Jonah had been given a task by God to go and talk to the people of Nineveh. Telling them to change their wicked ways or God would destroy their city. But instead of going east across the desert to Nineveh, Jonah tried to run away from God. He found a boat going west to Spain. But God sent a storm and the sailors had to throw Jonah overboard.
Jonah went down, down into the sea. No doubt he thought he would surely die because of his disobedience. But God loved Jonah, and He still had a work for him to do. He prepared a big fish to swallow him just in time to keep him from drowning. The Bible does not say what type of fish it was and we do not need to know. There are many large sea monsters that could swallow a man.
Here in the stomach of this big fish, Jonah prayed. One of his prayers is written down for us and is quoted fifteen times in the book of Psalms. Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights. The Lord Jesus spoke about this when he was here on earth (Matthew 12:40). He said that as Jonah was in the fish three nights and three days so He would be in the grave for three days and three nights. After he had prayed and after he had been in the fish all this time, the Lord spoke to the fish. It opened its great mouth, and Jonah came out upon dry land.
When Jonah was safe again on the dry land, God spoke to him a second time. He told him to go to Nineveh and preach to the people the message that He would give for them. This time Jonah obeyed. It must have taken him several days to travel across the desert to Nineveh. He went inside the great city walls and began to walk through the city. As he walked he called out God's message, "Yet, forty days and Nineveh shall be over-thrown!"
The people of Nineveh listened and were afraid. They believed God's Word. They took off their fine clothing and put on rough sackcloth to show their sorrow and fear because of their sins. Word came to the king of Jonah's preaching. He too repented and asked everyone in the kingdom not to eat or drink for a time, but to confess their sins to God and turn from their wickedness, so perhaps God would spare them.
When God saw that they were sorry for their sins and that they had turned away from their evil ways, He forgave them and did not destroy their city. When Jonah saw that God did not destroy their city, he was very angry, for he wanted God to destroy them. He prayed, "O Lord, this is why I did not want to come here in the first place. I knew that you are a merciful and very kind God. And now I would rather die than live, since my word has not come true." Johan went out of the city and made a little booth of branches to protect him from the hot sun.
Then he sat down to watch if God would destroy the city after all. The Lord prepared a gourd, a fast growing plant with very large leaves. This gave Jonah some shade which he was very grateful for. Next day God sent a worm to eat the plant which soon died. Then God sent a very strong east wind. The sun beat down on Jonah's head, and the hot, dry wind blew upon him. Jonah fainted because of the heat. God said to him, "You have been sorry about the gourd, and it only lasted a day. But you have been angry because I spared the people of Nineveh where there are little children and old people."
God was saying to Jonah, "Each one of these has a precious soul that will live forever. I love them just as I love you, and I want them to be saved."
Jonah and the whale soft toy is a great aid for sunday school teachers.