Friday, April 16, 2010

Reflecting on Jonah

One of the iSERVE * iPRAY challenges that participants have the opportunity to choose is "think of someone you have a hard time liking, let alone loving, and then love them in a real tangible way." If we are honest, I think we each have people in our lives we do not like, people who may upset, annoy, frustrate or disappoint us.   There may even be people in our lives we feel don't deserve salvation or love. However the people we are quick to judge or write-off,  are often those God calls us to share His mercy, grace, love and Gospel with. Jonah faced a similar experience, and in the end his prideful, self-righteous character was revealed to him in dramatic fashion.

I love the depth of this book; it reveals the ulterior motives of a reluctant servant, ulterior motives that many of us have but rarely ever admit. More than a giant fish tale, the book of Jonah tells the story of a reluctant missionary. Jonah was the man that God was sending to the gentiles of Nineveh, demonstrating the total reaching mercy of the Lord. Jonah however wanted to run in the opposite direction, and that is exactly what he did. It appears that Jonah’s reluctance had less to do with fear, or humility, like Moses and Ezekiel and more with bitterness and judgment towards his enemy.

Jonah’s prophetic message was of few words and it is interesting that there was no call for repentance, like most prophetic proclamations. I wonder if this is due to the fact that Jonah was not interested in seeing Nineveh repent and strictly looking forward to their judgment. God worked powerfully through the words of Jonah, resulting in the immediate and complete repentance of Nineveh. This however is what Jonah did not want to happen, it was the reason he had ran from God in the first place, he wanted to see his idea of justice extended to the Ninevites and it had more to do with their destruction than their salvation. Jonah wanted his prophetic message “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned” [3:4] but instead God’s grace and mercy was extended.

It is interesting that Jonah’s disobedience and reluctance to God’s call had a tangible affect on those in his path, including those on the boat “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us?” [1:9]; “I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you” [1:12] says Jonah.

Jonah ran from God and as a result nearly died, but “from the depths of the grave, I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” [2:2] God in is sovereignty and power has the power to restore his people, bringing them back from the brink of death literally and proverbially. I can personally testify alongside Jonah “but you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God.” [2:6] though notably not from the pit of a whale’s stomach.

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