One day when I was browsing through pictures of the Bible, my eyes were drawn to a picture of Jonah being swallowed by a great fish in the sea. Then I opened the Book of Jonah in the Bible and read the following verses, “Now the word of Jehovah came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah. But Jehovah sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. … And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is on us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. … So they look up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. … Now Jehovah had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:1-4, 7, 15, 17). “Then Jonah prayed to Jehovah his God out of the fish’s belly…. And Jehovah spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah on the dry land” (Jonah 2:1, 10). “And the word of Jehovah came to Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the preaching that I bid you. So Jonah arose, and went to Nineveh, according to the word of Jehovah. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:1-4).
After reading these scriptures, I thought: Why did Jonah refuse the Jehovah’s commission? Why didn’t he listen to God? I was very puzzled about these questions.
One day at a meeting, I mentioned my confusion about Jonah refusing Jehovah’s commission. Then a brother fellowshiped, “When Jehovah God spoke to Jonah and commanded him to go to Nineveh, that great city, to convey His words, Jonah didn’t want to go because the people of Nineveh were Gentiles, not worshiping Jehovah God, and even opposing Him. He thought God should directly destroy them, and there was no need to convey. So, Jonah didn’t do as Jehovah instructed. Then calamities befell Jonah due to his disobedience. When the word of Jehovah God came to Jonah the second time, he didn’t dare to refuse. But at that time, Jonah’s attitude was that God would definitely destroy them, so he thought there was no need to say much. Therefore, Jonah only conveyed one sentence, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.’ From the simple way Jonah conveyed God’s words, we can see that Jonah went to Nineveh not out of compassion for Ninevites but as a mere formality. If Jonah had conveyed God’s words to the Israelites, he would have definitely tried harder to save them because the Israelites believed in God and they were God’s chosen people. But he just conveyed God’s words to them as briefly as possible. From Jonah’s behavior, we can see that he did not fear God. He was not mindful of God’s intentions and did not understand God’s will of saving man, relying on his self-will to do what God had entrusted to him. Jonah did not know God would still give people a second chance to repent when He decided to emit His wrath and that He cannot bear to destroy the human beings He created with His own hands and He hopes that people will repent when they come face to face with their own corruption and rebellion. However, Jonah neither understood God’s will, nor did he comprehend God’s earnest intentions. Moreover, he did not know that there is mercy in God’s righteous disposition, so he defined God’s work. Then Jonah found a place to make himself a booth for shade and sat under it to watch with gratification as God destroyed Nineveh, that great city. Jonah thought Jehovah God would definitely destroy Nineveh, but unexpectedly, God changed His attitude toward them and averted His wrath due to their true repentance, bestowing compassion and tolerance upon them. It is evident that Jonah did not have a God-fearing heart and defined God according to his own notions and imagination. For a man who fears God, when he cannot understand something or God’s actions don’t conform to his conception, he will think: Everything God does is right and there are always principles to God’s actions; we men are stupid and ignorant, incapable of penetrating the spiritual realm, and we mortal beings cannot know God. He has no conceptions or misunderstandings about God, so he can keep in his heart an obedience to God when dealing with each of God’s actions. Therefore, he will shun evil and not judge and resist God.”
After listening to the brother’s fellowship, I suddenly saw the light. It was because Jonah did not have a God-fearing heart that he refused God’s commission. He judged and defined God’s work and did what God entrusted based upon his own notions and imaginations. He thought that the Ninevites are Gentiles, not the Israelites, not God’s chosen people, and there was no point in informing them to repent. God should immediately destroy them. Therefore, he refused God’s commission, which resulted in his being swallowed by the fish, in whose belly he spent three days and nights.
From Jonah’s attitude toward God’s commission we can see God’s tolerance for us humans. Even though Jonah rebelled against God and refused His commission, God still gave him a chance to repent. Jonah was swallowed by the great fish, but he wasn’t hurt. From this we can see that God despises evil things and punishes those who defy Him and offend His disposition. However, God will extend mercy and tolerance when people repent and change. God’s disposition is not only one of majesty and wrath, but also one of mercy and love.
Jonah’s actions are a great warning for us. Through this, I understand: No matter how God works on us and what God requires of us, we must not judge God’s work according to our own imaginations, but instead, we must faithfully obey God, seek and grasp God’s will, and keep reverence for God in our hearts. Only in this way can we not offend God’s disposition. As the saying goes, “Obedience brings blessings, rebellion brings misfortune.” This saying is true indeed.
By Zhao Hua
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