Jonah’s story has fascinated readers for centuries.
Called to preach to the Ninevites (Jonah 1:1-2), Jonah runs away, boards a ship and finds himself in a terrific storm (Jonah 1:4). Jonah is thrown into the sea, swallowed by a great fish, and vomited onto the shore three days later (Jonah 1:10-17).
Jonah repents, goes to Ninevah (Jonah 3:1-4), and the message of God finds receptive hearts (Jonah 3:5-10). Ninevah repents and Jonah’s spirit falls.
Depressed and frustrated, Jonah wishes to die (Jonah 4:8) and God teaches him a lesson about the bigger spiritual picture (Jonah 4:5-11).
Through our perspective of history, we realize Jonah’s terpidation was realistic from a human perspective. While Ninevah was a majestic city, the Assyrians were worthy of fear.
As the capital of Assyria, the wealth, architecture and education in Ninevah was as great as any city in the ancient world. Yet, there was another side to the story.
The legendary Assyrian army built their well-earned reputation on barbarism and horror.
The taking of hostages during wartime is as old as time. Yet, the Assyrians turned it into something more malevolent as prisoners became actors in the theater of the macabre.
When Assyria faced their next enemy, they would apply their gruesome skills with such ferocity that the people were horrified into submission. Likely no one was as feared as the Assyrians.
Terror was their calling card.
Yet, Jonah had to face them and tell them they were wrong and endangered. Everything in this man bristled with anger and fear.
However, he had to learn that the spiritual could overcome anything. Fear had to be replaced by faith (Hebrews 11:6; John 14:27; Joshua 1:9).
While we sit in the safety and comfort of our homes, we look down on Jonah and shake our heads. Yet, we need to examine ourselves.
Modern day Ninevah is basically Mosul, Iraq, the location of countless nightmares from the Iraq War to this very day. There are few places on earth that have witnessed more horror the past several years as Mosul.
Even now the fighting still rages as the Islamic State tries to claim it for themselves. Death is their constant shadow.
How eager are we as individuals to go to the bloody streets of Mosul today with the Gospel as we contemplate the televised beheadings?
Perspective is a sobering thing. Human fear is natural but faith can obliterate it only through the power of God.