The Name, Little John, Did Not Mean Little

In the story of Robin Hood, Robin meets a man named Little John, but Little John is the opposite of little. Little John is seven feet tall, large-limbed and fearsome to behold in the flesh.

In the Bible, there is a prophet named Jonah. Jonah means a dove, a bird of gentleness and peace. Yet, there was no peaceful obedience with Jonah when God’s word came to him. God wanted Jonah to deliver a message to the people of Nineveh. Yet, Jonah refused to go to Nineveh, as God told him.

Instead, Jonah boarded a ship for Tarshish. So, God sent a violent storm to teach Jonah compliance. Gusting wind and crashing sea seemed sure to break the vessel in two that Jonah was traveling on. Sailors threw cargo overboard to lighten the load. Afraid, they each cried to their own God for help, but the storm grew greater.

The sailors drew lots to see who was causing their calamity. The lot fell on Jonah. They asked Him, “What have you done? Are you responsible for all this trouble upon us? You told us that you are running away from your God. Why? Who is your God?”

Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and land. Pick me up and throw me into the sea, and it will become calm. It is my fault that this storm has come upon you.”

Instead, they tried to row the ship back to land – the sea grew wilder. So, in desperation, as a sacrifice to the raging sea, they tossed Jonah into the waves, and they grew calm. But the Lord provided for Jonah in the sea. He gave a great fish to swallow his run-away prophet. Inside the fish, Jonah stayed for three days and nights. Jonah’s life was ebbing away in the fish as he prayed to God, thanking and vowing to make his ways good. Finally, Jonah acknowledged that salvation comes from God, and the Lord, had the fish vomit Jonah out onto dry land.

God called Jonah again to go to Nineveh to deliver His word to the city. Jonah announced there, “Forty more days, and Nineveh will be overturned!” Miraculously, the Ninevites believed God’s word. They declared a fast from the greatest to the least. They did not eat or drink. Everyone called urgently on God while giving up evil and violent ways, hoping for the Lord’s compassion. The Lord saw their repentance and spared them from destruction.

Jonah sat outside Nineveh, wanting Israel’s old enemy doomed, and God left Jonah stewing in his anger at Himself for being gracious and compassionate to the Ninevites, who repented at His word.

God asked Jonah, “Have you any right to be angry?” Jonah felt angry, that God was gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Jonah ran away the first time because he knew if he took God’s word to Nineveh, people might repent, and God would forgive them. Jonah was angry that God spared Israel’s enemy. Did he have any right to be angry? Do you get mad at God for forgiving your enemies when they repent before Him?

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