Today we'll look at the book of Jonah, set in the middle of the minor prophets.
The man Jonah represents a few things. First of all, he is a type of the nation of Israel. Jonah found himself on a ship, the lone God-fearing man amidst foreign sailors. Those mariners represent the gentile nations. Jonah represented God’s people and God's laws to these men. Later, when Jonah was swallowed and regurgitated, this represents Israel in captivity after being kicked out of the promised land. They will return, just as Jonah was delivered out of the fish.
Jonah also represents the entire human race. All mankind has been cast out or cut off from God. Those three and a half days while Jonah was in the fish are symbolic of the 6,000 years man is spiritually dead. But they will be delivered in the end, and brought to life at last.
Diving into the book itself, now:
Jonah set a poor example by running away—but everything he did was used to teach the gentiles about God.
Ezekiel 3:4-7; 5:5-8; 36:16-23, 32-36
God teaches the world about Himself using Israel as a model or example. When Israel sets a bad example, they are punished because they have sullied God’s reputation. (The United States and Britain today are muddying God’s name as well—as modern Israel, this has grave implications, but now is not the time to go into all that.)
Jonah's time in the belly of the great fish represents the millennial days (thousand year blocks of time) in which Israel waits for restoration. (Compare this verse with Hosea 5:14-6:2, Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8.) One thing worth noting about these long spans of time is that God is not in a hurry, but is willing to wait in order to accomplish His purpose. Not only does He take His time in converting human beings individually, working with them over the course of a lifetime, but also He takes His time to get it right in dealing with the human race as a whole.
Matthew 12:40, 27:46, 50
Jesus’ death and Jonah in the fish's belly represent the same thing: being cut off from God. God is not the God of the dead (Matthew 22:32, Luke 20:38). When Jesus was crucified, God cast him away utterly—representing the punishment laid on Adam and Eve in being thrown out of Eden (Genesis 3:22-24). Jesus really suffered on the cross, and probably the worst part was when God withdrew His Spirit from Him. Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
Dad notes that this is a good section for anyone contemplating suicide. Just when you think all is lost, God can provide a happy ending. Often God waits until all is lost from the human perspective, so that we can give Him proper credit for deliverance and actually build faith by knowing that God alone saved us. [Mr. Armstrong dealt with this subject in his book, "The Incredible Human Potential," in chapter 12 entitled, "Is There Life After Death? (page 169 in the original hardcover edition).]
What a rare thing—a people warned by God to repent actually did so! Their belief in God was rewarded. God has the prerogative to change His mind—see Jeremiah 18:7-8.
Jonah was not happy with God’s forgiving heart. But God’s ultimate plan is to give His Holy Spirit to all who repent. Revelation chapter 7 indicates that Israel and gentiles together will form that first generation of the World Tomorrow. And in Isaiah 19:23-25 we can see that in the World Tomorrow, peace and cooperation will exist among all the nations. You see, God’s plan is to be nice to everyone—not just to Israel. Israel as a nation has to learn to get along with its neighbors. Everyone is to love their neighbor as themselves. And if you won’t forgive others, God won’t forgive you.
Isaiah 49:6, 56:6-8
All who come to God will be saved. In Micah 7:8-17 you can see that God will restore everyone after they have learned their lesson of repentance.
God saves all who accept His call to salvation, Jew or gentile. God saved Jonah, God saved Nineveh—and that’s okay. He wants to save everyone eventually (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). We should have this kind of attitude as well.
This Bible study was given by Matthew Kalliman on 8/15/09