From the moment Jonah chooses to run from God, he begins a spiritual downward spiral.
The author of the book highlights that spiral in the way he narrates the story. As soon as Jonah decides to flee, the story says he “went down to Joppa” (Jonah 1:3). After paying the fare for a ship, he “went down into it” (verse 3). As the storm sent from God begins to tear the ship apart, Jonah is missing in action—because he “had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep” (verse 5). And after the sailors throw him overboard to put an end to the storm, Jonah finds himself drifting “down to the moorings of the mountains” (Jonah 2:6).
The narrator doesn’t mention Jonah moving upward again until he reaches his lowest point—literally and metaphorically. Even then, it’s God who does the moving. Inside the great fish, Jonah acknowledges God as the one who “brought up my life from the pit” (verse 6).
God picked Jonah back up—even when he didn’t deserve it. Even when he had spent most of the story actively resisting it.
And in the end, that’s what the book is a about. Mercy—undeserved and desperately needed.
Without mercy, Jonah dies at the bottom of the sea. Without mercy, Nineveh gets blasted off the map in a show of divine fury.
But it’s also a reminder that when we flee from God, we drag ourselves down. Step by step, one degree at a time, we begin to submerge ourselves into disaster.
We can count on God to show us the mercy we need to get back on track—to even extend His hand and give us a boost—and that’s wonderful. None of us would be here if it weren’t for that incredible aspect of God’s character. We should be grateful for it and comforted by it.
But I think the other big lesson of Jonah is this:
Life is easier when we don’t run.
Until next time,