Listen up! The book we call The Bible is really a library in two parts: the Old Covenant/ Old Testament, which starts with the book of Genesis, and the New Covenant/New Testament, which starts with the coming of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.
The book of Jonah is in the first part. Jonah belonged to the people of God, Israel. One day, God asked him to do something for Him: go to Nineveh! Nineveh was such a big city that it took three days to walk across it. (Today, Nineveh is in Iraq, and part of the city of Mosul.).
But Jonah had a bit of a problem: Assyria – the country to which Nineveh belonged – was Israel’s worst enemy.
And the second problem Jonah had was that God had asked him to tell everyone that God was going to completely destroy the city.
Jonah thought, “God will forgive them, if they really ask for forgiveness for all the bad stuff they’ve done.” But Jonah didn’t want God to forgive them. They were Israel’s enemies. So, instead of going to Nineveh, he boarded a ship and set off for Tarshish…which was in completely the opposite direction.
During the voyage, God sent a powerful wind and a violent storm. Jonah knew very well why there was such as huge storm: it was because he had refused to obey God. So, he asked the sailors to throw him overboard into the sea to calm the storm.
Jonah didn’t drown. A massive fish came out of the water and swallowed him. At the same time, to the great amazement of the sailors, the wind stopped.
For three days and three nights, Jonah was in the belly of the big fish. I would imagine that’s quite uncomfortable, what do you think? In his misery, Jonah prayed to God and God told the big fish to cough him up near Nineveh.
Jonah finally gave in and did what God had asked him to do. He walked through the city telling the Word of God to anyone who would listen, “Forty days left before the city will be destroyed!”
The king and everyone who lived in Nineveh took it all seriously, and Jonah built himself a little hut to watch what would happen next.
The days passed and God did not destroy the city or its inhabitants. Why not? Well, because God is slow to get angry and rich in goodness. He saw that all the people in the city had asked for his forgiveness with sincere hearts (for real!)… so He did not destroy the city, this time…
Jonah was not happy! Not happy at all! He said to God, “I knew you were slow to anger and that your kindness has no limits. I knew you could forgive all their sins, if they seriously asked for forgiveness. But I really don’t like what you’ve done here in Nineveh, Lord!”. Jonah’s heart was still full of hate for his enemies. His heart had to change.
Like God, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can forgive those who have hurt us.
In the second part of the Bible, Jesus talked about Jonah. He said he would be like Jonah, not that he would refuse to obey God and spend time in the belly of a fish, but that He would spend three days and three nights, after His death on the cross, before his resurrection (being brought back to life by God, His father).
We can receive God’s forgiveness if we truly believe with all our heart that it was Jesus who agreed to be punished for our sins instead of us. God loves us soooooooo.. much! He wants us to be with him forever (for eternity).
– So, do you know the answer to this question: in which modern country was the city of Nineveh?