I just heard this mind-blowing sermon on the book of Jonah. I mean, I will never listen to that story the same again. The guy leading the sermon, Kent Edwards, started out talking about how God in the Old Testament is really good at firing the emloyees of His who deliberately disobey Him or who go a step too far, ect. He brings up the example of the sevant who tried to stop the Ark of the Covenant from falling to the ground by catching it with his bbare hands and was struck down dead instantly. Then he segways to Jonah, God's most loyal and obedient prophet in that day, who not only refused to do what God told him to, but also, in several places, outright tells God that he would rather die than do what God's commanded of him. And yet God keeps after him, keeps him alive, but quite literally forces Jonah into doing exactly what He wants of him. Even when Jonah finally gives into God and says, "Uncle; you win, I'll go to frickin' Ninevah," he still drags his feet the whole way and complains the whole time. And not once does he actually apoligize to God for his behavior.
Edwards keeps asking, "why on earth does God use Jonah? Surely there was someone, anyone else who would have been more willing, more obedient."
So Jonah finally makes it to Ninevah and prowls the streets yelling at everyone that in 40 days, God was going to bring down the city. That's literally all he said. The shortest, most brutal sermon in the history of short, brutal sermons, and also quite possibly the most effective. It says that the entire city turned, that the king himself stripped off his robes and donned sackcloth, fasting from food or drink.
You would think that this mass of success, that this coming of thousands of people to the Lord, would have made Jonah happy. But no. Jonah gets pissed at God again because God had compassion on the city and doesn't destroy them. Again, he laments to God that he wants to die (he's a little childish). I mean, what does a guy gotta do to get fired around here?
So then the pastor comes back to the original question of why God uses Jonah, and also answers the question of why Jonah was so against it in the first place. Turns out that when Jonah is first introduced to us all the way back in 2 Kings, God used him to try to get the Israelites to repent. When they didn't, God called called down judgement upon them in the form of the Assyrians. And what's the capitol of Assyria? That's right, Nineveh.
Which means that Jonah has already had quite close relations with the Ninevites, as he watched them slaughter, rape and pillage everyone that he knew. Which also means that the Ninevites recognized Jonah as the Israeli prophet from before, and the fact that it was him wh was bringing the message of repentance made him the very message of forgiveness. He was the embodiment of the message he carried. It's probably why there was such a strong positive reaction to the message as well.
And that's why God used Jonah. And that's why Jonah hated him for it. Heart-wrenching story. This sermon changed my hole perspective.