In Lockdown With Jonah


I’m sure that many of you have come to hate being in lockdown because of all the restrictions. But I’m also sure that some people have become accustomed to being in lockdown and become very comfortable with it.

Jonah was a man who had become very comfortable living in Israel. Jonah was a prophet of a nation that he is very proud of but God calls him to leave his comfort zone.

‘The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” Jonah 1:1-2

He asks Jonah to go somewhere he didn’t want to go to and preach to a people he didn’t want to preach to. You see, sometimes we get so comfortable in lockdown, that we forget that there are still souls out there who need to hear the Gospel.

Listen, lockdown doesn’t mean that God’s plan to save souls stops. And if you’re in lockdown thinking you can’t do anything to reach people with the good news, then ask yourself, have you become too comfortable?

Jonah had become too comfortable and so God takes Jonah out of his comfort zone and tells him to go to Nineveh.

‘But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.’ Jonah 1:3

Jonah totally refused to go to Nineveh, which is understandable. Nineveh was the power capital of the world, it was filled with evil people who wouldn’t think twice about killing you.

And so, Jonah decides he’s going to go off to Tarshish which is the total opposite direction of Nineveh. In a sense what he’s trying to do is hide from God.

‘Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. Psalm 139:7-8

Jonah can try and hide, he can go in the opposite direction but God sees and God knows where he is. And what was the result of Jonah’s disobedience? His life turned into chaos.

‘Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.’ Jonah 1:15

His disobedience led him to be thrown overboard in a rough sea. At this point, Jonah didn’t know what was going to happen next, he must have thought when he was thrown overboard that he was going to die.

‘Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.’ Jonah 1:17

Little did he know the Lord was going to save him.

Little did he know that his disobedience would lead him to live in the belly of a great fish for three days and nights.

And it’s from inside the belly of this great fish that he comes to his senses and repents of his disobedience.

‘But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’ Jonah 2:9

It appears the only thing that will bring Jonah to his senses is being inside this great fish. It’s here he confesses his sins and promises that he will be obedient to God.

After being vomited out of the mouth of the great fish and landing on dry land, God once again commands Jonah to go to the great city of Nineveh. This time Jonah obeys God’s commands.

‘When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” Jonah 3:6-9

Nineveh repented and were saved from God’s anger.

Oh, if only there were just three chapters to this book, what an encouraging message this would have left us with. But Jonah has still got another lesson to learn, he must learn to see the bigger picture.

‘But to Jonah, this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Jonah 4:1-3

Jonah is now angry because God decided to have mercy on the Ninevites. He didn’t understand God’s future plans, he didn’t see the big picture.

And what was the bigger picture? God loves all people. God loves and cares for all people, not just a select few, even the people we think aren’t worthy of receiving His grace.

We may not see the big picture, we may not understand it all.

Why this pandemic? Why are so many people dying?

We may not have answers to these questions, but one thing remains, true. Lockdown or not, we must continue with the work God has planned for us.

And for every person that disagrees with God about how He dispenses grace, He has one question, ‘what right do you have to be angry?’

‘But the LORD replied, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’ Jonah 4:4

It’s easy to be angry when things don’t go the way we plan, but we need to surrender our will to His will.

Do we today, have any right to be angry at God for how He forgives people?

Stay blessed, stay focused, and stay in Christ.