He did not want to go - in fact, he refused to go. And so, he booked passage in the opposite direction. At least, that is what he thought he was doing. Instead, he found out that he was just taking a very complicated route to the place where God had sent him. A route that involved a ship, a storm, and a great fish.
And so, Jonah preached God’s message in Nineveh. But he still didn’t like it. When he couldn’t avoid it, he became angry about it. And really, Jonah had a point (Jonah 4:2). The Assyrians were horrible people. They had inflicted great pain and they deserved to be punished. But God had a better point - but doesn’t he always! Jonah learned that God has as much right to be gracious to the Assyrians as to anyone else (Jonah 4:11).
It was inside the darkness of the great fish that Jonah came to see more clearly. He saw the sovereignty of God. He saw his dependency upon God. And he learned that “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:10). That doesn’t mean that Jonah had it all exactly right. He still had some things to learn. And this time God used a gourd, a worm, and a vehement east wind to drive home the lesson. But by the end of the exercise, Jonah should have understood that God will extend his grace and mercy to anyone who is willing to turn to Him.
Good news - that is what the gospel is! Regardless of your sin and regardless of who you are - you can be forgiven in Jesus Christ if you turn to him. As we consider Jonah’s mistakes, we need to realize that we too can be shortsighted. There is no one so bad that he cannot be saved. Likewise, there is no one so good that he doesn’t need saving. Let us be thankful for God’s grace and tender mercy. Let us look beyond ourselves and see a world that God loves and desires to save.