It seems to me that the message of Jonah lends itself rather well to dramatisation. Here’s an attempt to do that, using three voices.
JONAH: Friends, I want to speak to you about wickedness in the world today. I’m sure that you will agree with me that there are lots of extremely wicked and cruel people around. The world is full of cheats, and tyrants, and murderers, and liars. I think that God should punish these wicked people. I really do. Don’t you? ‘Course you do!
NARRATOR: The word of the Lord came to Jonah.
GOD: Jonah! Jonah!!
JONAH: What is it, Lord?
GOD: Jonah, I am very angry and upset with the people of Nineveh. In fact, I’m so angry that I’m going to punish them…
JONAH: …that’s just what I’ve been saying to these people here…
GOD: …unless they have a change of heart.
JONAH: Fat chance of that happening.
GOD: In fact, I want you to go and warn them.
JONAH: Excuse me?
GOD: You heard. I want you to go and warn them so that they will mend their ways and then I won’t have to punish them.
JONAH: But they deserve to be punished! They need to be punished! I want them to be punished!
GOD: Jonah, do as I say. Get up, and go east, to Nineveh.
NARRATOR: So Jonah got up, and went west, towards Tarshish. He boarded a boat that would take him there. During the voyage, God sent a terrible storm. The wind howled and the waves crashed against the boat. Everyone was terrified that the boat would capsize and they would all drown.
JONAH: This storm is all my fault. God is angry with me for trying to run away from him. Throw me overboard…
NARRATOR: …he said to the sailors…
JONAH: …then God will calm the storm.
NARRATOR: So they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights. And then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.
GOD: Jonah, I want you to go to the great city of Nineveh. I want you to proclaim to the people there the message I give you.
NARRATOR: This time, Jonah obeyed the Lord. He went to Nineveh and preached to the people there.
JONAH: Listen here, you cruel and wicked people. In forty days’ time, God is going to destroy you.
NARRATOR: As you can see, Jonah was no Billy Graham. Nevertheless, when the people of Nineveh heard Jonah’s message, they believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the Lord saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. And, of course, Jonah was delighted that his message had been so effective.
JONAH: No he wasn’t! He was very angry and upset!! “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
GOD: Jonah, what right have you got to be angry? Those Ninevites are not monsters, they are people. I care about people, even when they are wicked. I don’t want to destroy them; I want to forgive them.
Listen, Jonah, there are lots of people out there just like you. You thought you could run away from me, but you can’t.
NARRATOR: ‘Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.’
GOD: You thought that I was only interested in certain people from certain nations, but I aren’t.
NARRATOR: ‘All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.’
GOD: You thought that I delighted in punishing the wicked, but I don’t.
NARRATOR: ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.’
JONAH: OK, let’s start again. Friends, I want to speak to you today about the love and compassion that God has for all people, wherever they may live and however wicked they may be. I’m going to ask each of you to think of just one person you know, perhaps the person you like least or the one who you think is furthest from the kingdom of God. And I’m going to ask you to pray for that person right now, and ask that God will use you to bring that person to a knowledge of the truth. Let us pray.