From the writings of the Rev. Billy Graham
Dear Dr. Graham:
I have always believed that Jonah was a man of God; yet he was rebuked by God. Why is this?
Dear J.W.: Preachers are not immune to God’s chastening. The Bible says that “whom the Lord loves He [disciplines]” (Hebrews 12:6). This epic story reveals that before God could use Jonah, Jonah first had to humble himself and repent. Only then would God use him to preach the Gospel to a pagan culture.
Jonah is one who thought he could escape from the Lord — he found out differently. He was called to preach to rebellious Nineveh (the area today that is known as Mosul, Iraq), but instead he rebelled against God’s call. This miraculous story proves that God’s eyes are everywhere and that He devises retribution and punishment to bring about eternal blessing in response to repentance.
Jonah was called to preach God’s Word, but in a very different way from other prophets who preached to Israel. Jonah resented the fact that God was sending him to the “great city” (Jonah 1:2), the capital of Israel’s pagan neighbor, Assyria. He didn’t believe the people of Nineveh deserved God’s salvation. So he did the very thing he was called to preach against — he disobeyed God and did what was in his heart.
God reprimanded Jonah and, in graciousness, expressed His pity and love for those wandering in an evil world drowning in sin. This is yet another demonstration of the long arm of God’s salvation extended to those who turn from rebellion and receive the Lord’s mighty message of forgiveness.
The Gospel is not just for those who receive it, but to bring the whole world to salvation. The Gospel shows us our sins and points us to the Savior. “The gospel ... is not according to man. ... It came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12).