Today we take a quick look at the kings of Judah and Israel; then we meet the prophet Jonah.
Judah – Amaziah defeats Edom, but he takes their gods back with him and worships them. So the Lord sends a prophet to question Amaziah, and the prophet says, “Why have you sought the gods of the people, which could not rescue their own people from your hand?” However Amaziah ignores the prophet, so the prophet responds, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not heeded my advice.” Therefore, the Lord delivers Judah into the hand of Israel because they sought the gods of Edom. Amaziah is later killed by his own men due to his turning from the Lord. Then his son Azariah (Uzziah) becomes king of Judah. Azariah follows the Lord, defeats Judah’s enemies, and builds up Judah. However, out of pride he goes to the house of the Lord and burns incense, a job solely reserved for the Levite priests who are descendants of Aaron. So the Lord strikes King Uzziah with leprosy as a punishment for his disobedience. Then his son, Jotham, becomes the next king of Judah.
Israel – Jehoash dies and Jeroboam II becomes the next king of Israel – “And he did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin.”
Jonah – The Lord tells Jonah to go to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, and warn the lost people that they are in danger of destruction by the judgment of the Lord because of their wickedness. So Jonah, uninterested in the salvation of the disgusting pagans, gets in a boat and heads in the totally opposite direction. However, you can’t outrun God as Jonah finds out the hard way. When the Lord sends a powerful storm on the sea that is breaking up the boat Jonah is in, Jonah confesses to the sailors that the storm is from his God. Then he tells them to throw him overboard so that the storm will cease.
The sailors “cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You.’ So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows.” The Lord uses everything to accomplish His plans and purposes. He even uses stubborn Jonah to display His power to the sailors on the boat and draw them to Him.
A fish swallowed Jonah, and while he is in the fish belly for three days, a now humbled Jonah prays to the Lord— “I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.” The Lord is teaching Jonah that He will accomplish the plans that He has for Jonah. It was up to Jonah to obey and go the easy way, or resist and go the hard way. Jonah chose the hard way. After three days in the belly of the fish, he is vomited out onto dry land. Then a half-hearted Jonah goes to Nineveh and delivers a one liner – “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” However, that is all it took for the people of Nineveh to repent and turn to the Lord – “So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.”
But the people of Nineveh weren’t the only ones mourning. So was Jonah. Jonah doesn’t understand that salvation is by grace, including his own salvation. He is angry that the Lord spared Nineveh. God teaches Jonah a lesson by removing a plant that was giving Jonah relief from the sun. Then the Lord says to Jonah, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty-thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”
The Lord has a heart for the lost. He wants everyone to know of Him, not just Israel but also the Assyrians, as we see here in the story of Jonah. That is why later in the story, Jesus will tell his disciples to go and make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19). The Lord is sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of the world so “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). After Jesus comes to earth as a man and lives a perfect life that we can’t live, dies a death that we deserve, and rises from the grave defeating death so that we too may have eternal life, the Lord is going to reveal to Peter, a disciple of Jesus, in a vision that He desires salvation for all, both Jews and Gentiles. Then Peter will say, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him… And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:34-43).
Tomorrow, the Lord is sending in another prophet, Amos, to warn Northern Israel of the coming judgment, so keep reading. (2 Kings 14:1-14, 2 Chronicles 25:1-24, 2 Kings 13:12-13, 2 Kings 14:15-16, 23-27, 2 Chronicles 25:25-28, 2 Kings 14:17-22, 2 Kings 15:1-5, 2 Chronicles 26:1-21, Jonah 1:1-4:11)