The story of Jonah contains lots of illustrations of the way God acts towards us in general, not just to Jonah and the city of Nineveh.
Have you noticed how much God is in control and is orchestrating the events in this story?
The word of the Lord came to Jonah ....Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea ....
But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah ....
And the Lord commanded the fish ....
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time ....
God had compassion and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened .....
Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow ....
God provided a worm ....
God provided a scorching east wind ....
This definitely sounds like the God who Isaiah quotes in Isaiah 45 : 5 - 7
"I am the Lord, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me,
so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting
men may know there is no other.
I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the Lord, do all these things."
God's sovereignty is clear, but what about man's free will, which is proudly proclaimed in the world, indeed in most mainstream churches?
The Jonah story is a great example that shows the difference between God's sovereignty and man's so-called "free" will, which I prefer to call man's will.
God had a plan for Jonah's life which involved him going to the people of Nineveh and warning them of God's displeasure with their behaviour and His coming judgement on them unless they repented.
Jonah chose to disobey and run from God's presence. (Fancy thinking he could do that? He obviously had lost his copy of Psalm 139.) Well that was his choice and he exercised his will in catching a ship to Tarshish and heading in the opposite direction.
But God sent a great wind that threatened the safety of all on board and Jonah was thrown overboard to reduce the risk. God then sent a great fish to swallow Jonah.
The storm, the potential shipwreck and the fish attack eventually got Jonah's attention and he quickly learnt to pray. When God asked him to go to Nineveh again, he readily agreed to go.
Jonah certainly had the ability to make choices and exercise his will, but in the end, God had His way.
God has a plan for all of us. To live in fellowship and harmony with Him forever. We have the authority to exercise our wills and make all the choices we want, but these will only determine the quality of the journey - make the journey wonderful or dangerous.
God has no hesitation in providing trouble, persecutions, even disasters, to get our attention and get us back on track. Even Jonah in the middle of his troubles and deep sea crisis recognised this fact.
In his prayer he revealed his understanding of God's grace and the futility of relegating God and His plans to last place in his life. He said, "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs."
Paul says we can experience God's kindness/grace or His sternness/correction on the journey, the choice is ours. But the final destination has already been chosen for us by the Sovereign God, who loves us and wants the best for us.
Indeed, in one way or another, in this age or another, through the lake of fire if need be, God will get us to where He wants us to go. Just ask Jonah.