THE REST OF THE STORY


There was a syndicated radio commentator and news broadcaster named Paul Harvey who lived from 1918 until 2009. He remains an American icon and was known for his heart warming anecdotes that often gave us unique insight into some very common stories. He would always close these commentaries by saying “And now you know the rest of the story”. If you wish to listen to any of these I believe you can find them on you tube.

With that in mind, I would like to look at some references found in the book of Jonah and apply them to our lives. This Old Testament account tells us the story of a prophet named Jonah. Jonah prophesied in Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II  from around 786 BC to 746 BC. He is mentioned in the book of 2 Kings 14:25 in relation to a prophecy regarding the restoration of some of the borders of Israel. He is also mentioned during the ministry of Jesus found in Matthew 12:38-41 when the Resurrection of Jesus after three days in the tomb is compared to Jonah's three days in the belly of the whale.

The main thing I remembered when I was younger is that Jonah was swallowed by a large fish, most likely a whale. It is something we recall being taught to us in Sunday School but often we don’t consider much more than that. As a child you find those things fascinating and in some ways even think it would have been a very cool experience. In speaking with some adult friends they have found it to be a far fetched story, and some scholars have even considered it an allegory.

First of all, I believe as the Scriptures say “with God all things are possible”. Secondly, in Jonah 1:17 it is mentioned that “the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah”. (NIV) In other versions it says “appointed a fish” or “prepared a fish”. As God is the creator of all living creatures, He certainly could prepare a fish to keep a human being in its belly for three days and nights. Thirdly, Jonah is mentioned by the Lord Jesus as an example of how God can work through a human being in extraordinary circumstances and communicates His message through any means possible.

I think though that we have to go back to the reason why Jonah found himself in such a predicament. In chapter 1:1-2, we are made aware of the fact that God spoke clearly to Jonah. He had a responsibility to preach the message of God; that the people of Nineveh needed to repent of their wicked ways. Instead as we read in verse 3, he ran in the opposite direction and disobeyed God, plain and simple. I wish to insert a question here. Has God ever asked something of you and your response has been opposite to His request?

From a clearly humanistic perspective, Jonah had some pretty valid reasons for not wanting to travel to Nineveh. Firstly the city was the Assyrian capital. They were the enemies of Israel and the most powerful and successful empire at that point in history. Secondly Nineveh was known for its wickedness. They were idolatrous, violent and cruel not only to their enemies but often to their own people. For these reasons and more Jonah was reluctant to preach the message of God’s good news.

As we read further into the story we come across Jonah’s prayer in chapter 2 as he acknowledges that he has been disobedient. God, in His grace, gave Jonah another opportunity and asked him in chapter 3:1 to go again. This time he obeyed and he proclaimed the Word of the Lord to the Ninevites and they repented; from the most insignificant inhabitant to the king himself. For most of us, this would be a great victory. But for Jonah, he was displeased with God that He had shown grace to the Ninevites even though he had been granted a second chance. In reality it seems that Jonah had only seen what he needed to learn from God. It seems that he still harbored resentment towards the people of Nineveh and went and sulked at a place outside the city where he thought he would see God destroy them. Even in his obvious misunderstanding of God’s mercy, he was provided with protection from God as he stayed in the sun all day long. The next day God sent a worm that ate away at the vine, and destroyed his protection. Once again Jonah was angry and God points out how concerned he is for small things and expects God to look after things for him. God is saying, Jonah there are more important things than just your needs. Then, as God makes a statement about the people of Nineveh and closes the book of Jonah almost like a cliffhanger, He says; “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” And we are left wondering........what is the rest of the story?

Today as we consider Jonah I will speak on what I believe is the rest of the story!

 

By: Pastor David Jones