Most of us remember the story of Jonah and the “whale”, but the real story of Jonah is about escape. The need to escape, the desire to escape, the attempt to escape, and the real escape of sinners from judgment. Where do we fit in this drama of escape? What is God telling us in this book? How do we escape?
Betrayal is a strong word, and it evokes strong emotion in the person who feels betrayed. Jonah felt betrayed by God—and by God’s very nature. Yet it was Jonah who betrayed God. Like Jonah we tend to betray God and then try to lay the blame on God Himself. But like Jonah, God doesn’t respond in kind to our betrayal.
We pray at prearranged times. We pray spontaneously. But rarely do we pray when we are in the very act of rebellion against God. Jonah did—and it was a good thing! By turning to God and getting rid of any pretense, he was able to see God working in ways that were good. God’s response was to set him back on the right track—albeit temporarily.
Change is often difficult for people. It is almost impossible for an entire kingdom. But because of Jonah’s prophecy against the Assyrian capital, Nineveh repented! Real repentance brings change, and God can see the change both in our behavior and in our hearts. God’s response to this repentance is predictable—and comforting.
Jonah knew God was a just and compassionate judge—and he didn’t like it. His response was to give God some instruction—let him know what a real judge would say in response to Nineveh. By doing this, he not only put himself in the place of judgment over Nineveh—he set himself up to judge God Himself. But his judgment and God’s judgment had a very different basis.