Empedocles (a philosopher of the 5th century BC) believed that there are four basic elements: earth, air, fire, and water. This was more a philosophical belief than a belief based upon physics. However, the small Book of Jonah appears to be outlined on these very basic elements.

The elements appear in each of the four chapters of the book, in the order of Creation as found in Genesis. Jonah 1:4 speaks of the wind, which reminds us of the Spirit of God (Genesis 1:2). Jonah 2:3 refers to the seas and waves, or water (again, Genesis 1:2). Jonah 3:6 tells of the dust of the earth (Genesis 1:6). Lastly, Jonah 4:8 refers to the blaze of the sun, or fire (Genesis 1:16).

The story contained within the book, of course, is more interesting than its outline which appears to follow the pattern of Creation. We all know that Jonah was instructed by the Lord to go to Nineveh. In fact, Jonah went in the exact opposite direction toward Tarshish. When the sailors of the stricken ship on which Jonah was traveling threw him overboard (at Jonah's instruction), he was swallowed by a great fish (according to the New International Version).

It appears that Jonah may have died during this experience. Jonah 2:6 says that he sank "to the roots of the mountains," and the earth 'barred him in forever." Jonah gives the Lord credit for bringing him "up from the pit." This last line particularly is a picture of death. Perhaps the Lord brought Jonah back to life because He had a job for Jonah to do.

After this experience Jonah went to Nineveh as instructed. Nineveh was a city-state in Assyria, and was an enemy of the people of Israel. In the Bible Nineveh is a type of the Gentile world. Jonah 3:3 says that the city was so large that it took three days to visit it. Perhaps this is also three prophetic, or millennial days. If so, it might indicate that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles for three millennial days. If this is the case, we are in the third day.

The message of Jonah was "forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." Forty very frequently indicates testing. Jesus was tested in the wilderness for forty days. The Children of Israel were tested in the wilderness for forty years. God was going to test the people of Nineveh. And they passed the test! Even the king repented.

Jonah was not happy with the mercy of the Lord toward Nineveh. However, the Lord showed His wonderful mercy and grace toward sinners. That includes you and me. I am so thankful for the mercy and patience of our Heavenly Father.

One more pattern is found in the Book of Jonah. The Lord has the first word and He has the last word. In the Beginning the Lord spoke the world into existence. He had the first word. In the End, God will judge the world. He will have the last word. I pray that your name is found in the Book of Life. According to Revelation 20:6, the second death has no power over those who take part in the first resurrection.

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