“And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:11)

Jesus said the story of Jonah and the whale is a true story: “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). We can also learn great spiritual lessons from this story.

God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and warn the people of His coming judgment, but Jonah didn’t want to go. The Assyrians (Nineveh was a city in Assyria) were cruel and sadistic, similar to ISIS operatives. So Jonah boarded a ship to flee from God, but God sent a storm. Jonah knew the storm was because of him so he told the sailors, who worshipped false gods, to throw him overboard. They did so reluctantly, asking God to forgive them. Right away the sea was calm. The sailors became worshippers of the true God. Lesson 1: don’t run from God. Lesson 2: God wants to save people. He may even use crazy circumstances to do it.

Then came the whale. “Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17). God spared Jonah, then told him again to go to Nineveh. Jonah went but not because he started to care about the Ninevites. More likely it was because he didn’t want another trip into the whale’s belly. So he did right—for the wrong reason—but he did right. Lesson 3: It’s better to do right for a wrong reason than to do wrong. For instance, don’t skip church if you’re able to go. That’s wrong. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,” Even if you go just so you can say you went, which isn’t a good reason, you may hear something important during the service and God could speak to your heart about an issue in your life which will make you glad you went.

So Jonah went to Nineveh and preached, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). God touched the hearts of the king and all the people. They sought mercy from God for the evil and violence that they’d done. God was merciful to them, and held back His hand of destruction from them.

Jonah was angry that God spared Nineveh. In fact, he told God, “I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil” (Jonah 4:2). Jonah even asked God to kill him. God didn’t. Instead, God asked him, “Doest thou well to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4). Later Jonah said, “I do well to be angry, even unto death” (Jonah 4:9). Jonah was in a really lousy mood. Have you ever felt like that? God could have chewed out Jonah for not caring about people. Instead, God dealt with Jonah’s heart in just the right way. Lesson 4: You may be in a really lousy mood at times, and you don’t want to speak to anyone. At those times, open your Bible and trust God to speak to your heart through “the voice of his word” (Psalm 103:20). Tell Him exactly how you feel, as Jonah did.

God gently pointed out that even the Ninevites had souls. The phrase “cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand” may not have referred to their intellect, but that they probably knew little or nothing of the true God. Lesson 5: There is no one whom the Lord doesn’t want to save. As a cop, you meet people whose lives are dysfunctional, swamped in sin, and they know almost nothing of God. Yet they’re still precious people that the Lord Jesus will forgive and save if they’ll come to Him.

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Brian Miller 11/23/2016

Cleveland Baptist Church | 4431 Tiedeman Road, Brooklyn, Ohio 44144 | 216.671.2822