Did you know that the primary, if not SOLE purpose of the book of Jonah was to condemn patriotism? To condemn people who have “support our troops!” on their bumper sticker?
That’s not a message you’ve heard before! But it IS exactly what Jonah teaches!
You see, Jonah was soft-on-sin. He put his COUNTRY before his GOD, and his nation before what he KNEW was right! Jonah was a loyal patriot!
Jonah 1:1-2 Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
God told Jonah to go and prophesy against Nineveh, to tell them God was going to destroy them for their sins! But Jonah didn’t want to go! So he tried to run from God. Now the question is, WHY did he run? WHY didn’t he want to speak to Nineveh?
We all know the story about him getting an attitude adjustment in the belly of the whale for 3 days and 3 nights, so skipping that we arrive at a more obedient, but still unwilling Jonah in chapter 3.
Jonah 3:1-4 And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
Verse 5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
Jonah 3:10-4:1 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
And so Jonah did what God had commanded. And lo and behold, look what happened! They repented! They even made the ANIMALS fast! And so God, being the softy that He is, and wanting nothing more than that people should do that which is right, forgave them. But this angered Jonah!
Jonah 4:2 And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? [“I TOLD you so, God!!”] Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
So there Jonah tells you WHY he fled from God! You see, Jonah didn’t WANT Nineveh to repent! He wanted God to destroy them! And he knew if he warned them, there was a good chance that they WOULD repent, and then God would forgive them. But that answer just opens another question… WHY would Jonah want this city destroyed?
To understand that, you’ll have to understand who, where, and when he was. Remember, he was an Israelite. This book was written approximately 800 B.C., which was about 80 years before Israel went into captivity. God had already, by this time, been warning Israel through His prophets that He was going to have them destroyed if they didn’t mend their ways.
2 Kings 17:23 Until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day.
And Jonah hated that! Like any loyal patriot, he didn’t want his country overrun by the enemy! Imagine, for a moment, that in 1943, God had told YOU to go to Germany, and tell them to repent. You’d have known that if they DIDN’T repent God would destroy them and your nation would be spared… at least, from Germany.
On the other hand, if you warned them, and they repented, God would forgive them and use them to destroy YOUR nation! How would you feel about that? Be honest with yourself… you wouldn’t like the idea would you? Well, this is the situation Jonah was placed in.
You see, Jonah was a proud citizen of “God’s chosen people”, and didn’t want them destroyed by Assyria – despite the fact that Israel was an evil, rebellious people! And that was wrong! He put HIS country before what was right! He KNEW his country was evil, but he STILL didn’t want to see them punished!
Are YOU guilty of the same thing? Do YOU want this country to triumph, regardless of the innumerable sins and GOOD SOLID REASONS it needs punished??
It is WRONG for you to have a bumper sticker saying “Support our troops”! Because you are supporting the defense of an EVIL nation, and hoping for the destruction of nations more righteous than we, so that OUR evilness can continue unchecked!
This makes many people today angry. Well, it made Jonah angry too. That didn’t set well with God… and neither will today’s “patriots”, who “support our troops”, against the judgment of God!
Jonah 4:4 Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry? So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.
Jonah STILL wanted Assyria destroyed. He was furious at God for forgiving them, and letting “His people” be destroyed! Totally forgetting that this was a righteous judgment that Israel DESERVED!
Ezekiel 18:7 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.
And so Jonah went to see what would happen to Nineveh. So God made a gourd grow up and shade him, and Jonah liked the gourd. But then, the next day worms killed the gourd, and Jonah was angry again!
Jonah 4:9 And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.
At least you have to hand it to Jonah, he stuck to his guns. Not everyone would have continued to argue with God after all this. What a patriot! But a misguided patriot! A TRUE patriot puts God first. He loves, prays for, and defends a RIGHTEOUS nation. Only a fool, a proud, arrogant fool at that, loves, prays for and defends a sinning nation and fights for it against the judgment of God!
Verse 10 Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
There ends the story of Jonah. We don’t know if Jonah ever got the message, or not. But we can.