The Book of Jonah: A Story of Tragedy and Grace

Do you have favorite characters or stories from the Bible? One of my favorites is the book of Jonah.
Though this prophet disobeyed God’s instruction, God still did incredible miracles in and
through him. I believe there’s a lot that we can learn about God and ourselves through
this story.

Let’s dive in! 

Chosen, Called, and Disobedient

We know very little about the prophet Jonah other than what we find in the book named
after him. The Bible clearly states that he was a prophet, and God instructed him to go
to Nineveh to deliver a message of judgment. Jonah clearly heard from the Lord. He
was called by God, specifically chosen for this assignment, but notice how he

“But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to
Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to
go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.”

Jonah 1:3

I so empathize with Jonah on this. Sometimes I know God is inviting me to do
something, and I want nothing to do with it. Though I love the Lord and love that He
speaks to me, I can also be incredibly stubborn and strong-willed. Just like Jonah, I can
choose my own way instead of God’s way. 

Reading the book of Jonah always stirs gratitude within me. Though Jonah disobeyed
God, the Lord wasn’t deterred. As much as the Lord longed for the city of Nineveh to
repent, He also wanted His prophet’s heart. 

I’m grateful that even when I disobey and try and run from God, He continues to pursue
me. God doesn’t pursue us because He’s out to get us but because He loves us. God
longs for us to be in a close relationship with Him, so even when we try to put distance
between us, He fills that gap. 

We see even more of God’s grace in the next phase of Jonah’s story. 

The Book of Jonah: A Story of Tragedy and Grace

The Grace of God for Jonah

Jonah hops on a ship and attempts to sail in the opposite direction of Nineveh, but he
can’t escape God’s sight. The Lord sends a storm to stop Jonah and a fish to swallow
him up. After three days in the fish’s belly, Jonah repents and submits to God’s will. 

The fish spits Jonah up on dry land, and God gives Jonah the same instruction again.
This time, Jonah obeys and delivers God’s message to Nineveh. And the people of
Nineveh respond! Everyone fasts and repents, including the king—what an incredible

All throughout the story of Jonah, we see the goodness and the grace of God. The
sailors Jonah was with at the beginning of his journey ended up trusting God. The Lord

heard Jonah’s prayer when he was in the belly of the fish. God spoke to Jonah again,
giving him a second chance at obedience. Then, this city, known for its greatness and
wickedness, turned from their ways and chose God. This book is filled with miracles
upon miracles! 

God shows up in the little details of this story, and He does the same in our lives. The
book of Jonah reminds me to look for little examples of God’s grace toward me
throughout my day: a cool breeze, an encouraging word from a friend, an opportunity I
don’t deserve. Jonah’s story is a reminder of God’s goodness toward His people, not
based on what we do but based on who He is. 

But Jonah’s story doesn’t end there. 

The Book of Jonah and the Tragedy of Complacency

I wish the book of Jonah ended with the third chapter. Jonah repented, was obedient,
and God did the miraculous in both the prophet’s heart and this great city. What a great

But the book of Jonah doesn’t end that way. There’s a fourth chapter where I see more
of myself in him than I like to admit. 

We learn that Jonah didn’t like God’s mercy toward the people of Nineveh—not one bit.
The prophet was upset that God had been gracious to this city, so he threw a little
temper tantrum (let’s be honest, we all do this in our own ways). But even then, God is
gracious to him. 

“Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be
a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad
because of the plant.”

Jonah 4:6

Then the Lord takes away the plant, which causes the prophet great distress. Jonah
expresses this to God, showing more concern over the plant and his own comfort than
about the city of Nineveh. 

And that’s how the book of Jonah ends. I don’t know about you, but I can see myself
throughout this tragic ending. I can get so myopic that I only focus on my wants and
needs that I forget to look at those around me. I can also get wrapped up in my priorities
that I forget about the mission of God and what He’s doing in the world. 

Related Post: Honest Conversations with God

Final Thoughts About the Book of Jonah

I’m grateful for the book of Jonah because it reminds me of the utter goodness and
grace of God while serving as a mirror for some of my worst inclinations. Reading
through this book always leads me to repentance for my disobedient tendencies and
gratitude for God, who never gives up on me. It’s a way for me to examine my own
heart and ask God to remove any parts that aren’t of Him. 

Our God is so gracious and kind; let’s go to Him today with all our worries, fears, and
concerns. Even when we want to run away, let’s courageously resist that urge. Just as
God was there with Jonah, He is with us wherever we find ourselves. Let’s turn to God
and not from Him today.

Related Resource For Christian Women

In this 30-day study, Candid Gal Sarah J. Callen challenges women to identify areas where you’re thankful for in you’re every-day life. Through real-life stories, introspective questions, and space for reflection, you’ll be encouraged to go past superficial gratitude and unearth a lifestyle of thanksgiving. Pick up your copy of Thankful here.

Thankful by Sarah Callen

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