In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher. For the LORD saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel. But the LORD had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash. Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam and all that he did, and his might, how he fought, and how he restored Damascus and Hamath to Judah in Israel, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?
(2 Kings 14:23-28)
My Veggie Tales memories are coming back…”Jonah was a prophet…ooh, ooh! But he never really got it, sad but true. And if you watch it you can spot it, a doodley do, he did not get the point!”
Jonah was a prophet of God during a really great time for Israel. And what I mean by that is that Israel as a nation (not spiritually) was on the rebound. They were getting stronger and more prosperous. Possessions and lands that they once owned were now being restored. We can see in the above text that borders and cities were restored.
So then, what was the spiritual condition of the country? Wicked. Every king of the northern kingdom of Israel from the first King Jeroboam to the destruction by Assyria (931-722 BC) was evil. Jeroboam II (not a son of the first Jeroboam) was no different. The Bible says here in 2 Kings 14 that he was wicked just like all the other kings, and Israel followed right along with him in these sins.
Where is God in all of this? How did God see Israel? With what kind of heart did God watch over Israel? Again, in the text we see that God saw that Israel had no “helper.” The merciful God saw that Israel’s affliction was “bitter.” “He saved them” by the hand of the wicked King Jeroboam II.
Which prophet is right there by God and the king’s side through all of this? Who willingly prophesies to the king and is part of this great national restoration? Jonah.
Can you put yourself in the sandals of Jonah during this time of restoration and hope for Israel, and now God calls you to go to your sworn enemies, the Assyrians? God wants you to preach to those wicked and violent people? They want to destroy you! Nineveh, according to a later prophet, Nahum, was a “bloody city.” Why would God call you to preach to the very enemies that seek to destroy what God has been working to rebuild?
Because God is merciful. Jonah saw this clearly with God’s interaction here in 2 Kings 14 toward Israel. This is precisely why Jonah did not want to go to preach to Nineveh. He knew God’s heart of mercy and compassion.
Look at what Jonah said after he finally preached to the people and king in Nineveh and they repented of their sins.
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?” (Jonah 4:1-4).
Even after Nineveh repented, Jonah sat outside the city expectantly waiting in self-righteous hope borne out of his religious bigotry that God would still wipe out the city and destroy the Assyrians (Jonah 4:5).
Did you see how Jonah said “when I was in my country?” First of all he was wrong, it was God’s country. Secondly, it displays the heart that is not outward focused and concerned with every soul wherever that soul may be.
I’m not sure if the Veggie Tales song about Jonah is right that Jonah “never really got it.” We don’t know. The book ends with God speaking, as it should. Whether Jonah finally understood what God was trying to teach is between God and Jonah.
The question is, do I get it? Do you get it?
- Will we be like Jonah, knowing of the grace, compassion and mercy of God and still try to flee to the farthest place possible to avoid teaching those God has called us to teach?
- Will we be so filled with nationalistic pride that we fail to see that God is not an American?
- Will I willingly go and preach where God calls me to preach only if I agree that these people are worthy of God’s (and my) acceptance?