Jonah, although he is one of the four writing prophets that Jesus mentioned in His personal ministry, is far from what we’d expect a prophet to look like. Jesus references Jonah in what was his lowest point as a foreshadowing of His own death – a three-day sojourn within a great fish (Mt. 12:39-41). It doesn’t get much lower than that!
It’s interesting how God, rather than simply doing away with this rebellious servant, like He did Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-2), just kept applying pressure. Little by little God leaned upon Jonah until finally, he obeyed the command. Can’t you just envision God looking at Jonah and glancing over at His watch (figuratively speaking) and saying, “Come on Jonah, how long are you going to insist on doing this your way? How long is it going to take before you yield and do it My way.” Little by little, God in His perfect patience kept applying pressure until Jonah – in the bottom of the sea – finally had a change of heart. Jonah’s like, “God, if you get me out of this fish I’ll run to Nineveh!” He indeed went to Nineveh and he certainly preached the message. The book ends with Jonah sitting and sulking over the incredibly positive response of His enemies to God’s message. Not exactly what you’d expect from a missionary.
You know, it’s awfully easy for us to be critical of Jonah’s reluctance. Certainly, his behavior warrants a pious rebuke. However, I wonder how many times in my life I have been a “reluctant servant.” Have you ever been a “reluctant servant”? We tend to be critical of Jonah because he could not see beyond his own selfish desire for his enemies to perish. How many times has our selfish desire inhibited the work of the kingdom?
Yes, Jonah was reluctant. He was stubborn. And yes, he was misguided. What is sobering to me is the fact that God did accomplish His purposes through Jonah; He just had to first give him a dose of humility. Aligning our desires with those of God can sometimes be a struggle for spiritually struggling believers as ourselves; however, the sooner we get our hearts on board with the will of God the better off we will be. We see in Jonah that there is hope for a reluctant messenger. Thank God for that!