Many are aware of Jonah as the reluctant prophet, who when first called to Nineveh chose instead to flee by ship to Tarshish. Because of Jonah’s disobedience, God raised a storm, until Jonah was thrown overboard, and subsequently swallowed by a fish. Artist Matt Chinworth powerfully captures Jonah’s shame when, in the belly of the fish, he finally has a moment to reflect on his failure.
We are not generally aware, however, why Jonah was reluctant, why he did not want to preach to Ninevah the message of repentance. From our own era of pluralism, we project onto Jonah our own reluctance to call for repentance, our own hesitance to make strong truth claims. But Jonah’s hesitation was not so much in the preaching of repentance; his concern was that the people would actually repent, and that God would have mercy upon them.
Jonah explains himself in the often forgotten fourth chapter of the book: <