Jonah is no mythical figure (2 Kings 14:25). His effective preaching (note the change from the mariners’ paganism (Jonah 1:5) to their prayer to “God of Israel” (ch. 1:14). Why did the heathen Ninevites repent so quickly? Was it because Jonah had been beached by the fish’s digestive juices, or had the account gone on before him – ‘A man swallowed whole in the ocean’? the humility of the heathen Ninevites who believed God (3:5) and whose king humbled himself (3:6) and proclaimed a national fast (3:7-9)? Jonah’s wonderful prayer (2:1-9), goes from despair to confidence in God’s salvation and portrays God’s character: He is patient and the Creator (1:9), He hears prayer (2:2), He saves (2:9), He relents (3:9-10; 4:2), He is gracious, merciful, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness (4:2).

Jonah willingly accepted his fate and acknowledged his sin (1:12) – Jesus was sinless but he, too, accepted his death willingly (Isa. 53:7; Matt. 20:28). Jonah was saved from corruption (2:6) – Jesus’ body saw no corruption and was resurrected (Ps. 16:10). By the sacrifice of one man (Jonah – 1:12) many were saved – by the death of Jesus many will also be saved (Rom. 5:19). Jesus mentions Jonah as a sign of his own death and resurrection (Matt. 12:38-41; 16:4; Luke 11:29-32), while Jonah’s preaching is compared to that of Jesus’ (Matt. 12:41).

God is everywhere, we cannot run away from Him. His compassion is for all people, everywhere. He wants them to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), whether a failing Israelite prophet or heathen gentiles. Sometimes humility must come before a servant of God can be effective. Instead of standing before the king of Nineveh, Jonah found himself being challenged by the ship’s captain and the other mariners (1:10). Admitting wrong-doing is not enough, something must be done about sin. After Jonah’s confession and the continued raging (1:11,13), calm came once Jonah was thrown into it (1:15).

Prayer reaches God from everywhere, even from the prison of a fish’s belly. Jonah repented, then got on with the job God had called him to. God seems to always give a second opportunity.

Bro. Colin Bwire (Kigandalo, Uganda)

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