According to the Nelson Bible Dictionary, one of the great truths the Book of Jonah emphasized is: "God can use people who do not want to be used by Him or resist doing the will he assigns to them". It could be said that Jonah questioned or at least had issues as to why God who was the God of the Hebrews (Israel) would dare to show mercy to or even want Jonah to go to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire to sound a warning. They were enemies with Israel and had during this time in ancient history Jonah’s people were being afflicted by the Ninevites. There are those scholars who contend that Jonah was practically driven to Nineveh against his will, but the message God gave him to deliver though given to them grudging message still struck a responsive revival chord in the Assyrians.
What did this reveal about the nature of God? It showed that both "revival" and "repentance" came from God. It reveals that both Jonah and our task is simply to proclaim His message to whomever He directs it to.
There are several vital lesions we can grasp from this book:
First, God desires to show mercy and grace to all the peoples of the world.
God said that it was His desire that no one should perish, but everyone would repent. That is to say no one nation or group can claim exclusive rights to His love. Second, the task of the nation of Israel was to preach this message about God's universal love to every nation, but they forgot that and refuse to carry out this missionary purpose.
Opting rather to worship other Gods, they emulated the nations to whom they were to carry the oracles of God to and in selfishness claimed God and His blessings as theirs alone.So, in the 1st chapter, Jonah has been sent by God to preach in Nineveh, to cry out against the wickedness of the city. Jonah took exception to the mission and immediately in the 3rd verse goes in the opposite direction and flees toward Joppa to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, finds a ship in Joppa, pays the fare out of his own pocket and went down in the ship and goes to sleep. God responded to Jonah’s disobedience and sent out a great wind causing a might tempest placing the ship in grave danger. The mariners responded in fear and prayed for help even though they worshipped other gods, they started throwing cargo overboard to lighten the weight of the boat. Finding Jonah asleep, they questioned why he wasn’t praying to his God declaring that maybe God would think upon them and spare their lives. After casting lots, they discovered that Jonah was responsible for causing their calamity.
The storm ceases on after Jonah confesses that he was a Hebrew running away from God and the mission God had given him. Now, let's give Jonah credit. He did give an honest testimony to those sailors who were all heathen worshippers. After the crew asked him what they needed to do to him that the storm would cease, Jonah suggested that they throw him overboard. Jonah was saying in essence: “I am not worthy to live; throw me overboard. God will not quiet the storm till I am cast out of the ship”. Complying, after they cried out to God in prayer and pleading for their lives and asked that they would not die because of Jonah’s disobedience, they threw him overboard and immediately, a great fish that God had prepared swallows up Jonah and takes him down into the sea and immediately, the sea became calm.
Now, it’s been said that too much attention has been focused on the "great fish" that swallowed Jonah and then eventually spat him out on the shore. Whether a fish could swallow a man or whether a person could remain alive for three days in the stomach of such a creature is something that God only knows. The point of this part of the story is that God worked a miracle to preserve the life of His prophet so he would get to Nineveh to carry out God's original orders. The text states that God "prepared" this fish specifically for that purpose.
In chapter 2, Jonah, in despair, underwater and in the belly of the great fish for three days and nights, finally becomes repentant and cried out unto the Lord, praying for salvation, restitution and another chance at life. God shows Jonah mercy and causes the great fish to surface and vomit Jonah on shore.
Chapter 3 reveals God reassigning Jonah to go to Nineveh with the same message as before. This time Jonah offers no resistance, yet there’s still an underlining issue within his heart because to his dismay, Nineveh repents as Jonah warns them of the judgment levied against them by God in 40 days. The message God sent through Jonah was so powerful, that the King of Nineveh immediately laid his regal robe aside, covered himself with sackcloth and covered himself in ashes. The king then made it a citywide decree for all man and beast to repent and fast and pray to God. God saw their repentant works and spared Nineveh.
In the final chapter (4), Jonah suffers from both deep depression and anger in response of God sparing Nineveh. Jonah expected (even hoped) the Ninevites would reject God’s message for repentance to the point that he sat outside the city so he could get a “bird’s eye view of their destruction after the 40 day warning. To his dismay, it didn’t happen. And when they repented and God spared them Jonah got mad! Jonah was so vexed, (depressed) that he wanted God to take his life because he didn’t get his real wish of Nineveh. Listen to his prayer:"Take, I beg you. Go on and take my life." Do not let me survive this disgrace. You spared this city. I figured you would because you are merciful and gracious. This is the reason I didn’t want to go there in the first place! I just knew that you might change your purpose even though thou didn’t command me to make an absolute denunciation of judgment. In response, God addressed Jonah’s anger and depression asking him: Have you any right to be angry? Jonah now sitting outside east of the city makes him a shelter in the shade still waiting for to see what would happen to the city.
Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, "It would be better for me to die than to live." But God asked Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?""I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die." But the Lord said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.
In the last verse of the book, God makes it plain to Jonah that His mercy and compassion is as wide as the world itself: "And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left, and also much livestock?" God has left this example on record to show that it’s inconsiderate to think that God’s mercy is only reserved to those who walk in his righteousness. God desires that none should perish but all would become repentant and turn from their wicked ways. God extends mercy to whomever he chooses and as ministers, teachers and witnesses, this example in the Book of Jonah serves as an endless warning to the church to employ nobody in the ministry work that is not “scripturally” acquainted with God's justice and mercy. What the Lord says to Jonah, he says to all, no one has the right to be angry in response to how God shows mercy or who he chooses shows it to, even if you are at odds with that person or nation.