Saturday, June 1, 2013
Scratching the Surface of Jonah
Scratching the Surface of Jonah
God knows we know God knows tough times don't build character.
Tough times expose character.
Again, what's deep in the well comes up in the bucket.
Jonah comes to mind.
He was a preacher; which means he was just like you and me in that God called him to a job and gifted him for that job in ways that would honor Him and help people honor Him.
"The Word of the Lord came to Jonah: 'Get up! Go to that great city of Ninevah and preach against it because their wickedness has confronted Me.'"
I think a better translation would be, "Get up! Go to that arrogant and not-God-fearing cesspool of a city Ninevah and let 'em have it because their insults to my holiness have gone over the top; and I'm mad as hell and not going to take it anymore."
Jonah wasn't into it: "The Lord said, 'Get up and go to Ninevah and preach against it'...However, Jonah got up to flee..."
God said, "Get up and go to Ninevah!"
Jonah, in effect, said, "Here I am! Send somebody else! Feet do your duty!"
And Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction.
Jonah had no desire or inclination to preach repentance to Ninevah because he did not want them to avoid God's wrath.
Jonah felt no one deserved God's favor less than them.
Ninevah, a notoriously wicked city, was the capitol of Assyria and Assyrians were always beating up on Israel.
That's why he tried to ignore God's call and take off and go as far away from Ninevah as possible.
He went to Joppa and got on a ship for Tarshish.
He wanted to get as far away as possible from God's call to do something that he didn't want to do.
Sorry, nobody can run away from God.
Jonah became the poster boy for that.
Right from the start of his flight, things went south.
The sailors freaked out and frantically fought to keep the ship afloat.
Jonah, in the not so deep recesses of his mind, knows why things are coming apart.
God is ticked off at him for running away from his call; so he said to the sailors, "Pick me up and throw me into the sea so it may quiet down for you, for I know I'm to blame for this violent storm that is against you."
He fessed up.
That part of the story is often overlooked. Jonah volunteered to give up his life for the sailors. While he was not willing to give up his life for the wicked people of Ninevah, he was willing to give up his life for the sailors who were better than worse.
They took him up on his offer and tossed him overboard.
It's a whale of a story: "Then the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the fish for 3 days and 3 nights."
It gets funny: "Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish."
In an expression of trust despite the miserable moment, Jonah praised God in advance for being delivered: "I called to the Lord in my distress, and He answered me...He heard my voice...He raised me from the pit..."
God always takes care of people who trust Him: "The Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land."
Here's where the story gets very gospelish.
Jonah is delivered in order to deliver the despicably wicked people of Ninevah by calling them to repentance so they can know the eternal embrace of their heavenly Father.
Despite the prophet's personal hatred of the Ninevites even after his personal deliverance, he knew God would never be deterred, distracted, or detoured from His love, as Messiah-Deliverer Jesus would say hundreds of years later, for everybody: "For God so loved the world..."
Jonah exclaimed, "I know You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to become angry, rich in faithful love, and One who relents from sending disaster."
Indeed, scratching the surface of our relationship with the Lord by scratching the surface of Holy Scripture makes it clear that God is more loving than judgmental; always erring on the side of love over law.
I recall how Bill Felmeth, one of my seminary mentors often said, "God does not love us because of who we are and what we do but in spite of who we are and what we do."
That's the message of Jonah.
God loves people who don't deserve His love...like those Ninevites, sailors, Jonah, you, me, and them.
That message, of course, reached its eternal climax in Jesus who allowed Himself to be crucified as the cost of saving the world.
Jonah jumped out of the boat to save some sailors along with some really bad guys.
Jesus jumped into the world to save it.
It's a whale of a story.
...to be continued...
Blessings and Love!