Being called to preach to the hated Ninevites was not something to brag about to your prophet friends. Nineveh was a wicked city of Israel’s bitterest enemy the Assyrians. They were not a people group on whom one would want God to bestow mercy. When Jonah received this God-given commission, “he just didn’t feel called” and ran from the presence of the Lord.
- The Preparation of Humility
Jonah 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’s pride made him unusable. He refused to serve the Lord; but God, in love, chastened His child into usability (Heb. 12:7). Jonah could have easily obeyed and taken a ship to Nineveh; but because of pride, he had to get there the hard way – by submarine.
God is good at getting our undivided attention. Even whales are not “off the table” in His humility tool-kit. God prepared His prophet Jonah for Nineveh with a mandatory, three-day prayer meeting in the whale’s belly.
Once on shore, humble Jonah realized that, apart from God’s grace, he was nothing more than whale puke! Jonah learned an important lesson: “Serve God on the shore where you were puked!”
Fortunately for us, we have the opportunity to humble ourselves before our whale shows up.
1 Peter 5:5-6, Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
- The Preparation of Compassion
Jonah 4:6-8, 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. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. 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.
The humbling whale got Jonah back on the strait and narrow. He obediently preached what God wanted him to preach to the people God wanted it preached. However, humble and obedient Jonah had no compassion.
God was still growing and preparing his preacher. In Jonah chapter four, Jonah sat on a hill overlooking Nineveh patiently waiting for the city’s fiery destruction. God “prepared” a gourd just like he “prepared” the whale. The gourd provided shade to Jonah. Jonah was “exceeding glad” with the gourd’s shade; but, when a “prepared” worm destroyed the “prepared” gourd and a “prepared” hot, vehement east wind blew on Jonah, Jonah was angry.
Jonah 4:9-11, 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. 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: 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?
God, through His preparations, exposed the callousness of Jonah’s heart. Despite Jonah’s obedience to God’s commission, he was more upset with his loss of comfort than he was with a whole city perishing in hell.
God is never done working on us His Saints. God not only speaks to us by His Word but also by whales, gourds, worms, and winds, preparing us to humbly obey His commandments and to follow them with a heart of compassion.