We look up to those who strive for greatness. When I was growing up my favorite football player was Mike Singletary. Now, like many, I admire Peyton Manning. What these two athletes have in common are a great work ethic, excellent preparation, and dogged diligence. When you think about greatness in spiritual terms, certainly we must think about God. In elementary school, out teacher would make us hold hands and say a prayer before going to lunch. - “God is Great, God is Good.” That simple prayer is a reality - God IS great and God IS good! When you look at the book of Jonah, the word usually translated “great” is a key word. It is used 15 times in the book. As we examine these occurrences, we notice 3 significant provisions that show God is Great...
First, God is great because He provides GREAT OPPORTUNITIES! Jonah is sent to a “great city" (1:2; 3:2) of more than 120,000 inhabitants of the city (4:11). God uses the illustration of the plant He caused to “grow,” which is from the same root as “great” (4:10). It was God that enabled Nineveh to become a “great” city (4:10-11). What a great opportunity given to Jonah to preach God’s message. God has given us great opportunities as well! We live in a land where we are free, we are surrounded by many of which have never heard the truth. Are we taking advantage of the great opportunities He has provided us?
Second, God is great because He provides GREAT POWER! God uses this great power to get Jonah back on track. He does so by using a “great wind,” a “great storm” (1:4; 1:12) and a “great fish” (1:17). God provided Jonah with what he needed to get the job done, including a little kick in the seat of the pants when it was needed. He has the power to provide us with what we need to get the job done! Only God is great enough to provide a plan of salvation, a perfect sacrifice, and all we need for life and Godliness.
Third, God is great because He provides GREAT RESULTS! His power produces great positive results. The pagan sailors on the boat were “extremely frightened” (1:10). The “extremely” comes from the same root word. They feared the Lord “greatly” (1:16). The inhabitants of Nineveh repented from the “greatest” to the least (3:5-10). A decree from the king and his nobles (same root word) instructed all to fast (3:7). His power also produces great negative results. Jonah was “greatly displeased” that the people repented (4:1). Later, he was "extremely" happy that he got what he wanted (shade). The result was not great in the sense of its goodness, but it was great in its profoundness. When God’s will is taught, there is never a middle of the road. One either rejects it, or embraces it. That was the case with Jonah and Nineveh. That was the case when Jesus taught, when the apostles taught, and when we teach and preach! Either way, God’s word always produces results.
God is great because of all these things. But, why does He do so? He does so because He is also good! Notice the description of God that Jonah gives in the second half of 4:2. Because God is so good, he provides us with great opportunities, great power, and great results. On the other side of the coin, did you notice the interesting fact of the text? For all of the times that the book of Jonah uses the word for great, it is never used in the second chapter. There, he is in the belly of the fish - without God, and in that chapter, the 3rd most significant word is not used at all! You see, with God, there is greatness - in opportunity, in power and in results, because He is good. But, without God, Greatness is not possible!