Jonah was a prophet just before the ten tribes of Israel were taken captive into Babylonia, a country east of Israel. Only a small part of Jonah’s story is told in the Old Testament, but the part that is recorded teaches us that the Lord offers salvation to everyone who will repent.
The Lord commanded Jonah to tell the wicked people of Nineveh, a city north of Babylon, that if they didn’t repent, they would be destroyed. Jonah didn’t want to go to that wicked place. He didn’t think the people would listen to him or want to change, so he got on a boat that was sailing west to Tarshish, Spain.
A terrifying storm arose and tossed the boat to and fro. The sailors cried out to the prophet, who was sleeping, to pray to his God to save them. Knowing that his disobedience was the cause of the storm, Jonah told them, “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you” (Jonah 1:12).
Though they didn’t want to, the sailors finally did as Jonah asked and threw him into the sea. “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17.)
While in the fish, Jonah cried unto the Lord. He knew that he had disobeyed, and he wanted the Lord to forgive him. The Lord did, then caused that the fish “vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (Jonah 2:10). He again told the prophet to go to Nineveh.
Jonah obeyed. To his surprise, when he told the people of Nineveh that the Lord was displeased with them and that they would soon be destroyed, they believed him and turned from their evil ways. They accepted the gift of repentance that would come through the Savior, and they were not destroyed. Both the prophet and the people he preached to had need of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ so that they could return to Heavenly Father. Because this gift is given to everyone, we too can repent when we make mistakes.
Mount the flannel-board figures on heavier paper, color them, cut them out, and use them to tell the story of Jonah and the people of Nineveh.
The Savior; Jonah; People of Nineveh. (Illustrated by Beth Whittaker.)