READ JONAH ONE
Before we look at the third way God calls Jonah to repentance, we’re going to camp on the captain’s words that we read yesterday.
Read Jonah 1:6. If you’re keeping notes, write out the captain’s words. If not, read them aloud.
While the captain is confident in what he is telling Jonah to do (“call on your god!”), he is not confident of the response. The captain carefully couches this request, saying, “Perhaps he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.” The captain likely embraces a common belief system in the ancient near east: gods are distant, uninvolved in human affairs, and are not easily pacified.
Remember, at this point, the ship’s crew is already hurling the ship’s cargo overboard. Perhaps they are doing this simply to lighten the ship, but more likely they believe that what they are doing might pacify the god who caused the storm. The cargo is almost like an offering, given up to the gods in hopes that the suffering and fear of those on board the ship might be noticed. The captain’s words sum up their worldview perfectly: maybe, perhaps, just in case.
We see this response one other place in the book of Jonah. Flip over to chapter 3.
Read Jonah 3:6-9. Whose response is similar to the captain’s response?
Spoiler alert: Jonah eventually goes to Nineveh. And when he does call the nation to repent, the King of Nineveh’s response is remarkably similar: Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
This book holds out for us two leaders who are uncertain as to how God might respond to their pleas for salvation, and in both instances, God is gracious and kind. The character of the God you and I worship is fully on display as these leaders repent with humility and surrender to a God they don’t know. They cast themselves on God’s mercy and repent. All around Jonah – both in the ship and in the city – we see poignant examples of repentance. And Jonah remains unmoved.
What a reminder this is of God’s character! He is slow to anger and abounding in love. If I were in God’s shoes (praise the Lord I’m not!), that would be it for Jonah. But God is gracious, merciful, and kind even in the midst of Jonah’s rebellion.
PRAY & REFLECT
Thank God that He is slow to anger. Thank Him that He is quick to forgive. Thank Him for examples of repentance all around you, and ask Him to help you repent of sin in your life. Ask Him to develop in you a spirit that is quick to heed His call back to Him.