Jonah is a sad book. Not only is Jonah a prophet who decides not to follow God, but he still does not understand who the Lord actually is. He understands God is merciful, but he refuses to understand that all human beings are created in the image of God and can receive God’s mercy. At the end of the book, as Nineveh is saved through their wholehearted repentance after Jonah’s halfhearted proclamation, Jonah still does not understand why God would want to save Nineveh.
One overlooked part of Jonah, though, is found on the boat. Not only did God work in spite of Jonah in Nineveh, but God worked in spite of Jonah on the boat as he was running away from the Lord! Look at this passage from the book:
13 The men rowed to reach dry land, but they couldn’t manage it because the sea continued to rage against them. 14 So they called on the Lord, saying, “Please, Lord, don’t let us perish on account of this man’s life, and don’t blame us for innocent blood! You are the Lord: whatever you want, you can do.”15 Then they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased its raging. 16 The men worshipped the Lord with a profound reverence; they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made solemn promises.
Because of Jonah’s disobedience, these sailors heard about the Lord, prayed to him, and ended up worshiping him, sacrificing and making vows. Twice God worked in spite of Jonah to bring more people to a more full knowledge of who he is and have a deeper commitment to him.
We do not always have to be right, and in the case of Jonah, sometimes we do not even have to be willing, to be used by God. How is that for amazing grace?