From the medieval times to the early 1900's, the world's naval powers used the term "Jonah" to mean a person upon a sailing vessel that brought upon the crew and vessel they sailed upon interminable bad luck. When ever there was terrible and consecutive losses, or when the wind ceased to blow rendering a sailing vessel with no forward progress, or when the crew, mostly made of the extremely superstitious, decided there was bad luck upon their vessel, they looked for the person who may have caused their bad luck. He was labeled simply, "Jonah."
The prophet heard, emphatically, the word of the Lord. He was to go and preach to the Ninevites, the people in the capital city of the nation that had brutally taken captive his very own country. It was his job to implicitly and fully obey. But he had a massive problem with that. As a young Hebrew, he had observed how the Assyrians dealt with his people. Jonah had watched as the Assyrians, coming into his country of northern Israel, had brutally raped their women, killed or taken captive their children, and beheaded all the learned young men, stacking their skulls on the borderlines of his country to intimidate its inhabitants into giving up without a fight. Jonah, being a prophet, must have been one of those learned men who had escaped, somehow, and nursed a vile hatred toward this savage nation. Upon hearing that his God wanted him to go and preach repentance to the very people who was responsible for the ghastly atrocities he had witnessed, the young man gathered up his belongings and headed out-in the opposite direction!
The young man of God boarded a ship very discreetly, and hoped, as this vessel was sailing far and away from all the bitter troubles he knew, to be totally shut of the responsibility God had entrusted him with. After all, why... what... how in the world could Elohim ask him to preach to the very people who not only threatened his own life, but had murdered thousands of his very own colleages, decapitating them, and displaying their skulls on the borderlines between their countries??? What kind of God would even make such a demand, having chosen the Hebrews to be His very own people, anyway. It must have seemed to the young preacher a very absurd and masochistic order. Shortly after boarding the ship, a mighty storm buffeted them. Knowing the storm was God's answer to his defiance, Jonah came clean with the crew. Eventually, they gave into his demands and threw him into the sea in order to appease God. The ancient story goes that he was rescued by being swallowed by a huge fish. The fish hauled him back to the Assyrian shore and deposited him, three days later, upon the sand.
We exist in such a time as the man of God, Jonah. People who have been brought into the kingdom of God through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ are being brutally murdered in the same geographical area as Jonah lived in. In our own nation, those born and baptized through faith in God through Christ, are being, at best, marginalized, and at worst, verbally and sometimes actually brutalized for their faith. It is hard for the mind of man to calculate God's brutal love for those who so brutally deal with God's people. In depth study has brought my knowledge to this startling conclusion: God's word does not change. As Jonah was asked not to merely evangelize those Assyrians about him, but to go to the heart of their heathen country, Nineveh, and speak God's word concerning the Assyrians in Nineveh, God asks of those who have been brought into His supernatural kingdom, in our time, the same thing.
Its the same message that has been preached even before the New Testament. "Repent, confess, and live the love of the Creator to all you come into contact with." Why in the world would God have asked Peter, James, and John and many other of His very own disciples and contemporaries to preach God's love to the very people responsible for His own brutal execution, knowing they would kill them for it, too? Why would Thomas, who is famous for 'doubting,' travel as far as India and be brutally murdered for his faith rather than recant it? The Roman historian Tacitus asked a semblance of the same question of the Christians around the Roman Empire, that refused to recant and refused to stop meeting together in the name of Jesus of Nazareth by pain of torture and/or death. St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assissi, and many, many, nameless martyrs throughout the last 2000 years have preached this message to Godless people with their lives being the price of it. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, of the German Confessing Church, was compelled by Christ to continue in God's calling upon his life amid the most appalling human catastrophe wrought by government leadership in the last century.
Here is the mystery: God loves all people, good, bad, and brutal. Peter brought us this word in his second book, third chapter, and verse nine: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." God wanted the Ninevites to have a chance to know the truth. God wanted the Romans, the Indians, the Philippians, the Huns, the Egyptians, the Africans, the Ethiopians, the Celts, the Germans, the Iranians, and even the American "welfarians" to have a chance to hear of His Immaculate and Invincible Love, to see it lived out before their very eyes.
Jonah lived in brutal times. We live in very desperate times. God's word is the same. Jonah sat upon a hill waiting for God to destroy his enemies, after preaching God's word to them. He was very angry when God did not rain fire down upon them, because, in hearing God's word, they repented. They confessed. It was many, many years before Nineveh was undone by the subsequent generations that fell back into the bloody brutality of its history. But not the generation that Jonah preached to. Because God gave them, the ugliest, meanest, most detestable people known to Jonah, a chance to hear His word and turn from their sin.
You, who call yourselves "Christian," ponder this in this Resurrection Season. Determine in your minds and hearts to be the reason people about you have the best "luck" they could ever imagine: a relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth, and an opportunity to live forever in eternity as He has dreamed for them. Let those who cause confession and repentance among their "shipmates" to be henceforth known as "Jonah."