Yeshua gave this message to the prophet Jonah, son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it, because I have seen how wicked its people are.”
But Jonah was reluctant to go. He did not think that the people of Nineveh deserved to be given a chance for forgiveness for the terrible crimes they committed. After all, a lot of Assyrians lived there, and they did not like Hebrews and often made war with the Israelite nation. Why shouldn’t they suffer Yeshua’s punishment?
So instead of being obedient, Jonah got up and went to the port of Joppa, where he purchased a ticket for a ship heading to Tarshish . . . in the opposite direction!
But while Jonah was peacefully asleep below deck, Yeshua hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm with huge waves that threatened to break the ship apart. Fearing for their lives, the desperate Gentile sailors called on all kinds of deities for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.
The frightened Gentile Captain went below deck to get Jonah. “Wake up! How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your Elohim! Maybe he will pay attention to us and save us all from drowning!”
As the storm continued to rage, and the ship continued to be tossed back and forth by huge waves, the Gentile sailors cast lots to find out who among them was the cause of all this trouble. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the man to blame.
“Yes,” Jonah confessed. “I must be the cause of the storm, because I am running away from Yah, the Elohim of heaven, who made the sea and the land. The only way to stop the storm, and to spare your lives, is to throw me overboard.”
The Gentile sailors were terrified when they heard this, for Jonah had already told them he was a Hebrew Israelite, Yah’s chosen people. More than that, he was a prophet of Yah. The sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land, but the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it. Then the Gentile Captain and his sailors all cried out to Jonah’s Elohim. “O Spiritual Purity,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O Spiritual purity, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.”
In haste, the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea. The moment Jonah’s feet hit the water the storm stopped! The Gentile crew was so amazed by Yah’s great power they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.
As the ship left Jonah behind, and he sank beneath the waves all the way to the bottom seaweeds wrapping around his head, Jonah thought, this is the end of my life, O spiritual purity. You have driven me away from your presence. Yet I will look once more toward your pure temple. But Yeshua had other plans. A great fish swam by and swallowed Jonah alive. For three days and nights Jonah stayed in the stomach of the fish, praising Yeshua for saving him from drowning, even though he was disobedient. Then Yeshua ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.
After this, Yeshua spoke to Jonah a second time: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”
This time, after his terrifying sea adventure and near drowning—and not to mention being swallowed by a fish—Jonah finally obeyed Yeshua’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all! On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” The Gentiles of Nineveh actually believed Jonah’s message from Elohim, and from the greatest to the least, they began to change their evil ways.
When the King of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city: “No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to the Elohim of the Hebrew Israelites. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet the one true Elohim of the Israelites will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us like Sodom & Gomorrah.”
When Yeshua saw what the Ninevites had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he felt sorry for the 120,000 Gentiles living in Nineveh. And in his unfailing love, he showed compassion toward the Ninevites by forgiving them for their past evil actions. Yeshua changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.
This change of plans greatly upset Jonah. He became very angry. So he complained to Yeshua about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, spiritual purity? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate Elohim, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.”
Jonah disobeyed by not carrying out a direct command, and even though Yeshua had brought Jonah back from a watery grave, still Jonah found it hard to forgive his enemies, the Ninevites, even though Yeshua himself had forgiven them after they repented. Do you have the heart of Yeshua—a heart of compassionate forgiveness—to forgive Hebrews and Gentiles alike?