low and behold, Jonah was stuck in its belly for three days and nights. There, he fell into a depression, thinking God had abandoned him. But no. God made the fish vomit Jonah on to dry land.
Now God spoke to him and told him to go do what he is told and preach to the Ninevites. Something must have happened there, because when he returned, he raised some issues with God. He sat there feeling sorry for himself, and probably with a gloomy face on him like one of those Lewis Chessmen. So, God in his loving kindness made a large plant grow and shade Jonah from the scorching sun whilst Jonah awaited the fate of the city.
The next morning, God sent a worm to eat into the plant and it withered. Jonah got upset and asked God why he destroyed the plant?
God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left…” Jonah 4 (NIV).
You see, while this was all happening, the people responded to Jonah’s preaching. The King of Nineveh tore off his stately attire and told the people to repent and fast. And God forgave them.
There are so many lessons in this story, but here is the major lesson I take from it: no matter who or where you are, if you turn to God, he will be there for you. This was when God was dealing with the nation of Israel, but he never forgot about god-fearing people, great and small, who were living in other pockets of civilization.
God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. Acts 17:27.
Just pick up a Bible and pray sincerely to God.
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.