Taking it In
As we conclude the book of Jonah we have noticed that everyone has repented and turned back to God except Jonah. From the pagan sailors, to the Assyrian King, the Ninevites and even the cows have repented, yet Jonah is still filled with so much hate for God loving his enemies. Jonah would rather die, than live with a God who forgives his enemies and he continues to sulk angrily over God’s mercy and his own discomfort. Last week we read that for a brief moment Jonah was happy for the very first time after receiving some physical comfort from God who provided shade. However, that happiness was short-lived after God allowed the shrubs to be eaten and once again Jonah wanted to die. God is always moving with a purpose and the vine was actually an attempt to get through to Jonah once again. Jonah was so angry, concerned and emotional over this vine being gone and God wanted to use Jonah’s attitude for perspective. Aren’t humans more valuable than vines? “Should I not be concerned about that great city?”. God felt the same emotions and concern for Nineveh and even for all of humanity as Jonah did for his shrubs that provided shade. You can reference Mark 8:33 when Jesus rebukes Peter. “Get behind me Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Jonah was filled with so much hate that he would have rather died, whereas God was filled with so much love that He sent His only Son to die for everyone!
Working it Out
The book of Jonah is really a message of good news about the wideness of God’s mercy. God is really trying to connect with the reader so that we can reflect on our own behaviors of disobedience. One really cool thing to notice in Jonah is how God asks questions in order to get Jonah, and us, to see things differently. God always asks us about God’s self to teach and guide us. He does this with Jonah, and Jesus did it with his disciples, too: “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). God frames Nineveh to Jonah as a people who “can’t tell their right from their left.” It is the task of wisdom to tell right from left, discerning between good and evil. Though Nineveh doesn’t know its way, they’re stumbling in the right direction in this story and turning from the violence they’re accustomed to while hoping that God will turn and repent so they won’t perish. Who can teach them this way of wisdom and the life they’re looking for? Who can tell them that the God who threatened them is the Lord, Yahweh, the God of Israel, who repents of the idea? The hint at the end is that Jonah should pity them as Yahweh does and therefore should teach them about his God who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, so that they can be like the sailors in Jonah 1, too. The last words in the book of Jonah point toward a Sabbath rest for everyone including the livestock. All creation is invited to rest, reflect, and rejoice, perhaps even laugh, on behalf of all creation that has been rescued. And we are presented with this same question/opportunity to walk in our own faith journey alongside others doing the same whether they go to church or not. As we work with them we’re working on our own, too.
We should feel challenged to the core and really search for the Jonah inside of us. Through Jonah, we may be able to see the worst parts of our character magnified. How do you feel about the fact that God loves your worst enemies? Can you see the Jonah in you? God is really putting up with the Jonah in all of us, but we can have comfort in knowing that our God will never give up on us. That He will continue to move with a purpose to chip away at the sin that lives in all of us so that we can reflect HIM more everyday. Let’s be thankful for His endless mercy and rejoice with ALL who find their way back to God. Working out our faith this way can be a painful, even scary process which is why Paul admonishes us to do so with “fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). But when it comes down to it, we are the only ones who can answer God’s questions as God continually forms and shapes us to the good creation that loves others and that was intended in the first place. We all have lots of work to do in this area, so hopefully this series has encouraged you to get after it!