Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,…
The weaknesses, the secrete of character, as well as the possibilities of a man are discovered in life's crises. Jonah's great mission to Nineveh has revealed him to us; and who can tell how much it revealed him to himself?
I. HE WAS A MAN OF STERN TRUTHFULNESS. This book was virtually written by him. This is the testimony of antiquity; is attested by some linguistic peculiarities in the original, and by the striking details in the narrative, that only could have been known to Jonah himself. Sad and monitory is that narrative; but be it remembered that he writes it. And mark how. He conceals nothing, extenuates nothing; says the bitter worst about himself. There is no effort at explanation, no colour of apology, no relieving light, If his conduct should be a warning, let it be a warning. It is not difficult to" speak truth "to and about others. It is agreeable even to some. But to "speak truth" about one's self - there is the difficulty. Truth about one's wrongdoing, one's wrong spirit. The black truth, without any attempt at apology or explanation. Few can do it. Jonah did it. How men hide themselves from themselves! How they tone down their evil deeds! Their sin is not as other men's. Not so with Jonah. He seeks not, even covertly, mercy from the reader. Enough for him to "find mercy of the Lord.
II. HE WAS A MAN OF IMAGINATION. He is ever in triumphant exaltation or despairing depression; ever in extremes. And a very little matter could remove him from one to the other. To the imaginative life has brighter lights and deeper shadows than to other men; quicker transitions, darker sorrows. Sorrows, too, are imagined that never come. Something is missed; it is deemed lost; hence vexation and annoyance. All needless; the thing is soon found. A friend is expected, is delayed; all kinds of disasters are fancied to have befallen him. Oppressive, foolish fancies! A temperament this that often hinders from action. Molehills swell into mountains, and little bushes into burly lions. That seems in some eases even to exonerate from action; men so enamoured of deeds imagined, that the deeds in reality are never done. Men sunken into mere day dreamers. Every temperament brings its own special temptation. And the imaginative, so easily gladdened or saddened, need much to pray for the peace of God." We can rest from the undue excitements and wearing vexations of imagination as we "rest in the Lord."
III. JONAH WAS A MAN OF NARROW RELIGIOUS SYMPATHIES. His selfish care for his prophetic reputation, fearing lest the preservation of the Ninevites should stigmatize him as a false prophet, made him cruel. His intense uncharitable patriotism made him long for the destruction of Nineveh, his country's enemy. Patriotism that binds us to our birthland, the scenes of memory, and of our nation's history, is well But it is sadly, terribly ill when a man thinks that he can only truly love his own country by longing for the humiliation and harm of all others. God is the God of all the nations; the gospel is for "every creature" - is to be passed on by us to those as yet unblessed by us. The story of Jonah warns us against the narrowing influence of professional and national feeling. How noble, in the comparison, is Paul, willing for Israel's sake to be "accursed," and yet the apostle of the Gentiles!
IV. JONAH WAS A MAN OF AN IRASCIBLE TEMPER. Uncorrected, it may be, in early life. Correction always comes sooner or later; better sooner than later. He was one soon angry, and who could be very angry. Not a pleasant man to live with. A complaining man, and fond of something to complain of. Fretful, dark, moody. Quick in a quarrel, and one who dared to quarrel with God's goodness. A man with a spirit of contradiction, who stood by what he said. "Did I not say so? I said it in my own country." Unlovable Jonah! A man's termperament is with him from the beginning, and abides with him, through all changes, to the end. But temper can be corrected, and become better; be uncorrected, and become worse. It is to be watched; resisted with "all prayer," if evil. Let temper, as well as cares, be carried to God. He can subdue it, curb its anger to peace, charm its darkness to cheerfulness.
V. WITH ALL HIS SIN, JONAH WAS A SERVANT OF THE LORD. The "root of the matter" was in him. We have gleams in this dark narrative of the better nature within him. Pleasant to believe that his later life (of which we have no record) was calm with a patience and beautiful with a charity unknown before; that "at the even time there was light." Here, through all time, he is seen as the great missionary-prophet, and as, of all the prophets, the great Christ-type. On earth he had much to learn - much concerning his own folly, impatience, sin; much of God's wisdom, forbearance, perfection. And now, clear from sin, is he not learning the lesson still? For
Parallel VersesKJV: Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,