The story of Jonah getting swallowed by a fish is really a story of Jonah being rescued by God. God did not give up on this self-serving prophet who wanted to do things his own way. If God wanted to give up on Jonah, he would have let him drown. He did not need Jonah to accomplish his purposes. God has every resource at his disposal. He could have easily used someone else to go to Nineveh, someone much more faithful, whose heart had some compassion and mercy toward others. He rescued Jonah not because he needed Jonah, but because Jonah needed him. You see, this really wasn’t about the Ninevites so much as it was about Jonah. Jonah was in need of God’s rescue – not just from drowning, but from the hardness of his own heart.
And we all need rescue from that. We are all like Jonah in that way, badly in need of mending. Jonah’s problem was that he was self-righteous, judgmental, and lacked mercy. He looked down on people like the Ninevites. Rather than finding his identity and self-worth in the steadfast love of the Lord, he found it in his own morality, and in the fact that he was an Israelite and not a pagan Gentile.
From God’s perspective, this made Jonah the perfect man for the job. God deliberately brings Jonah into this situation in order to sanctify him. God’s love for his own means that he will continue to sanctify us, even when we don’t see our own need for sanctification. God did not give up on Jonah, and he will not give up on you.
Maybe you are like Jonah. Maybe you struggle with self-righteousness and a lack of compassion toward outsiders. Maybe you tend to base your identity and self-worth mainly on how hard you work or how moral you are, so, naturally you look down on those you perceive as lazy or immoral. You have a tendency to disdain those who believe or practice something different from you, and you feel superior to them.
If so, know that God has promised to sanctify you and do a work of grace in you. He never gives up on those who belong to him. At times, he may let you run. He may let you wander to a far country for a while. If you harden your heart to his Word, he may give you over to your hardness for a season. But eventually, in his love, he will come for you, even if it means sending you into a storm where you are stripped of everything. He does this not to punish you, but because he loves you and has promised to bring you to completion. He will go to the greatest lengths to rescue you if necessary. That’s what he did with Jonah, and that’s what he does with all his children.
*From Pastor Brown's sermon on Jonah 2. You can listen to it in its entirety here.