God wants to be in a good relationship with the whole world. And that sounds really nice at first, and it might seem obvious because God is merciful, but that means that God has mercy even on those with whom we’ve had to bear. God has mercy on those who have hurt us—all who repent.
They believed God. They believed that they were evil, and that judgment was coming. They knew that God was serious, and they mourned Jonah’s message. What a surprise of a reaction from this mighty city. Whereas Jonah took it for granted, the Ninevites—along with the sailors from the previous chapter—took the word of God seriously. Isn’t this how it often happens?
Jonah wasn’t just fleeing the presence of the Lord in Israel, by going to Tarshish—to the other side of the known world. Jonah is fleeing from the presence of his creator by running as fast as he can into the place of un-creation. But, the Lord is God even over the sea, and he forces Jonah to face the chaos head on.
Jonah tells them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” Jonah finally acknowledges the fate that he deserves for running from God and putting all of these people in danger—the consequences of his actions. But now it’s the sailors who don’t listen. The text says, “Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.”
Like us, Jonah lives in a pluralistic world, and he hides from it—afraid to proclaim what God declares to Nineveh. He’s afraid to tell the sailors about his God until they press him on it. Jonah thinks that he can take control of his life by hiding. Are we afraid to engage our world as God has called us? Sometimes, just like Jonah, we look for ways to escape, convincing ourselves that we’re in control when we’re not, afraid of not knowing what God will do next.