The word of the Lord came to Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come before me.”

Jonah knew of the wickedness of this city, and he thought, No one there believes in God. Why should I preach the gospel to them?

So Jonah rose up and fled to Joppa, where he found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid his fare and went on board, thinking he would go far away from the presence of the Lord.

Then Jonah went down into his room on the ship and fell asleep. While he was sleeping, the Lord sent a great wind, and the ship tossed on the waves. The sailors were frightened and cried unto their gods to still the waves. But the wind and waves continued.

The shipmaster came to Jonah and said, “Arise, call upon thy God.” And the sailors asked Jonah if he knew why this evil had come to them. They wanted to know who he was, where he had come from.

Jonah answered, saying, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.” Then Jonah told the sailors that the Lord had caused the great wind because he, Jonah, had tried to flee from the presence of the Lord.

“What shall we do unto thee that the sea may be calm unto us?” the sailors cried out.

Jonah felt sorry that he had caused these men so much trouble, and he answered, “Take me and cast me into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you for I know it is my fault this great tempest is upon you.”

But the men did not want to do this. They tried to keep the ship steady and bring it to land; but they could not.

So they took Jonah and cast him into the sea. And the sea ceased her raging. Then the men feared the Lord and made vows unto Him.

Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah prayed and told the Lord that he was sorry for his rebellion and promised that he would do whatsoever the Lord commanded.

The Lord caused the fish to vomit out Jonah upon the dry land. And then the word of the Lord came to Jonah saying, “Arise, go unto Nineveh, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.”

So Jonah arose and went to that city. He preached the words of the Lord, telling the people that Nineveh would be destroyed within forty days. The people listened to Jonah and their hearts were touched and they repented.

God saw their good works, and He saved the city. But Jonah was unhappy that the Lord did not destroy Nineveh.

He became so angry that he prayed that he might die. “For,” he said, “it is better for me to die than to live.” And Jonah went out of the city. He made a little booth to the east side of Nineveh and sat under its shadow.

And the Lord prepared a gourd and made it grow up over Jonah as a shade for his head to ease him of his unhappiness. And Jonah was glad for the shade of the gourd.

But when the morning rose the next day, God prepared a worm and it smote the gourd so that it withered. And when the sun did arise, God prepared a strong east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah and he fainted. And then Jonah said again, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

God asked Jonah if he were angry because the gourd had withered and died. Jonah answered that he was angry.

Then the Lord showed His great love for people when He asked Jonah to understand why He had not destroyed Nineveh. “Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow. It came up in a night, and perished in a night.

“Should not I then spare Nineveh wherein there are more than six-score thousand people?”

[illustration] Illustrated by Jerry Harston