Out of all of God’s prophets, Jonah is perhaps the least likeable. He has some major character flaws that don’t seem to improve. From the belly of a great fish, Jonah prays to God. But up until now, he has heard God and deliberately hid from Him. Jonah has refused God even to the point of trying to take his own life in a storm at sea. Now, even as he prays to God, Jonah’s tone is tinged with resentment, blaming God Who he says “threw [him] into the depths, into the heart of the seas,” and self-praise which notes, “but I said ‘I have been banished from Your sight, yet I will look once more toward Your holy temple.'” After rebelling against God and blaming God for his current predicament of being inside the belly of a fish, Jonah credits himself for being diligent in seeking God. Just who does Jonah think he is?
Jonah is rebellious. He is ungrateful. He is prideful. We read the account of Jonah’s bad attitude and can point out his terrible behavior towards a God Who literally fishes him out of the depths of despair. But Jonah’s character also causes us to examine our own interactions with God. If we are honest, we can confess that a little (or a lot) of Jonah can be found in each one of us. After all, how many times have we gone in a direction that was against God’s leading? How many times have we forgotten our need for God? How often have we given ourselves credit for the things God has done for us?
Praise God that our story does not have to begin and and with ourselves! For God brings us – even in all of our sin and imperfection – into His story. Jonah, for example, even in his arrogance is saved by God. Jonah becomes a part of the great salvation plan God has in store for an entire nation. And we, despite our flaws, can also be a part of God’s plan when we come to Him. There is no reach outside of God’s reach, and there is no place where God’s grace can’t abound. Where is God wanting to use us? Because of God’s grace, we can ask God how He wants to use us and trust that He will, just as he does with Jonah.