There seems to be no shortage of news circulating on any subject, but is what one is hearing or reading the whole story? An outstanding journalist, Paul Harvey, purposed to give his readers “the rest of the story.”
In Scripture there is an extended account of Jonah, probably the world’s greatest evangelist. The first three chapters of Jonah tell of his patriotism and reluctance to … “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2 NIV). These idolatrous evil people were the enemies of Israel and, from Jonah’s perspective, deserved destruction and not salvation. Thus, Scripture tells us that Jonah fled in the opposite direction to where God had commanded him to go.
As the story unfolds we see the deliverance of Jonah out of the great fish as he is deposited on the shore. God in grace even gave him the message that he was to preach for … “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 KJV). The message that Jonah was to preach was short and simple … “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned” (Jonah 3:4b NIV).
The result was perhaps the greatest evangelistic crusade in history as the entire nation turned to the Lord. No doubt there was great rejoicing in heaven, but there is the “rest of the story.” “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee 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, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:1-3 NIV).
The tragic flaw in his soul had surfaced – arrogance; it was all about him and not the Lord. A lack of humility would cause him to sit outside the city still hoping to see its destruction. “But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?" "I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die." But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city” (Jonah 4:9-11 NIV)?
The Biblical record does not indicate if there was a change in Jonah’s attitude. However, a most important principle emerges from this account. The messenger is merely a voice, but the message has power … “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12a NKJV). God the Holy Spirit would take Jonah’s message and convict the hearts of the people of their wickedness and need of a Savior, the true and living God who one day would go to the Cross and pay the sin debt of each Ninevite and every person who would ever live in human history. By faith, they could accept the message, as can anyone today, receive God’s gift of eternal life and have a relationship with the true God of heaven and earth.
A second message was heralded throughout the land, this time by their king … “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 3:8b-9 NIV). God spared Nineveh but what about Jonah? We sadly leave him angry and pouting because of God’s love and grace toward sinful man.