Jonah, the Fish, and the Ninevites
Passage: Jonah 1:17–3:10
The overall theme of the book of Jonah: the manifestation of God’s unmerited grace to those who have sinned against him.
Point 1: Jonah’s Prayer (1:17–2:10)
Jonah’s prayer is a typical psalm of thanksgiving, with
- an introduction that attests that his prayer for deliverance was answered (v. 3)
- a recounting of the crisis and of his deliverance from it (vv. 4–8)
- a subsequent vow to worship God for that deliverance (vv. 9–10).
But the prophet’s prayer is remarkably self-centered, nor does he make any mention of his own sin – sin which occasioned Jonah’s need for divine deliverance in the first place!
Summary of Jonah’s Prayer
- Yahweh threw Jonah into the deep, and before the fish arrived Jonah recognized that he had been banished from God’s sight.
- Still, he looked toward God’s holy temple in Jerusalem in prayer.
- As time wore on he sank as low as possible – “to the roots of the mountains” - before finally being rescued by the fish.
- Jonah then contrasts himself with ‘those who cling to worthless idols’, and contrasts Yahweh with those same idols, expressing his confidence that only those who hold faithfully to Yahweh will be delivered.
- Finally, Jonah resolves to demonstrate his permanent fidelity to Yahweh, and summarizes the whole episode in one line: “Salvation comes from Yahweh”
Point 2: Jonah goes to Nineveh (3:1-10)
- The opening words of the chapter repeat God’s instructions to Jonah, offering Jonah a fresh start. Obediently, Jonah goes and proclaims God’s judgment to the population of Nineveh. Remarkably, his mission prompts an exceptionally positive reaction as the people publicly acknowledge with genuine contrition their terrible wickedness, and God pardons them.
This sermon series is indebted to Daniel C. Timmer’s “A Gracious and Compassionate God: Mission, Salvation, and Spirituality in the Book of Jonah”