God’s heart, His essence, is that all would come to know Him and trust in Him. That was the task to which he called Jonah. But Jonah had one problem. He didn’t share God’s heart when it came to the people of Nineveh.
Jonah was a prophet from the Galilean city of Gath-hepher, an Israelite nation under constant threat from Assyria and its pagan rulers. So when God chose Jonah as His emissary to travel to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, to warn the people of the coming judgment for their evil ways, Jonah wanted no part of it.
Jonah knew the character of God as “merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness” (Jonah 4:2). He knew if he told the Ninevites about his God, they would repent and be saved from destruction. He did not want to see that happen, let alone play a pivotal role in it happening, so he boarded a ship sailing in the opposite direction. When God “friended” him, he fled. Not from fear, but because of anger and prejudice.
Jonah’s flight was interrupted by a terrible storm – one he realized was his fault for trying to run from God. He asked to be thrown overboard to save the ship, his request was granted … and the very God he was running from saved him. Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, and while he was inside it, God called him again to preach to Nineveh. Jonah agreed this time, and his initial fears proved true: The city believed in the Lord and was spared. As expected, Jonah was furious his enemies repented. The God he followed simply had too much “loving kindness” in Him.
Like Moses, when God needed him, Jonah’s heart wasn’t ready. We are all capable of Jonah-like behavior.
The lesson here is this: a part of us may long to hear the voice of God, but if our heart isn’t prepared IN ADVANCE of God’s call, we’ll say “No thanks.” To be a follower of the Most High requires heart preparation, so we’re ready to follow regardless of the call - even when we are called to things we don’t agree with – like forgiving our enemies. God friended us first. And He expects us to follow His example.