Advent: A Prophet Greater than Jonah

by Bethany

Advent Reading: Jonah 4:2 (underlined below)

Promise Made | When God called Amos to prophesy that Assyria would come against Israel, He also called Jonah to preach revival in Assyria’s chief city, Nineveh [1]. Jonah – an Israelite – did not go easily. In fact, he jumped on a boat to flee. When his plans shipwrecked, however, he ended up in stormy waters and desperately cried to God for salvation – for although he knew that he was guilty, he also knew that God was a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love[2]. God answered by sending a fish to swallow him and, after three days in its belly, delivering him to preach in Nineveh – where the people repented and returned to God.

Promise Kept | About 700 years later, some leaders asked Jesus, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you” [3]. Jesus answered, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here” [4]. In fulfillment, Jesus died on the cross, stayed in the grave for three days, and rose again to reign in heaven.

Promise Meant | A person can no more survive in the belly of a great fish than that they can live again after three days in the grave. Yet, this was the point – God would do the extraordinary on behalf of His people. God delivered Jonah when he prayed (although his own disobedience had put him in harm’s way) and He saved the Ninevites when they repented (although their own evil deeds had set them against Him). Today, when we cry to Him, we receive even greater mercy because we have the blood and resurrection of Jesus as the ultimate sign of God’s grace.

Prayer | Lord, No matter what we’ve done, you hear our cries we turn to you in repentance. Therefore, help us to live in your mercy and grace, as we throw off our guilty consciences that have been sprinkled by Christ’s blood [5]. Amen.

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What are the non-advent readings for today? Hosea 6-8.

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Footnotes

[1] See Amos 6:14; Jonah 1:1-2.  |  [2] Jonah 4:2 ESV  |  [3] Matt. 12:38 ESV  |
[4] Matt. 12:39-40 ESV  |  [5] See Heb. 10:19-39.

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3 Comments to “Advent: A Prophet Greater than Jonah”

  1. Much love and light to you, Bethany et al. First off, I’d like to thank you for the Christmas card that I received yesterday. That was very kind and much appreciated. This has been a rather challenging year for yours truly, and I am ever grateful for your daily messages of hope and restoration. And speaking of which, I just reread the book (page) of Jonah a couple of days ago, and I found two things that were particularly striking. The first is that in ch. 2, verse 6, Johah declares that the earth was around him “forever.” It’s as though God has rescued Jonah not from a “temporal” experience, but from an “eternal” one. The second thing that I found most interesting, and somewhat disturbing, is that somehow, despite his experience of rebirth and salvation by God’s grace, Jonah can nevertheless feel so disgruntled at the end of the story. Indeed, he basically denies that God is just–and God seems to agree with him. So we are left with the figure of a man who has just been “reborn” and yet now wishes to die. Moreover, it would now seem as though Jonah is a false prophet, since his prophecy concerning Ninevah did not come to pass. I find myself asking, “What am I to take away from this?” Any further ideas or insights? Once again, many thanks, and have a great day. Peace and light.

  2. Todd, I don’t know you but I’m sorry you’ve had such a challenging year. May much grace and the Lord’s presence give you strength of faith now and going forward. To me, Jonah prayed from the belly of the great fish so his prayer was so much from a place of anguish. Given that, I’m not sure how much stock I would literally define his “forever” or other parts of his prayer. I always felt that although Jonah experienced a 2nd chance, because of his prejudice of the Ninevites and disobedience, he followed God’s Word (Jonah 3:1-5) reluctantly. He went through the motions but his heart was still hard. Jonah was a true prophet, though, because he accurately conveyed God’s warning to the Ninevites. Much like a lot of stories, God warns but He pivots (in His grand sovereign plan) such as the Abraham-Isaac altar story. God taught Jonah a great lesson that he can’t run away from Him for long without consequences (although God can be very patient) but Jonah’s journey was that he was still in process of his heart being changed by God. Jonah became angry at God for being a “gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” Jonah’s anger was folly. Jonah knew what God was like so he ran away to prolong the saving of the Ninevites, it seems. He was so selfish. Reminds me of the older brother in the Prodigal Son story. It’s indignation of a weird kind or “unrighteous” anger. So God continued to pursue and deal (shepherding his heart) with Jonah that included making him faint from the sun after He made a shade for him. The culmination was God teaching Jonah about his foolish anger (Jonah 4:6-11) and how Jonah needs to truly know and understand on a deep level how gracious God is, to trust the Lord’s judgment and His perfect character rather on Jonah’s own imperfect worldview. For God, “mercy triumphs over judgement.” We all are like Jonah in some way. We run, we hide and we’re not completely transformed even when we go through motions. Change is not instantaneous for much of life nor complete. We grow, steadily, and sometimes 2 steps back and 1 step forward because our hearts fail us. But so good to know God pursues us even in the midst of our stiff neck, unrepentant heart, etc.

  3. Thank you, Alex. I appreciate your time and your feedback. Hope you and yours are looking forward to a fabulous holiday season and new year. Many blessings, peace, grace, and light.

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