As Jonah sank down into the stormy waters of the Mediterranean, he thought he was about to die and he knew he deserved it. He was running away from God’s call, and the storm - which was threatening the lives of everyone on board the ship to Tarshish - was focussed directly on him. Jonah understood his guilt and decreed his own punishment. He was thrown overboard, and as he sank into the turbulent water he called out to God to spare him.
Then came the famous whale. God, who had who had sent a deadly storm against Jonah, had also sent a whale to save him. As Jonah discovered himself to be surprisingly alive in the belly of the whale, he discovered the depths of God’s forgiveness.
Take: 2. God called Jonah once more. This time the prophet obediently made his way to Nineveh - the heartland of his greatest enemies - and dutifully proclaimed God’s impending judgement. Jonah knew about God’s judgement from his own recent experience. With his mission accomplished, he settled down to watch the great city’s downfall.
But nothing happened. The people of Nineveh had called out to God to spare them, just as Jonah had, and God resolved to do just that.
Jonah was not pleased. He had not travelled all that way only for nothing to happen. He had done it to see his enemies destroyed. He was furious at God's graciousness. This prophet, who had gratefully accepted God’s forgiveness a few weeks earlier was not willing to extend the same mercy to the people of Nineveh.
God needed to teach Jonah a lesson, and did so by employing a plant and a worm (Jonah Chapter 4). The point of the lesson was simple. Forgiveness is a two-way process. If you want to be forgiven, you have to be willing to forgive.
Jesus put a clause to that effect in the Lord’s Prayer.