WHAT DO WE LEARN ABOUT GOD IN THE BOOK OF JONAH?
What comes to mind when you think about the Book of Jonah? Is it Jonah’s journey inside the belly of a fish? Is it the repentance of the people who lived in Nineveh? What about Jehovah? If you take Him out of this 48-verse book, there is not a whole lot left. Since the God of heaven does not change (Malachi 3:6), we are assured that the God whom Christians serve is the same One about Whom we read in the Book of Jonah. Here are some of the Lord’s attributes (there is not space for all of them) that this fascinating book reveals.
(1) God lives. The very first verse of the book records that the Lord spoke to Jonah. It was not a dream; God really talked to him. Only a living God could do that. How different that is from man-made idols: “They have mouths, but they do not speak” (Psalm 115:5). Our God lives!
(2) God communicates with man. God had a message which He wanted Jonah to deliver to the people of the city of Nineveh (1:1). Some have the notion that, yes, God created the world, but He has no interest in its habitants. Wrong! God cares about and communicates with humans. Today, God speaks to men through the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14).
(3) God uses human instruments to get His message to mankind (1:1). Yes, in ancient times, God did speak directly to humans (Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham . . .). But, there has always been a place for humans to be involved in carrying His message to men and women. He “has in due time manifested His word through preaching” (Titus 1:3). Now, He depends on His faithful servants to carry the gospel to the world (Mark 16:15).
(4) God sees and is aware of all that takes place on the earth. He saw that the Ninevites were living rebelliously (1:2). Would that mean that He also saw Jonah when he tried to flee from the presence of the Lord? (1:3). It sure does. No one keeps a secret from God (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
(5) God considers some activities to be “evil.” Whatever the people of Nineveh were doing, God called it “wickedness” (1:2) and an “evil way” (3:10). Anyone who thinks everything that every human does is good has not read the Book of Jonah!
(6) God has the whole world in His hands. He used His creation to achieve His purposes. He sent a great wind (1:4) and prepared a great fish (1:17) for Jonah. Later He prepared a plant, a worm, and a strong east wind (4:6,7,8).
(7) By prayer, God is reachable from any location on the planet. Jonah prayed to Him from inside a fish’s belly (2:1), then again when he was in Nineveh (4:2). Neither of those locations was part of the “holy” homeland of the Israelites.
(8) God knows the exact message that humans need to hear. After Jonah escaped from the fish, God told him, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you” (3:2). Yes, and God expects you and me to proclaim the message that He has chosen – the gospel. God knows what “good news” every person needs.
(9) When God issues a warning to those living in sin, it carries with it the implied truth that if men turn from their evil actions, then He will turn from His planned course of destruction. Jonah warned that Nineveh would be overthrown in forty days (3:4), but when the Ninevites repented, God relented from doing harm to them (3:10; 4:2). That principle is plainly set forth in Jeremiah 18:7-10.
(10) God is gracious. That is exactly how Jonah described Him (4:2). Seriously? Do you mean that God showed grace in the Old Testament era? He sure did (Genesis 6:8).
(11) God is merciful (4:2). Many conclude that the God of the Old Testament was a merciless God of wrath. He has always been a God of wrath, but at the same time, He has always been a God of mercy.
(12) God is slow to anger (4:2). Again, that is just what Jonah said about Him. He is not a trigger-happy, ready-to-scorch-sinners God. No, He is longsuffering. And aren’t we glad that He is?!
(13)God is abundant in loving-kindness (4:2). God does not simply have a tiny amount of love and kindness. In fact, He has an abundant supply! Right here in this one verse, Jonah 4:2, we learn that the Lord of heaven and earth is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and full of loving-kindness. Remember this verse. Be prepared to show it to anyone that wrongfully charges the God of the Old Testament period with lacking goodness or compassion.
(14) God shows pity. Jonah had pity on a plant that protected him from the sun. In great contrast, God was a whole lot more concerned about the great number of precious people in Nineveh than he was a soul-less plant. He showed pity on them (4:11).
In terms of where it is found in the Bible, the Book of Jonah falls almost exactly in the middle. It is book number 32 out of the Bible’s 66 books. It presents clear pictures of the Creator that help us understand many of His attributes. Now that we have done this type of study with the Book of Jonah, why don’t you give yourself a personal project? Why not pick out a different book of the Bible and investigate what it teaches about the God of heaven? You will be rewarded for your efforts!
God is great. He deserves our honor, praise, and steadfast service. Let us set our hearts to learn His true nature, to love Him, and to live for Him.
— Roger D. Campbell