Daily Thought for: 9th April


Jonah 1. 1-10; 3. 1-2

Jonah was the only Old Testament prophet sent to Gentiles, but, since he came from Zebulun in the north of Israel, he probably knew the Assyrian language spoken in Nineveh. Clearly he was the right man, who had possibly already begun his prophetic ministry in Israel, 2 Kgs. 14. 25. Jonah was not happy with his call to go to Nineveh and ‘rose up to flee ... from the presence of the Lord’, Jonah 1. 3; cf. Cain, Gen. 4. 16. He naively thought that by travelling to a distant place he could escape from the presence of the Lord, cf. Ps. 139. 7-10, and thus evade his obligation.

Jonah took a ship from the Mediterranean port of Joppa, modern Jaffa, bound for Tarshish, probably the Phoenician set­tlement of Tartessus in Spain. In the well-known story, a great fish was prepared by the Lord and used to receive Jonah when cast out of the ship, and eventually deliver him back to the land. The terrifying experience changed Jonah, having learned that, ‘Salvation is of the Lord’, 2. 9.

The longsuffering Lord came to Jonah the second time, and the ‘but Jonah’, 1. 3, turns to ‘so Jonah’, 3. 3! When Jonah preached in Nineveh, he ‘cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown’, Jonah 3. 4. The Ninevites believed God, v. 5, showing every sign of repentance: fasting seriously and crying ‘mightily unto God’, 3. 8. The king issued an edict against evil deeds and violence, and said, ‘who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?’, v. 9. The king hoped for more from God than did Jonah, who became very angry at God’s grace and mercy shown to potential invaders of Israel.

What a difference when Paul was similarly called to preach to Gentiles, given his orthodox Jewish background. The Lord Jesus commissioned him to go to Gentiles and preach a very sim­ilar message to that of Jonah, ‘that they may receive forgiveness of sins ... that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance’, Acts 26. 17-20.

We should never let racial prejudice interfere with our evan­gelism, remembering the universal commission, Luke 24. 47.


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