Jonah. Jonah. Seems he has a few things to learn.
First, he gets a personnel message from God with an assignment. Jonah doesn't want to go to Nineveh. Those people are bad and don't deserve redemption in his opinion. So Jonah books passage on a ship headed in the other direction and heads for Tarshish. So at this point Jonah seems to think he can get away, be out of God's presence, go somewhere where God is not. Mistake number one.
Things don't turn out very well. He ends up getting tossed overboard when his shipmates cast lots and Jonah admits he was running away from God. But not only is God present, He has sent a whale to the rescue. They were too far from land for Jonah to have swum to shore, there was nothing for him to cling on to for a long float to safety. Instead, he ends up in the belly of the whale. But he is safe and now has some time to rethink his decision.
Now he turns to God and prays for forgiveness. He realizes, and fully expects, that God will hear him, even in the fishes belly. God does. Jonah is vomited up onto dry land, given the same assignment, and this time he goes to Nineveh. That great city would have taken Jonah three days to cross so off he goes. A day into his walk, he proclaims to all the citizens that God is going to overthrow them in 40 days. Word gets to the king, who believes this prophecy. He immediately calls for a fast for all the people and animals, a time for them to cry unto God and change their ways. God hears them and they are saved.
Our Bible Lesson does not go any further but there is more to the story. Jonah is greatly annoyed at their redemption and goes out of town to pout. He tells God he'd rather die now. God speaks to him there. God provides a vine with a gourd to give Jonah shade. Then He puts in a worm and the gourd withers. Jonah is angrier than ever. God reasons with him. Jonah felt badly for the gourd and wished it spared, could he not feel that same pity for the sixcore thousand people in Nineveh that had been spared?
What I am thinking about is Jonah's original false belief that there was a place he could hide from God. When we know we should be doing something and chose not to do the right thing, do we sometimes wish we could do the same? But there is no spot where God is not present, where good is not constantly blessing us. God is so much bigger than that.
Have we ever judged someone we know or someone we see on the news and refuse to handle that wrong thought? Maybe we even condemn them and feel they don't deserve to be spared or pardoned, that there is no way they would change their behavior? Jonah-like thinking. Not good.
If that happens, it is wise to recognize our error and change our thinking. I'd rather think of myself as safely floating in an ark than inside the belly of a whale, but no matter how my thoughts might stray into error, God will not let me drown. I do love whales.
Error must always yield to Truth in our thinking or anyone else's. Our own spiritual growth and progress depends on understanding that and mending our ways. Jonah needed the lesson as much as those Ninevites.