Jonah

   as told by Kiwi

Hello, there; Kiwi here.

At some time or other, we've probably all been asked to do something difficult, or something that we don't want to do. When that happens, I wonder if you've said "no"?  I wonder how you'd feel if it was God who was asking you to do something difficult; would you say "no" then?

You might think that everyone would want to say "yes" when God asks them to do something for him - and you might think that this applied especially to people in the Bible. But I want to tell you what happened when someone said "no" to God.

His name was Jonah. He was a prophet, and he used to listen to God and tell people what he was saying to them. One day, God told him that he wanted Jonah to go to a city called Nineveh and tell them to repent - they had done lots of bad things, and God wanted them to say they were sorry. Normally, prophets were very keen to tell people that they needed to say "sorry" and start believing, and trusting, in God. But not this time. Jonah was an Israelite and the city of Nineveh was in a country that was an enemy of Israel. Jonah did not want them to say "sorry" to God because then God would forgive, and be kind to, them. 

So God said to his prophet, "Go and tell Nineveh that they need to say "sorry" to me or I will destroy them". Jonah didn't actually say "no way", but he did run away, and he got onto a boat that was going in the opposite direction to Nineveh. He thought he was running away from God.

Now God loved Jonah, but he wasn't very pleased that Jonah tried to get out of doing what he'd been asked to do. And when the boat was out at sea, God sent a storm. It was a nasty storm, the other sailors on the boat were frightened and they decided that it must mean that someone had upset one of the gods - maybe the god of the sea, or the god of the wind. They didn't believe in one God, like Jonah did.

Then one of them remembered that, when he was getting on the boat, Jonah had said, "can I come with you? I'm running away from God." So they went to find Jonah and asked him how he had upset his God. To be fair, Jonah did admit that this storm was probably his fault, and, as it showed no sign of stopping, he said "pick me up and throw me over the side of the boat into the sea."

The other sailors didn't want to do this and tried not to listen, but as Jonah insisted, and as they had tried everything else, they did as he asked. As soon as they had done this, the storm stopped, the sailors were safe and rowed off, leaving Jonah swimming around in the water.

Now God really did love Jonah and wanted to give him a second chance, so he sent an enormous fish along to swallow Jonah. This wasn't very nice at all for Jonah but it did stop him from drowning in the sea. It also gave him time to think, and he told God that he was sorry he had said "no", and if God would let him, he would go to his enemies and tell them they needed to repent.

Well that is what happened. The great fish was sick and Jonah landed up on the beach - which sounds pretty disgusting to me, but Jonah was very happy because he was safe. God spoke to him again, with exactly the same message as before, and this time, Jonah went. He walked into the city and gave them God's message. The surprising thing was that even though these people didn't really know Jonah's God, instead of saying, "oh don't be so silly"; they believed Jonah. They were worried, because they found out that they had made God sad and that he was going to punish them. Thy didn't want to be punished, so they all dressed in sackcloth instead of their own clothes - which was a way of showing how sorry they were, because sackcloth was dirty and very itchy. They all said "sorry" to God, and asked God to forgive them. And God did forgive them and gave them a second chance, just as he had given Jonah a second chance.

So that was a happy ending, right?

Not exactly, because Jonah wasn't happy that God had forgiven his enemies, and had to learn that lesson all over again - though he didn't have to go back inside the fish!

I might tell you about that sometime, or maybe you'd like to read the story for yourself? You can find it in the Bible, in the Old Testament. Jonah has his own book - which might have made him quite happy if he'd known about it.

There are many things that we can learn from Jonah's story; I wonder which bit you liked best?  I like it that, although God wants us to do what he asks, if we say "no", he still gives us a second chance. And what is even better, is that we don't need to be swallowed by a big fish to learn that.