Today's post is a bit longer than usual, but ponder this.
GOD, ACCORDING TO JONAH
Now Jonah, who lived in the Galilee, was a companion of GOD. He was a man who talked with and to GOD; and he was a man to whom GOD talked. There was true camaraderie between Jonah and Jehovah.
GOD saw that Ninevah, a great city, was truly wicked and walking in ungodly and unseemly ways, so he said to Jonah, Go up to Ninevah and tell them that if they don’t repent I, the LORD, the LIVING GOD will destroy them. Okay, so here are some truly noteworthy things. First, Ninevah is not a city of GOD’s chosen people, but rather a vast city of gentiles. So it is clear that GOD’s intent was to send the message of salvation through repentance to the gentiles. Second, Ninevah is a l-o-n-g way from Johah’s home territory, about 400 miles as the crow flies. It’s location was east beyond the Euphrates, and east beyond the Tigris, and thus 170 miles north of Baghdad at the location of present-day Mosul.
Jonah, though, does not complain of the distance. No. He knows GOD with a true heart. Thus he complains that, If I preach this word to the Ninevites, they will repent and You, GOD, will repent of the destruction and the people will live. But GOD said, Go.
So Jonah went. But not north and eastward toward Mesopotamia, but rather he went westward to the sea, where he boarded a boat which in no wise could take him anywhere but away from Ninevah.
But wait. In Sunday school I was left with the impression that this was a story about Jonah, but it isn’t. It is ABOUT GOD!
What happened next is familiar to every child that ever sat in a dank basement classroom on a Sunday morning. GOD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and all aboard the ship were sure they were lost. However, by casting of lots and such necromancy, they determined that Jonah was their, well, Jonah, so to speak. Jonah 'fessed up and asked his compatriots to toss him overboard, which they were loath to do. However the storm worsened, the timbers cracked and the very souls of the sailors were shaken, so they jettisoned Jonah into the sea. At which point, GOD appointed a great fish to swallow the pathetic and disobedient prophet. In the innards of the fish he abode three days; yet from within he cried out to GOD. His prayer, recorded in chapter two, is a beautiful poem in which Jonah says, I cried out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me. The prayer concludes with, That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD. The fish puked Jonah out onto dry land.
Now the second time the LORD said to Jonah, Get up and go to Ninevah and proclaim the message I tell you. So Jonah went and preached the Word from GOD, namely repent or else. They repented and turned from their wicked ways and GOD spared them.
It made Jonah mad. So he said to GOD, Please LORD, didn’t I tell you this is what you would do while I was still in the comfort of my own home? And to prevent this from happening, didn’t I board a ship to run to Tarshish because I know that you are a gracious and compassionate GOD, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, and One who relents concerning calamity? So please take my life, for to die is better to me than life. And GOD said, Do you have good reason to be angry?
So the poor pathetic, yet obedient prophet withdrew from the city and sat down in the desert under a makeshift shelter he tried to cobble together from detritus he found there so he could sit and watch to see what would happen in the city.
Now GOD appointed a plant to grow up over Jonah and provide him with more adequate and cooling shade to alleviate his discomfort. And Jonah was exceedingly happy. About what? About the PLANT! But the next day at dawn, GOD appointed a worm to attack the plant so that it withered and died. Then the LORD appointed a scorching east wind and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul for GOD to let him die, for death would be better than life.
And GOD said, Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant? Yes, said Jonah, yes, I do. I have good reason to be angry, even unto death. And the LORD replied, You had compassion on the vine which you did not plant, and for which you did not work, and which came up overnight and perished overnight. And should I not have compassion on Ninevah, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right hand and their left, as well as many animals?
1. Would you agree that when God makes an appointment it will be kept?
(What certain appointments do we have?)
2. What is the significance of God’s concern for a gentile city?
3. Do you ever have to be told a second time before you obey God’s command?
(Gideon’s fleece. Do you ever “try” God?)
4. The presenter characterized Jonah as “poor and pathetic.” Do you agree with this assessment?
(Both in his disobedience and in his obedience.)
5. Do you agree with Jonah that he had “reason to be angry?”
(What NT character basically said to die is better than to live?)
6. The conversion of Ninevah is sometimes characterized as the “world’s greatest revival.” Would you agree?
7. Most commentators suggest that God’s description of the Ninevites as “not knowing their right hand from their left” could correctly be interpreted to mean that they did not know good from evil. Does this make sense to you?
8. Is there any significance in that God drew attention to the fact that his compassion on the people of Ninevah extended to the animals?
9. Did you ever wonder what happened to Jonah after this last recorded conversation with God?
10. Following their conversion, what happened to the people of Ninevah?
(Read the book of Nahum.)
(Mosaic, Ste. Anne Melkite Greek Catholic Church, North Hollywood)