The Reluctant Prophet – The Story of Jonah
The Reluctant Prophet
writer: Cherrell Shelley-Robinson
illustration: Gee, GEEPOLE.com
voice: Genevieve Hannon
Long ago in the land of Israel, there lived a prophet named Jonah. His job was to teach the people about God and what he wanted them to do.
One night as Jonah lay in his bed, he heard God speaking to him. He sat up quickly and listened.
God said, “I want you to go to Nineveh and warn the people about their wicked behavior. Tell them if they do not stop doing all those wrong things I am going to destroy their city.”
Jonah liked the last part of the message. Deep down in his heart, he really wished God would destroy that city. After all, the people from Nineveh were Israel’s enemies.
The next morning when Jonah woke up, he had a wonderful idea. To make sure that God destroyed the evil city, he decided not to tell them what God had said. He was afraid they might stop doing the bad things and God would change his mind and forgive them.
Jonah decided to go as far away from Nineveh as he could. So he went to Joppa and boarded a ship going to Tarshish. He went down into the bottom of the ship so no one would find him, not even God.
Now what Jonah was really doing was trying to run away from God because he did not want to obey him. So he hid himself in the ship and went to sleep.
While Jonah was asleep in the bottom of the ship, a storm suddenly sprang up. The strong winds blew and the waves were very high. The captain was afraid the ship was going to break apart and everyone was going to die.
He shouted, “Everyone, pray to your god so we might be saved from the storm!”
The men began to pray and cry out to their god. The captain went down below into the ship to see if there was anyone else on it. Way down into the bottom of the ship, he found Jonah fast asleep.
He shook him. “Wake up, man! Don’t you know there is a storm going on? “
Jonah rubbed his sleepy eyes. Then he felt the ship shaking and tossing on the waves. This was a really bad storm.
“Come and help us pray,” the captain said. “Maybe, your god will stop the storm.”
The captain took Jonah up onto the deck. Then he decided to cast lots to see who had caused the storm to come upon them.
Everyone watched as the Captain put the pieces of sticks in the bag. One piece was shorter than all the others. The person who drew the shortest piece would be the one making the storm happen.
As the bag was being passed around, Jonah hoped he would not draw the shortest piece. But he did. Everyone turned to look at him.
“Tell us, what wrong thing have you done to make your god so angry with you?” the captain asked.
Then Jonah told them about running away from God because he did not want to preach to the people of Nineveh.
“That was not a very smart thing to do,” the captain said. “Who ever heard of someone running away from god? He is everywhere and knows everything.”
Now Jonah knew that this was really true. The storm was all because of him. God wanted Jonah to know that what he was doing was wrong and that he could not hide from him.
“So what shall we do with you now?” the captain asked.
Jonah knew the answer. He had done wrong and so he deserved to die. It was not fair for him to make the others die along with him.
“Throw me overboard and the storm will stop,” he told them.
The captain looked at him and the roaring sea. Jonah would certainly die if he threw him overboard. So he and his men tried very hard to row the ship towards the land. But the storm only got worse. So, sadly, he told his men to throw Jonah overboard.
Amazingly, when they did this, the storm immediately stopped. Then they knew that it was Jonah’s God who had sent the storm. They worshipped and praised him for saving their lives.
Jonah knew this too and so he was ready to die. But God had other plans for Jonah. He made a very big fish open its mouth and swallow up the prophet.
Down went Jonah into the slippery slimy stomach of the great fish. Seaweed wrapped around his head. It was very dark inside and the fish’s belly stank from all the food in it.
Jonah was terribly afraid and so he prayed to God saying how sorry he was for disobeying him. God heard and he made the giant fish open its mouth and throw up Jonah onto the shore.
Jonah was in a mess, but he did not care. He was so glad to be alive. What a wonderful thing to be forgiven and saved from death by God!
Quickly, he hurried back home and changed his clothes. Then God spoke to him a second time about going to Nineveh. Jonah did not stop for anything. He grabbed his bundle and set off right away to go and warn the people of that wicked city.
It did not matter that they were his enemies. He had just learned the hard way that it was best to obey God, even when you did not understand or felt like doing what he said.
But although Jonah obeyed God, he was still very upset when the people of Nineveh believed what God said. Then they prayed and fasted for three days, asking God to forgive their sins.
Jonah was so sure God was going to destroy these wicked people that he went and sat under a tree outside of the city. He did not want to die along with them. He knew that if God said he was going to do something, he usually did it. Surely, he could not let a few prayers get in the way of him destroying the city.
The sun was very hot and God made a plant grow over Jonah’s head to shade him from the sun while he was waiting. Jonah was thankful for the kindness of God toward him as he sat under the tree enjoying the shade.
Jonah waited for the doom to come to the city. But nothing happened because God saw that the people were very sorry for their sins and had repented. So he forgave them.
Jonah was furious because God did not destroy the city. God knew what Jonah was thinking and to teach him a lesson, he let the leaves of the tree over his head wither and die. Once more, he was feeling the terrible heat of the sun.
Again, Jonah got upset, but this time with the tree. Why did its leaves have to wither and die just when he needed them to shelter him? He was now feeling so faint from the heat of the sun that he wished he would just die and get it over with.
At that very moment, God spoke to him. “Jonah, let me ask you this, is it right for you to be angry with the plant because it withered and no longer gave you shelter?” the Lord asked him.
“Yes, Lord. How dare it die when I needed it? That’s not fair,” Jonah said pouting.
“Then tell me something Jonah,” God said. “Is it right for you to be more concerned about a tree dying than about one hundred and twenty thousand persons dying in their sins without knowing me?”
Jonah stopped and covered his mouth with his hand. He had no answer for this. He did not see the people in Nineveh as souls needing to know God. He also realized how unlike God he was when it came to showing others true forgiveness and mercy.
“Sorry, Lord,” Jonah said as he bowed his head and fell to his knees.