What Can We Learn From Jonah? :: By Nathele Graham

We tend to view many of the historical accounts in Scripture as children’s stories. We see Noah and the Ark as a cute little cartoon, forgetting the serious truth of why Noah built the Ark. Daniel in the lion’s den usually shows Daniel petting the heads of friendly lions, but we forget that he was thrown to hungry lions because he would not bow before an idol, but God shut their mouths.

Another “cute” account is Jonah being swallowed by a whale. There is a very serious reason for this, but we tend to water down the truth. Jonah was running from God, who had asked him to warn Nineveh of coming judgment. Jonah wanted the people of Nineveh to be condemned, not forgiven. Do you think that God only began caring about Gentiles after Jesus gave His life for the salvation of the world?

The truth is God loves His creation, no matter what the ethnic background is. For many years, God focused His attention on Israel, but He didn’t forget the Gentiles. That is seen very clearly in what happened in the very evil and wicked city of Nineveh. This very large city was located in ancient Assyria, and the Assyrians were very wicked; they were enemies of Israel. One day, the Lord spoke to Jonah and said, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me” (Jonah 1:2).

How would you react if God clearly told you to go to Baghdad and walk through the city warning of coming judgment? More than likely, you would do what Jonah did and run the other way! God wanted the people of Nineveh to turn from their wickedness, idol worship, and all the evil that was a part of their lives. “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” (Jonah 1:3).

Jonah forgot that there is nowhere to hide from the presence of God. . It’s easy to read the story of Jonah and wonder why he ran, but I can tell you I’m thankful God hasn’t asked me to go to San Francisco or New York City or Hollywood and speak against the wickedness and evil there. What if you were asked to go spread the Gospel to Washington DC? Would you go, or would you head the other way?

God was serious about preaching against the evil found in Nineveh. When Jonah got on the boat to Tarshish, God set about changing Jonah’s mind. God sent a great wind that made even the sailors afraid. Each of those sailors cried to his own god. That’s still the problem today. Too many people don’t trust God Almighty but trust in the gods they create… the god of money, the god of sex, the god of self, and more. Like Jonah, we try to hide from God and don’t share the Gospel with any of them. While all of the wind and fear were happening, Jonah was asleep. “So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not” (Jonah 1:6).

Christians, are we sleeping? There is a major storm raging all around us, a spiritual onslaught, but we act as if there’s no problem. The battle is Spiritual, and evil is behind the storms we face, and we need spiritual armor to fight (study Ephesians chapter 6). What can we do? The answer is simple: “O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God.” God needs strong Christian soldiers fit for battle.

Jonah confessed he was Hebrew and claimed he feared the Lord. “And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:9). If he was in fear of the Lord, why was he running? The excuses are much like the ones we use today: “I’m afraid.” “Does God really want me to preach to them?” “They deserve judgment,” “I don’t know Scripture well enough to say anything.” Jonah knew he failed and that the storm was caused by his disobedience. “And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you” (Jonah 1:12).

Sometimes even a bad witness can be used by God. The sailors, who all had their own gods, ended up crying out to the Lord. “Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou O LORD hast done as it pleased thee” (Jonah 1:14). What a statement coming from a group of men with no faith in God! Brothers and sisters, our silence and our joining in worldly lifestyles cause us to hold our silence while the evil storms get stronger.

We know what happened next. The sailors threw Jonah overboard, but God wasn’t done with him. “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 1:17). What does that remind you of? The Scribes and Pharisees wanted Jesus to give them a sign (as if He hadn’t shown many signs before). “But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 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 12:39-40).

The Scribes and Pharisees wanted theatrics, but Jesus didn’t come to earth to put on a show. He was serious about His mission here. He gave His life and spent three days and three nights in the tomb, but on the third day, He arose!

Jonah was in quite a predicament. Almost as a last resort, Jonah prayed. “Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly” (Jonah 2:1). His prayer was heartfelt “And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (Jonah 2:10). Yuck! Can you imagine the mess he was? I’m sure he smelled pretty bad, too. It took a real wake-up call to get Jonah to come around to God’s will. It would have been a lot easier on him if he would have obeyed God and headed to Nineveh rather than running away.

“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” (Jonah 3:2).

Now that his troubles were behind him, off he went to Nineveh. The question is, was he sincere? How often do we find ourselves in a very bad situation and pray to God for help? Oh, we make all kinds of promises. If God gets us out of the belly of the whale, we will do anything He asks. That was Jonah’s attitude, and off he went to Nineveh.

“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. 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. 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. 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 thin:, let them not feed nor drink water: 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” (Jonah 3:4-8).

Jonah wasn’t preaching the love of God but rather seemed happy to preach that God would execute judgment in forty days. Jonah didn’t want them to survive. In spite of his bad attitude, everyone in Nineveh turned to God.

God is always willing to forgive, but the repentance has to be real.

When Solomon had finished building the Temple, he called the people together, and they had a feast of dedication, and everyone was joyous. After the celebration, the Lord went to Solomon by night and told him He had heard his prayer and He was pleased with the Temple. Among other things, God told Solomon, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

These words were for the Jewish people, but when we give our lives to Christ, we are known as Christian… we are called by His name. It’s time for us to humble ourselves, pray, and truly seek God. Nineveh, a pagan Gentile city, did humble themselves before the Lord. They did turn from their wicked ways, and their judgment was delayed until they returned to their wickedness.

Jonah should have been very pleased. He survived a storm and being swallowed by a big fish, and his words to Nineveh were effective. The city repented. “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry” (Jonah 4:1). Jonah had a snit fit, and he explained to God that the reason he had run away was because he knew that if he went to Nineveh, they would repent. Jonah didn’t want that. He wanted them to face God’s judgment rather than God’s mercy. He was so upset that he asked God to take his life and let him die.

How would you feel if you witnessed to someone who was a very evil person and they surprised you and humbled themselves and repented? Would you be filled with joy and gratitude? What did Jonah do? Rather than being happy for Nineveh, Jonah pouted. “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” (Jonah 4:5). Jonah really wanted Nineveh to face judgment. That isn’t the way we should approach witnessing. If Jonah would have joyfully obeyed God instead of running away, he might have been able to rejoice when the whole city repented and came to know the true God.

What lesson can we learn from Jonah? There are many truths hidden in this four-chapter book. God wants everybody to come to know Him. He doesn’t want anybody to face His judgment. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

If God asks you to speak to a friend, family member, or someone you consider an enemy, will you joyfully do it? Or will you do everything you can in order to get out of witnessing? If so, you should become more comfortable with Scripture. In that way, you can have answers to questions others may have. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

If God can use a man like Jonah, He can use you. Be obedient to His word and spread the Gospel. Judgment was coming, but Jonah didn’t want Nineveh to repent. Do you want your enemies to repent? Wake up, O sleeper. Don’t be like Jonah and run, but with humility and prayer, share the Gospel. God wants everyone to come to salvation.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

Recommended prophecy sites:


All original scripture is “theopneustos,” God-breathed.

If you would like to be on my mailing list to receive the commentaries, just drop me an email and let me know.

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” (Psalm 122:6).