Scripture Spotlight: Jonah
Well, I accidentally skipped last month. It’s been harder than I thought to get into the swing of full-time work. I feel so busy all the time. But, I’m trying to work on disciplining myself more to keep my blogs coming. And over the summer, I’ve been going to a Bible study where our final “assignment” is to write up a teaching on Jonah (the book we’ve been going through), and so I’m using the blog as my audience! So that will cover this month’s “Scripture Spotlight”. (Though I’m gonna be gone this Saturday, so I’m posting it now, just because.)
I’ve read the Biblical account of Jonah more than once, heard the story a million times in Sunday school, and seen the VeggieTales movie (which I think does a good job; still, it’s VeggieTales).
You can read this story and get a lot out of it: the importance of obedience, God’s wrath, getting second chances, Jonah as a symbol for Israel… but what kept hitting me as I was reading through this was God’s heart.
* * * * * * * *
“Mercy” is the word that sticks out to me in this book. Maybe it’s because it goes along with my personal tendencies towards mercy rather than wrath; maybe it’s because I’ve experienced a lot of it. But I love looking for God’s mercy and grace in all of His stories, and I see it a lot in Jonah.
First off, you see God’s mercy on the sailors. As soon as Jonah is thrown overboard, the storm subsides and the sailors are saved. Literally, I don’t know about spiritually. But, God uses Jonah’s disobedience to reveal Himself to the sailors. Whether their sacrifices and vows were sincere and they stuck, it doesn’t say. Maybe they went back to their other gods; maybe they just added Yahweh to their list to worship; or maybe they turned to worshipping Him only. Whatever choices they made that the Bible doesn’t say, we know that God revealed Himself and gave them an opportunity to see Him for who He was.
Next, He shows mercy to Jonah. I used to always think, in my memory, that chapter 2 is about Jonah lamenting about being in the whale. But as I reread it, that’s not what he’s doing. Jonah’s rejoicing that God saved him. He talks about how he was drowning and suffocating, but that He looked toward the temple and God rescued him. God could have let Jonah die and sent somebody else to Ninevah to teach the Israelites a lesson in obedience, but instead He delivered Jonah from the ocean and only left him in the whale for 3 days. (Hehe, though I’m sure he would’ve been happy to get out sooner.) Anyway, Jonah got a reality check, and knew that His loyalties and vows lay with God. God is consistently loyal about rescuing those who call on Him throughout the Scriptures.
Lastly, God has mercy on the Ninevites. It’s not that God had a problem with wiping out whole nations on principle (because He does that a lot); but He needed to show the other nations, and Jonah, and Israel, and us, that He values more than just justice. He values mercy and grace. And when they repented, He relented.
While I don’t have another example of a PERSON He showed mercy to in chapter 4, Go has a discussion with little emo Jonah about it. Jonah is not happy that God is sharing His lovingkindness and mercy, and so he whines and gets hot and then has shade and then does not and then whines some more. And God basically tells Jonah to get his priorities straight, as He says that the people of Ninevah are far more valuable than the plant that shaded Jonah, and yet Jonah would rather God blot out the city and keep the plant for himself. (Though it’s not like it has to be a choice between the two, but you know.)
Though it’s hard to understand how to put together what God did in the OLD Old Testament (like killing every living being in multiple nations to make way for Israel) with the New Testament gospel of grace for the Gentiles, I think Jonah offers a transition. God always valued mercy as well as justice, but He had different times for showing each. And while He calls for repentance first, as it shows in Jonah’s and Ninevah’s cases, His desire is for all of humanity, that He created in His image, to know Him and receive His mercy.
* * * * * * * * *
That’s all I got. And to close out this blog, here’s the video of the VeggieTales song that’s been stuck in my head all day today! 🙂