The Fish and the Dove
“...for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God”

By Jon W. Quinn
 I suppose that doves are fairly prominent in the Bible. Noah sent one out from the ark and it returned with a branch in its beak. This was good news for Noah as it meant that the end was in sight as far as his ocean cruise was concerned. It is probably because of this that the dove is a symbol of peace. When Jesus was born Mary offered two turtledoves as the Law of Moses stipulated for new mothers who were unable to afford the sacrifice of a lamb. At Jesus' baptism John saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus in the appearance of a dove.

Do you recall the Old Testament account of a “dove” being swallowed by a large fish? Sure you do, though you may not realize it. The Hebrew word for "dove" is "jonah". This word became the proper name of one of the more well known of the minor prophets. He is the "dove" that we shall consider now.

Background Information
"...Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel became king in Samaria, and reigned forty-one years...He restored the border of Israel...according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher" (2 Kings 14:23-25). Jonah was a citizen of the kingdom of Israel during the period of the divided kingdom. To the south, Judah was the more faithful of the two. Jonah worked during the reign of Jeroboam II which lasted from 783-743 B.C. This was during a time of great spiritual poverty in the north. God's people had forsaken Him through the worshiping of golden
calves, idolatry and immorality, always led by the reigning monarch. Jonah and very few others remained faithful.

Jonah is sent to preach unto Ninevah, which is the capital of the rising Assyrian empire. These are very wicked people and in another couple of generations they will come and destroy Israel, taking them into captivity. Thus we have the reason for Jonah's hesitance to go and urge them to repent; to put it mildly, he does not like Assyrians!

The Book of Jonah
"...for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and great in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity" (Jonah 4:2). Jonah is sent by God to preach to the people of Ninevah. But Jonah does not want to do so because he's afraid he will be successful! He would rather see Ninevah destroyed. So he gets on a ship bound for Tarshish.

A storm is sent by God which threatens the ship. Others on board come to realize that the only way to survive is to throw Jonah overboard and so they reluctantly do so. The storm stops, and Jonah spends the next three days and nights in the belly of a great sea creature God had appointed.

You have heard of people praying from the heart. Certainly Jonah prayed from the stomach as well as from the heart! He is deposited by the creature onto dry land and the word of the Lord comes to him a second time to go and preach to Ninevah. The Ninevites respond by repenting and God relented concerning the destruction He was about to bring on the city.

Jonah becomes greatly displeased at this because he hated the Ninevites. He broods and wants to die. He is reproved by the Lord and taught an important lesson about the value of the souls of all people.

It has been said that Jonah shows us a portrait of four possible relationships a child of God may have with the Lord. We see Jonah running away from God; running to God; running with God and finally running ahead of God.

You Cannot Hide From God

"O LORD, Thou hast searched me and known me. Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou dost understand my thought from afar...and are intimately acquainted with all my ways...Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, Thou dost know it all..." (Psalm 139:1-6). Jonah decided that Tarshish, a city on the edge of the known world, might be far enough away to hide from God. At least he considered it worth a try, but I think he knew better. He was not dealing with just a god of the mountains or a god of the plains. Jehovah is the God of the universe. One simply will have to leave the universe to hide from God, and that cannot be done.

When we shirk our duty, God knows. When we act in ways that are sinful or shameful, God is aware. God knows if we love Him, hate Him or if we simply do not care either way.

The faithful find no reason to complain about this. In fact, it is a comfort to know that God knows what His faithful children go through, to know that He shares our joy as well as our sorrows with us as no other can. The faithful simply do not want to hide from God. In fact, they look forward to that one day when they will behold the face of God.

Saying What God Says to Say
"But Peter and John answered and said unto them, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God you be the judge.; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:19,20). Jonah did not want to say the things God wanted him to say to the people God wanted it said to. God was merciful to Jonah, perhaps because of Jonah's zeal, courage and faithfulness even though he lived among an unfaithful people. But notice how God extended His mercy. Not by withdrawing the command to go and teach, but by offering a second opportunity to obey. Like Jonah, we have been commanded to teach others about Christ. Do not expect God to excuse you from this mission. Perhaps even now He is extending you another opportunity to start doing what you should have been doing all along.

Do not under-estimate the value of a soul. The soul of your neighbor, or even your enemy, is just as important as your own. Eternity is just too important to let anything keep you from telling others about salvation in Jesus Christ. "And should I not have compassion on Ninevah, the great city...? (JONAH 4:11). And should we not have compassion on the lost in our world, today?

From The Bradley Banner 9/2/2012
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway
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