Jonah disobeyed God's call because he refused to accept God's offer to bless Israel's enemy nation, Assyria, and its capital, Nineveh. When he finally relented and succeeded in his mission, he resented God's mercy toward them (Jonah 4:1-2). This is understandable, since Assyria was about to capture the northern kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 17:6). Jonah was sent to bless those he despised. However, this is God's will. It is clear that God intended to use the people of Israel to bless the nations, not just themselves (see, "Blessing the Nations (Jeremiah 29)" , "Jeremiah and Lamentations and Works" ).
Is it possible for each of us to try to place our own limitations within the blessings that God extends through our work? We often think that we must accumulate the benefits of our work for ourselves so that others will not take advantage of us. We may resort to secrecy, deceit, deception, shortcuts, exploitation, and intimidation to outperform our opponents at work. We seem to accept the unproven assumption that our success at work must be based on the expense of others. Do we believe that success is an either-or, zero-sum game?
God’s blessing is not a bucket with a limited capacity, but an overflowing fountain. “Try if I will open the windows of heaven for you and pour out a blessing for you, so that there will be no place to contain it” (Malachi 3:10). Although we often face competition, resource constraints, and the ill will of others at work, God’s mission for us is not just to survive all the odds, but to dramatically transform our workplaces and enable creativity. and productivity, building harmonious relationships in society, and maintaining environmental balance—this is God’s will from the beginning.
Although Jonah initially refused to participate in God's blessings to an enemy nation, in the end his faith in God outweighed his disobedience. Finally, he did warn Nineveh, and they eagerly responded to his message amid Jonah's consternation. Throughout the city, “everyone, great and small” (Jonah 3:5b), from the king to his subjects, from the people on the streets to the animals in the flock, “everyone turned back from his evil ways and threw away the violence in his hands. ” (Jonah 3:8). “The people of Nineveh believed in God” (Jonah 3:5b), and “God looked at their deeds and saw that they turned from their evil ways, and he repented and did not bring on them the calamity he had spoken of” (Jonah 3:10). This frustrated Jonah because he wanted to continue to declare the consequences of the work God had called him to do. He wanted the Ninevites to be punished, not forgiven. He judges the results of his own work harshly (Jonah 4:5) and misses the joy of others. Do we do the same thing? When we lament the seeming lack of meaning and success in our work, do we forget that only God can see the true value of our work?
Even Jonah’s small, hesitant moment of obedience to God brought blessings to those around him. On the boat, he affirmed, "I fear the Lord, the God of heaven" (Jonah 1:9), and sacrificed himself for his companions on the boat. Therefore, they were saved from the storm and became followers of God. “Then they feared the LORD greatly, and they offered sacrifices to the LORD and made vows” (Jonah 1:16).
Jonah’s experience may be an encouragement to us if we recognize that our work in serving God can be hindered by disobedience, dissatisfaction, disengagement, fear, selfishness, or other evils of the heart. Here is a prophet who failed even more than we do in faithful service. Yet, through Jonah’s hesitant, flawed, and intermittent ministry, God fulfilled His mission to the fullest. By the power of God, our poor service can accomplish all that God desires.