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3 Hard-Learned Lessons from the Book of Jonah

3 Hard-Learned Lessons from the Book of Jonah

If you were to ask a group of kids what Bible stories they know, many of them would likely say, “Jonah and the Whale” at some point. One of the most popular stories in the Bible is tucked away in a tiny book in the Old Testament. We do not know much about Jonah, but his story teaches us a lot about God. Today we are going to go through what we can learn from the story of Jonah in the Bible.

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Tired woman resting after a run

1. It Seems Easier to Run Away, But We Put More Work on Ourselves

At the beginning in Jonah 1, God gives Jonah the clear command to go to Nineveh and preach against their wickedness. This is not a fun invitation; this is a hard task. However, Jonah decides he is going to try to outrun God instead. Jonah 1:3 says, “But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.”

In our own lives, many times we feel the Holy Spirit impressing upon our hearts to take action, or we read of God’s plan for us in His Word, but fear takes over. Instead of being brave or even just asking the Lord to help us in the midst of our anxieties, we like Jonah run as fast as we can in the opposite direction.

I think about fight or flight mode. Everything in me if, I am being honest, is like Jonah. I am flight mode. I am “get the heck out of here” when times of trouble come. But my God is immovable, He is unchanging, He is the Rock. So many times we are reminded in Scripture to “fear not.” The Lord is always with us and He can be our peace. When our sinful reaction is to run, the Spirit in us can enable us to stand firm and move forward.

It often appears to be easier to run away, however we end up putting more work on ourselves. Jonah could have just been obedient, but instead he encountered a horrible, life-threatening storm on the sea, was tossed overboard, swallowed by a big fish, lived in the stomach of the fish (or whale) for three days, was thrown up onto dry land, and then he went to Nineveh. What a detour! He could have missed out on all of this had he originally just obeyed.

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The empty tomb of Christ looking out to the cross

2. Jonah Points to the Death and Resurrection of Jesus

A highlight in Jonah’s story is found in Jonah 2, when Jonah is praying to the Lord from the belly of the big fish. He is in a pit of death of sorts for three days. This reminds us of the empty tomb which Jesus’ body was in for three days.

Jonah 2:9-10 says, “But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, Salvation comes from the Lord. And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.”

Jonah literally says, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” He is then spit out of the fish on dry ground. Only God could have orchestrated this perfect miracle. The fish could have been in the deep ocean and if it was a large fish or whale, then that is likely the animal’s normal habitat, however at just the right moment, the fish was at the shoreline and threw up Jonah on the ground. He was safe and given a second chance at life.

Only Jesus could provide eternal salvation for us after he was wrapped in the dark tomb for three whole days. He came back to life and provided a way for us to live. Hallelujah!

Just like Jonah was originally thrown overboard in the first place for his disobedience to God, we too had the punishment of sin over our heads. We were helpless and death was our destiny. But Jesus came and rescued us and gave us new life in Him.

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silhouette of woman praying at sunset

3. God Is Merciful and Gives Us Second Chances

Lastly, we can learn from Jonah that God is so merciful, and He gives us second chances that we do not deserve. After Jonah was spit out of the big fish, Jonah 3:1-2 says, “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’” The Lord now asks the same request and verse 3 says that Jonah obeyed what He asked.

When we know the power and might of our great God, when we experience His provision and faithfulness in our own lives, we can be empowered by His Spirit to respond with faith and trust in Him. Jonah had a personal encounter with the Living God. He still did not want to go to Nineveh, but he had grown in his faith and decided to walk with the Lord down this path. The beautiful part is that Nineveh repented from their sins and God did an incredible work there. Unfortunately, this upset Jonah and he wanted vengeance, but the Lord showed great compassion.

Jonah experienced the mercy which God showed to him, and it was also the same mercy shown to the Ninevites. We learn that we cannot pick and choose who gets to be forgiven. We can trust that the Savior can work on any heart and transform any life for His purposes. I love how it is said in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

The Lord showed Jonah that He is the Way to second chances. Jesus our Savior’s sacrifice is complete for all who believe in Him.

More from this author
How to Be Spiritually Open to Daily Detours
Why I’m Glad We Don’t Know What the “Thorn” in Paul’s Side Was
9 Prayers of Thankfulness to Shape Your Day

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Emma DanzeyEmma Danzey’s mission in life stems from Ephesians 3:20-21, to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. She is wife to Drew and mom to Graham. Emma serves alongside her husband in ministry, she focuses most of her time in the home, but loves to provide articles on the Bible, life questions, and Christian lifestyle. Her article on Interracial Marriage was the number 1 on Crosswalk in 2021. Most recently, Emma released Treasures for Tots, (Scripture memory songs) for young children. During her ministry career, Emma has released Wildflower: Blooming Through Singleness, two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, and ran the Refined Magazine. You can view her articles on her blog at and check out her Instagram @Emmadanzey.