Elijah was one of the first of many prominent prophets to bring messages from God during the tumultuous times of Judah and Israel. He was followed by Elisha and soon Jonah was called upon during the reign of Jeroboam II in Israel to carry the Lord’s messages. Prophets were men also plagued by human weaknesses. Jonah is an example of such a man.
Assyria was a great and mighty nation who had conquered many of its neighbors and had brought them under its control. Nineveh, the Assyrian capital was extremely wicked. It was also hated among the people of other nations because of its brutal conquests.
God had determined to destroy Nineveh, but in His mercy, He called upon Jonah to preach to them in an attempt to bring them to repentance. In his weakness, Jonah rebelled against God and boarded a ship toward Tarshish, a destination in an opposite direction from Nineveh.
One can run, but he cannot hide from God. He sent a strong storm upon the ship and it resulted in Jonah being thrown overboard. The Lord had called Jonah for a mission and He expected him to fulfill that order. A great fish was prepared to swallow the prophet for his salvation from the stormy waters. That three day and three night experience resulted in Jonah’s repentance and he did go to Nineveh and preach God’s message.
The message was powerful. Nineveh believed. They repented, from the king to the least citizen. God relented. Jonah pouted in anger.
As Jonah sat in the hot sun hoping that he would see the hated Assyrians destroyed, God prepared a large plant to protect him from the heat. A grateful Jonah watched the next day as a worm damaged the plant causing it to wither. The prophet’s gratitude changed to anger because of losing the plant.
God further declared His mercy for His sinful creation as He rebuked Jonah for his anger. “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons…?” God loves man and wants to save him if he will only follow the Lord.