Speaking of Life 3009 | Jonah—Prophet or Cautionary Tale
If you ask anyone about Jonah, what will they say the story is about?
The whale. Every kids’ book and cartoon adaptation of Jonah features some hybrid of Moby Dick and Jaws creeping up out of the seaweed to swallow the hapless prophet.
But the real story is much bigger. Jonah is asked by God to avert the destruction of Israel’s sworn enemy, Nineveh. Jonah, out of an ethnic hatred of these people and anger about God showing them mercy, ran in the other direction as fast and far as he could.
At one point, he even chose to kill himself by jumping into angry seas rather than obeying God’s call. In his own rage and bitterness, he would rather die than soften his will to God’s.
God turns the tables on him by sending, as we all know, a giant fish.
God turns the tables again by hearing the Ninevites repenting and holding back his judgment.
But Jonah remains unmoved. He ends the whole book arguing with God over whether God is allowed to show mercy to these people.
In a sense, Jonah gets his theology right, but he misses who God is. Sure the Israelites are the people of God, sure the Assyrians were bloodthirsty and godless, but in the book of Jonah we read, God is:
“…a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” Jonah 4:2 (ESV)
Isn’t that who we want God to be? Sure! But Jonah was blinded by his own self-preservation and his own thoughts on how God should be acting. Instead of a prophet, his story became a cautionary tale.
Has that ever happened to us? Have we ever so figured out how God should be acting that we miss what he’s doing? Does an obsession with theological details sometimes cause us to lose the big picture—that God loves the world and wants to draw everyone to himself?
Let’s not forget that God’s main business is love—and that love is messy, fuzzy, spontaneous, and generous. He’s not going to follow whatever expectations we have for him, and he’s not consulting us on how far to extend his grace. Halleljujah! Let’s be grateful! Embrace his lavish love for you and for your perceived enemies. That’s how GOOD God is.
I am Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.