One of the shortest of the 66 separate books in the Bible was written about a prophet named Jonah - yes, Jonah as in whale.
We know a little more about him from one of the ancient history books of the nation of Israel (yes, the present nation that, from 1948, again occupies the territory of that name in the Middle East). That history book (2 Kings) records Jonah as living in the 8th century BC and as having been born in a very small town near Nazareth (yes, the Nazareth in Galilee where Jesus lived AD 30) about 50 miles north of Jerusalem.
In Jonah's day the ferocious and cruel Assyrian Empire controlled the whole area around Israel including the magnificent city of Nineveh - on the opposite bank of the River Tigris to present day Mosul, Iraq. Nineveh was a centre of idol worship and Jonah was sent there to call them to U-turn or face imminent destruction. Nineveh's population then (est. 100k.) was about the same as Jersey now - its ruins in Iraq today are extensive. It boasted marvellous palaces, temples to a variety of gods.
The names of those gods today are no longer voiced by non-specialists but what they were believed to deliver to those who served them remain at the top of our own agendas in Jersey. The god "Sin" promised joy and wisdom; "Isatar" sexual love and fertile increase; "Samas" justice and insight; "Nabiu" cleverness in recording and writing - while "Nergal" was feared for destruction, war and death. We no longer serve these gods. Instead we work hard (serve) so as to get what they promised - and couldn't deliver.
As we know from Jonah's small book, he at first funked God's command that he warn Nineveh of impending destruction. He was thrown into the deep and, having been swallowed by a large fish, eventually did his duty.
Inside the fish (strange as that may seem), Jonah prayed the above words "Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love." His own vain idol was his own happiness - he feared what the residents of Nineveh would do to him when he proclaimed God's message. So the successful people of Nineveh were not alone in trying to gain personal happiness and whatever would bring it.
Both Jonah and the people of Nineveh did U-turn: Nineveh was spared destruction on that occasion - although a later generation reverted - and Assyria fell to a new Empire, the Persian.
What did they all gain? And what was it that they gained that we in Jersey forsake all hope of obtaining? What is this "steadfast love" of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ? The Hebrew word for “steadfast love” also means unfailing kindness. What we are missing out on is steadfast love for ever, even beyond this life - the unfailing kindness of the Lord of All towards us in every way, every day ad infinitum.
That's according to Jonah - as well as according to the man Jesus Christ who said to the men of Nazareth and Galilee in AD 30, "The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here."