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  The Great Bible Story #74
Jonah the reluctant prophet

Jacob Ninan
One day God called Jonah the prophet and told him to go to a city called Nineveh and warn them about impending judgment from God because of their wickedness. But Jonah didn't like this, and he thought he would get away from God by going in the opposite direction! He found a ship going to Tarshish, paid his fare, went down into the hold and went to sleep. But as the ship went into the middle of the sea God sent a great storm there, and even the toughest sailors on the ship thought they would surely perish. Everyone started praying to their gods, and the captain woke up Jonah and asked him why he was not praying. Some people felt that this was an unusual storm and thought that this might be due to the anger of the gods against someone on board. They began to cast lots to find out who it might be, and it fell on Jonah. They pounced upon him and asked him what his crime was.

Jonah guiltily admitted that he was a Hebrew who was running away from the God who had created the earth and the sea. The people got scared and asked him what they could do to ease the storm. He asked them to throw him into the sea, after which the storm would cease. They didn't want to do this, and so tried their best to get the ship back to land. But the storm was becoming nastier, and finally they felt they had no option but to throw him into the sea. As soon as they did that the storm disappeared! They were struck with fear, and they offered sacrifices to God.

God arranged for a huge fish to swallow Jonah alive, and he was in that fish's stomach for three days. (We are not given any details about the fish or how Jonah survived, but we have no problem with that once we realise that it was the Creator God who was handling the situation supernaturally.) When Jonah finally realised his folly at the end of the three days, he began to repent before God and cry out for mercy, acknowledging that God was right. Then God made the fish to go and vomit him on to the shore.

Now Jonah walked to Nineveh, went through its length and breadth, and began to proclaim that God was going to destroy the city in forty days. This made all the people of Nineveh to repent, including the king. This was what God really wanted, and He turned his judgment away.

This was what Jonah had been thinking would happen, and how he would look foolish for proclaiming judgment. But God taught him to understand His concern and heart for even wicked people to turn to Him.

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