repentance in the story of jonah
Open Your Bible
Jonah 1:1-4:11, Matthew 12:38-41
psst – be sure to check the bottom of this post for this week’s #SheSharesTruth assignment!
Text: Jonah 1:1-4:11, Matthew 12:38-41
My (pretend) buddy Matthew Henry says the book of Jonah is “best understood by those who are most acquainted with their own hearts.” This may explain why I was an adult before I understood the true meaning of this familiar Old Testament story.
In case, like me, you’re running a little late to the party, here’s a hint: It’s not about the fish.
As it turns out, it’s really not about Jonah either, or even those undeserving Ninevites. It’s about God. It’s about His goodness, His grace, His perfectly timed mercy. Like the rest of the Bible, the book of Jonah points ultimately to Christ. As someone who has spent my life hopping around the pages of Scripture, I feel like this revelation should no longer surprise me. But it gets me, every time.
The book of Jonah is about the saving work of Christ, the boundless mercy of our God.
Jesus Himself draws the parallel in Matthew 12:40 when He says to the Pharisees, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (ESV). And though Jonah is indeed the Christ-figure of the story, sacrificing himself to the waves for the physical salvation of those still on the boat, there is much more than metaphor to take away here.
Jonah is a book of two remarkable redemption stories. It is the account of a rebellious Jonah who runs away from God; repents, desperately aware of the vastness of his sin; and is pulled, quite literally, from the dark depths of his self-made misery by a merciful God. And it is the story of Nineveh, a terribly wicked city one might put right in the center of a map labeled Places Least Deserving of God’s Mercy. Yet, Jonah’s obedience, delayed as it was, results in the Ninevites’ drastic and sincere repentance, and God has mercy on this town full of repentant sinners just as He had mercy on Jonah. And Jonah is ticked. Because some sinful hearts are just too far gone to be forgiven. Right?!
Wrong. Not for the God of Heaven. Not for Jesus who is the Christ.
Let’s pray that God reveals the glory of His Son in the pages of this familiar story, that the images will jump from the felt boards of our childhood into the fabric of our hearts.
Meet us here in the book of Jonah, Lord. We’re listening.
We are loving this #SheSharesTruth experiment and we hope you are, too! (Here is the list of community shares from last week)
Let’s do it again this week, shall we?
So, for Friday, we encourage you to study and share Jonah 1&2. It’s two full chapters, but we think that because the book of Jonah can be divided into two very parallel sections, studying these two chapters this week, and Jonah 3&4 next week will allow you all the opportunity to possibly approach the same scriptures we’re studying together from a broader perspective. (And if you prefer to study and share a smaller section, we think that’s great, too!)
We can’t wait to see what the Lord teaches you!
However you work (we know everyone has their own methods!), we are looking forward to Friday where you can share in your own words what the Holy Spirit is teaching you in Jonah 1&2. We’d love to have you join us!
Grace and Peace,