Jonah 1 and 2 … Consider His Marvelous Mercy

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said,
“I called out of my distress to the Lord,
And He answered me.
I cried for help from the depth of Sheol;
You heard my voice,”

Oh, Jonah. It’s a favorite childhood story. And many skeptics have attempted to relegate it to nothing more than a fairy tale. For how could a big fish really hold a man in its belly and how could that man be kept alive for three days and three nights?

So before we proceed, two important truths to consider about “the story” of Jonah.

Jonah was a real person who prophesied during the reign of King Jeroboam who, although he did evil in the sight of the Lord, had restored the border of Israel providing a temporary protection from their invading Assyrian enemy.

In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel became king in Samaria, and reigned forty-one years. 24 He did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin. 25 He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher, (2 Kings 14:23-25).

Secondly, and most significantly, is the testimony of Jesus about Jonah. In speaking of the reality of His own death, burial and resurrection, Jesus named Jonah’s experience as the sign that would be given to His generation that would ultimately bring judgment on them in the last days;  further mentioning the men of Nineveh as witnesses against His generation, for the Ninevites had responded in repentance to Jonah’s message.

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40 for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here,” (Matthew 12:38-41).

And as we know, Jonah was none too happy with his mission from the Lord. For Nineveh was the capital city of their enemy, the vicious Assyrians. And it is obvious that Jonah was repulsed by the very idea, and so he decided he would flee from the presence of the Lord, as if that were even a possibility.

The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, (1:1-3).

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me,
(Psalm 139:7-10).

But Jonah’s disobedience to God’s call was really rooted in merciless unforgiveness. After everything those wicked Ninevites had done, there was no way they deserved God’s Marvelous Mercy, as Jonah himself professed after the people of Nineveh repented.

But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity, (Jonah 4:1-2).

But oh, His Marvelous Mercy revealed in the Marvelous tale of one so rebellious and undeserving. And in this story of Jonah that directs our attention on His Marvelous Mercy, of course our gaze will land on the Marvelous Mercy of Jesus.

Consider His Marvelous Mercy

Marvelous: causing great wonder; extraordinary

Mercy: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm

  • His Marvelous Mercy Moves Him to send His Marvelous Word.
    • The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying… (1:1).
      • In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being… 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth, (John 1:1-3, 14).
  • His Marvelous Mercy Moves Him to pursue the sinner.
    •  …“Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” (1:1).
      • For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, (Romans 5:6-8).
  • His Marvelous Mercy Moves Him to manifest His Sovereignty over His Creation.
    • The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up, (1:4).
      • He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together, (Colossians 1:15-17).
  • His Marvelous Mercy Moves Him to reveal Himself.
    • Then they said to him, “Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land,” (1:8-9).
      • “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him,” (Matthew 11:27).
  • His Marvelous Mercy Moves Him to rescue the rebellious from His coming wrath.
    • So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. 17 And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights, (1:15-17).
      • and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come, (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
  • His Marvelous Mercy Moves Him to hear and answer prayers in time of need.
    • Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said,
      “I called out of my distress to the Lord,
      And He answered me.
      I cried for help from the depth of Sheol;
      You heard my voice,”
      • Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need, (Hebrews:16).
  • His Marvelous Mercy Moved Him to send His salvation
    • “But I will sacrifice to You
      With the voice of thanksgiving.
      That which I have vowed I will pay.
      Salvation is from the Lord.”
      • “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him,” (John 3:16-17).

How do we respond to His Marvelous Mercy?

When we think of Jonah’s flat-out rebellion to God’s call, was he on any higher ground than those he had so mercilessly judged? The great chasm between man and God is fixed, and it is not any wider for some than it is for others.

“And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set, so that those who want to go over from here to you will not be able, nor will any people cross over from there to us,” (Luke 16:26).

Each of us are as far apart from Holy God as the next person. It is only the blood of Jesus that can carry us across that great separation to be brought near to Holy God.

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ, (Ephesians 2:13).

Oh, that this story of Jonah would cause us to daily ponder His Marvelous Mercy, so Miraculous as to save the likes of us, that we would never cease to marvel. And as we remember that He chose us in spite of how undeserving we are, let us pray we would be moved to extend to others what we have received from Him through His Miraculous and Marvelous Mercy.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you, (Colossians 3:12-13).

Let’s Grow Together!

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