Jonah 1:1-2 (GWT) 1The LORD spoke his word to Jonah, son of Amittai. He said, 2“Leave at once for the important city, Nineveh. Announce to the people that I can no longer overlook the wicked things they have done.”
Ninevah was the capital city of the Assyrians. It numbered about 600,000 to 750,000 people. Assyria was the rising world power at the time God spoke to Jonah and Assyria was destined to destroy Israel. Jonah would have known this.
Add to this that the Assyrians were noted for their brutality. When they conquered a city they were merciless to the captives. Sometimes victims were held down and then an Assyrian soldier would pull their tongues out. Other times the victim would be tied to the ground and then skinned alive. For others, sharpened poles were inserted in the lower part of the chest and then they were planted in a hole and left to die. Other times they Assyrians would behead their victims and stack the heads in mounds resembling a huge pyramid to serve as a visual reminder to all nations of the power of Assyria. These were cruel and wicked people and God could stand it no longer.
God knew the condition of the Ninevites, He saw that they were wicked because they did not know and love Him. But God didn’t turn His back on them, instead He calls to one of His messengers to go and proclaim God’s message – Turn back to Him or be destroyed.
That is one of the most amazing things to me.
The grace of God absolutely blows me away.
I think many of us miss the beauty of the story of Jonah because we never grasp the full meaning of God’s grace that is so evident in it.
It is not a book about a great fish.
It is not a book about a vine.
It is not a book about a storm at sea or a near shipwreck.
It is the beautiful story of God’s dealing with a wayward man so that this man could be the bearer of God’s message to a wicked, depraved and needy nation.
God’s grace to Assyria is extravagant. He sees the wickedness of the people and is angered but in the midst of the anger He gives them yet another chance to turn to Him and be spared His wrath and impending judgment.
It really is the story of God redeeming us so that we can be His bearers of grace in a sin filled world. Why not read the story of Jonah as though you are Jonah.