If you have been in the Church more than a couple days, you have likely heard the story of Jonah. If not, look it up, for it is an exciting read. Jonah, I think, has gotten a bad rap. He is called the Reluctant Prophet. It is often said that he refused to deliver God’s Word to the people of Nineveh because he despised them. I think it is more than that. I think he was also afraid.
Let me back up. God tells Jonah that the sins of the city of Nineveh have come to His attention and He wishes Jonah to deliver to them an ultimatum: repent of your wicked ways or be destroyed.
Nineveh sits about 500 miles east of Jerusalem in modern-day Iraq. Jonah does just the opposite. He buys passage to southern Spain, near Gibraltar, 2500 miles in the wrong direction.
Jonah later tells God that his reason for fleeing is that he didn’t want to see Nineveh spared. “That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”
What you may not know is that Nineveh was not just depraved, it was mighty, intimidating, and frightful. It had perhaps the largest army in the ancient world. It was in a constant state of war, and had conquered many neighboring nations. It was a real threat to Israel.
Nineveh had incredibly abusive laws. The death penalty was dispensed as easily as parking tickets in today’s world. To enter the gates is the city, one had pass through mounds of skulls, put there to inspire obedience to the king.
While Jonah no doubt hated the people of Nineveh, he would be a fool not to be afraid of them as well. He ran away and found that God delivered him to the ocean to be swallowed by a great fish.
God had showed Jonah that, though he may not like the job he had been called to do, the alternative was much worse.
The message? It is God who gives us life and salvation. It is God who sustains us. Without God, we sink to the bowels of the earth, to the deepest trenches of the sea.
It is God’s grace that delivers us, and He may give it to whom He pleases.
Considering God’s love and how He demonstrates it to us, we should be content with the situations in which He puts us, for things could be much worse.
Fear Not, for things could be much worse.