Jonah 1 has the prophet getting a word from God. “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah….saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me”. God wants him to go to Ninevah, a city that is wicked and definitely not people that Jonah cares about or wants to help. God had two commands – to go to Ninevah, and to call out against them and show them their evil and sin. God called Jonah to go to a pagan, Gentile city, the capital of the Assyrian empire, and call them to repentance. It’s the last thing Jonah wanted to do.
So what does he do? What every person trying to avoid God does – he ran. “But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord”. Tarshish was a city as far from Ninevah as Jonah could get. He has no intention of doing what God wanted. So what does God do to the boat Jonah tries to run on? “The Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up”. God isn’t letting his prophet run from this assignment. He pursues him.
The boat captain is overwhelmed by the storm and is beside himself in what to do. They threw as much overboard as they could, and finally cast lots to see where this disaster is coming from. “They cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah”. He’s the guilty party and God made sure the entire ship knew it was him. So after doing everything they could to save the ship every way possible, they finally listen to Jonah’s direction and throw him into the sea that is out of control and swallows him up. Jonah told them the sea would call after he was thrown overboard and that’s what happened.
God has a plan for the man overboard. Those on board “feared the Lord exceedingly” as they realized this wasn’t a battle with nature, but with God. So God impacted the crew with his pursuit of Jonah. And while Jonah deserved to die for trying to run from God and disobey His direct command, God has another plan, a plan of restoration and completing the task he originally asked Jonah to do. “The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights”. I’m sure Jonah believed his time had come and God was going to end his life, but that wasn’t God’s plan. He intends to work on his attitude and then use him to accomplish the task.