Joseph vs Jonah

Posted: May 25, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Now I know what you are probably thinking: “Brett, are you nuts? Joseph and Jonah did not even live at the same time!” Well, there is a method to my madness here. Both men have something in common besides their names starting with the letter J. When one reads about both men in the scriptures, it is abundantly clear that God commissioned both men to do something that would change the course of history. However, both men had entirely different experiences. Why? It just might come down to attitude.

God was with Joseph from an early age. It was evident that God spoke to Joseph through dreams. Unfortunately for Joseph, he had ten brothers who hated him and when he told them the dream, they hated him all the more in Genesis 37:5-8. Joseph made a mistake that is common. He did not practice discernment. It was probably early on in his faith and he didn’t realize that some things are meant to be shared with others, others are to be shared with others at an appointed time, and the rest is to be kept between God and himself. Joseph didn’t realize this and he paid an awful price. Genesis 37 goes on to say that he was sold to the Midianites for twenty pieces of silver. Imagine being sold out by your own family? Not only was he sold, but an Egyptian, Potiphar, bought him. How awful! He was not only sold once, but twice! Remember in the first paragraph I mentioned about attitude? The scriptures do not say, but I am willing to bet that Joseph had a very good, godly attitiude. In Genesis 39:2-3 it said that the Lord was with Joseph and He caused everything Joseph did to prosper. This got the attention of Potiphar in a real hurry. So much so, in verse 5 it says Potiphar made Joseph the overseer of his house and all he had. Wow! Talk about favour. Now here is the interesting question: If Joseph became bitter over what happened to him do we really think the Lord would be with him like that? I would say probably not. I really believe Jacob taught him how to have a godly attitude in all circumstances and lived by example.

Unfortunately for Joseph, it did not end well at Potiphar’s house. We all know the story of how Potiphar’s wife tried to get Joseph to sleep with her. Joseph resisted, the wife lied about him, and in verse 20 was thrown into prison. Joseph had every right to be upset. He made a stand for God and did what was right and he got screwed over. How many of us would be bitter in this situation? Not Joseph! In verses 21-23 it said The Lord was with Joseph. So much so, it caught the attention of the chief guard and he put Joseph in charge of the whole prison and whatever he set his hand to, God made it prosper. Favour again! I do not know about you, but I am starting to see a pattern here.

In chapter 40, Joseph interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief butler and baker. Both dreams came to fruition. I have heard some in the past put Joseph down for asking the butler to remember him in verse 14 when he got his job back. Do you blame him? I sure don’t! I know two hundred percent I would have done the same thing. Who wants to be in jail when one knows they are innocent? Unfortunately, the butler, in verse 23, forgot about Joseph. Once again, Joseph was probably tempted to reach the end of his rope and become bitter. I firmly believe that he trusted God with his whole heart and knew in God’s time he would get out. After two years, he finally did when Pharaoh had no one to interpret his dreams. Joseph gave the interpretation, in verse 16, he made it clear that it is God who will give him the answer. He honoured God and God replied in kind by having Joseph find favour with Pharaoh and was put in charge of the whole country. Only Pharaoh was above him. Now think about that…..Joseph was a Hebrew…..A HEBREW… who was put in charge of Egypt. Egyptians and Hebrews did not get along so it had to be the favour of God. As a matter of fact, they still do not get along today.

This was Joseph’s finest hour. Talk about the ultimate rags to riches story!! He brought the country of Egypt through the famine and had plenty stored up to sell to other nations as stated in Genesis 41:57. His biggest test came when his brothers went to Egypt to buy grain. You all know the story. Eventually, the whole family, excluding Jacob was in Egypt under orders from Joseph. In Genesis 45:3 it said how his brothers trembled in fear at his presence when Joseph revealed who he was. He could have been bitter to all of them but he understood what God’s plan was. In verses 5-7 he explained how God sent him ahead of the brothers to preserve life for them all. He understood the covenant promises God gave to Abraham, Isaac, and his father Jacob. He knew a mighty nation was to be formed through them and God used him to make sure the promises were kept. Joseph had many instances where he could have become bitter and walked away from God. Thank God he didn’t and all ended well.

Jonah’s account was very interesting in itself. God told him to go to the city of Ninevah to preach repentance or else judgment was going to follow. Poor Jonah has been bashed in the church for centuries I am sure at the fact that he did not go to Ninevah but fled towards Tarshish instead.

You know what? I do not blame Jonah at all for being scared and fleeing the other way. I am willing to bet most people in the church today have NO idea of the history of Ninevah or the area it was in at all. Ninevah, during Jonah’s time, was the capital city of Assyria. If anyone reading this knows anything about history, the Assyrians were the most bloody, war-like people around. They struck terror in the hearts of all the neighbouring peoples around them. As a matter of fact, Assyria was the country that God used to come in and take away the 11 tribes of Israel into exile. 2 Kings 17: 5-6 state this. Not only that , because Israel did not obey God keep his commandments, and committed the same sins as the nations around them, verse 18 says Israel was moved from his sight and only Judah remained. Can you imagine being removed from God’s sight? I sure cannot!!  Ninevah itself was a huge city. It had 15 different gates of entry and very high walls surrounding it. I am willing to bet there were watch towers with the most expert archers above all 15 gates waiting to pick off any intruders. Not only this, on the walls one would see carvings of battle scenes, impalings, and King Sennacherib’s men showing off the spoils and plunderings of war.  Inside the city walls lived 100,000 people making it one of the largest cities in the world at that time. ( Not only that, but Jonah was a Hebrew himself. Can you imaging being called to go to the main city in the nation that took away 11 tribes of Israel into exile? After knowing some of these facts, I think we all can appreciate the fact of why he was afraid and ran.

Sure Jonah made the mistake of running away from God, but he sure repented when he was in the belly of the great fish. Jonah 1:17 says he was there for 3 days and 3 nights before God caused the fish to vomit him onto dry land. Did you know that Jonah being in the belly fish for 3 days and 3 nights is a foreshadow of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection? Jesus himself even said in Matthew 16:4 that the only sign given to that generation was of the prophet Jonah. Quite an honour I think to be mentioned by Jesus like that. I don’t know about you, but when I read Jonah 3:3, I was reminded how kind, merciful, and faithful God is even when we aren’t. He demonstrated that in verses 1-2. He could have let Jonah die in the fish’s belly and sent someone else. Jonah entered the city in verse 4 and he immediately cried to the people to repent or God would overthrow them in 40 days. He learned his lesson in the fish’s belly and wasted no time whatsoever. The people believed God and from the king right down to the last person as well as the animals did not eat or drink. In verse 8 the king said to cry mightily unto God and to turn away from their evil ways and the violence that is in their hands. Once again, that stuck out to me as to how rough, tough, mean and nasty the Assyrians were. But, I give them credit! To this day, they are the only city that has ever heeded a warning from God and repented. How exciting for Jonah that he was the prophet God chose to lead this great city into repentance. Happy ending right?

Wrong! Jonah went downhill fast in chapter 4. And it was a steep, slippery slope too! Jonah was displeased and very angry that Ninevah had repented. In fact, in verse 3, he beseeched God to take his life and thought it would be better for him to die than to live.  Jonah had what we all have from time to time: a bad attitude and an ungrateful heart. In verse 6 God provided a gourd for Jonah to relieve him from the sun and when the worm ate it the next day and the east wind came, Jonah once again said it was better that he died than live. In fact, I did not notice this until I studied Jonah in preparing for this post. In verse 9 God asked Jonah for the second time if he really thought being angry would do him being angry and Jonah said it did him well to be angry, even unto death. I will say one thing, I have been angry many times in life but not to the point where I just wanted to die!

Unfortunately, we do not know what the final fate of Jonah was. In versed 10-11 God showed Jonah how he had pity on a gourd that he did not even care for and asked why He should not have pity on Ninevah. I hate to have the thought of Jonah dying there on that day but who knows? Unfortunately, it was pretty clear that Jonah wanted God to destroy Ninevah. The one thing that crossed my mind is Jonah wanted God to destroy the city as revenge for Assyria coming and exiling the Israelites. As a fellow Hebrew, there would have been no love loss for the Assyrians at all. In fact, if one reads verse 2 of chapter 4, one can see Jonah knew that the city would survive if it repented.

I feel very convicted as I put the finishing touches on this post. It is easy to cast stones at Jonah and say he blew it but how many times have I let God down by having a bad attitude and thus miss out on potential victories and blessings. My desire is to stay faithful to God in good and bad times like Joseph did. He could have thrown in he towel many times and he didn’t. Instead he kept a positive attitude, trusted God, and let Him sort everything out. By staying faithful to God, he not only saved his family but the whole nation of Israel. Therefore, the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all came to pass. Today we have NO IDEA what hangs in the balance and what could be affected by us staying faithful to God or not. If we draw near to God, rest in His grace, and let Him direct our paths, we cannot help but have victory!

God bless you all!!




  1. Maria Walsh says:

    Great thoughts and wisdom Brett – enjoyed and learned! Thank you

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