Note: for the remainder of this week, we will be looking at the book of Jonah, one of the minor prophets. It’s a short book and a fun read, so you may want to take the time to read each of the four chapters in its entirety (the remaining chapters are so short that we won’t need to excerpt them). Simply click the link below to read all of chapter 1.
The Lord’s word came to Jonah, Amittai’s son: “Get up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it, for their evil has come to my attention.”
So Jonah got up—to flee to Tarshish from the Lord! He went down to Joppa and found a ship headed for Tarshish. He paid the fare and went aboard to go with them to Tarshish, away from the Lord. But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, so that there was a great storm on the sea; the ship looked like it might be broken to pieces. The sailors were terrified, and each one cried out to his god. They hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to make it lighter.
Now Jonah had gone down into the hold of the vessel to lie down and was deep in sleep. The ship’s officer came and said to him, “How can you possibly be sleeping so deeply? Get up! Call on your god! Perhaps the god will give some thought to us so that we won’t perish.”
Meanwhile, the sailors said to each other, “Come on, let’s cast lots so that we might learn who is to blame for this evil that’s happening to us.” They cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. So they said to him, “Tell us, since you’re the cause of this evil happening to us: What do you do and where are you from? What’s your country and of what people are you?”
He said to them, “I’m a Hebrew. I worship the Lord, the God of heaven—who made the sea and the dry land.”
Then the men were terrified and said to him, “What have you done?” (The men knew that Jonah was fleeing from the Lord, because he had told them.)
Sometimes, the things we do don’t make any sense, even to ourselves.
Jonah, even though it’s called a prophetic book, is probably best understood as a kind of satire. Here’s the story of a prophet who does everything he can to resist God’s order to preach salvation to Nineveh, the capital city of the hated Assyrian Empire.
Jonah’s attempt to flee is totally inconsistent with his own understanding of who God is, “the God of heaven – who made the sea and the dry land.” He knows God made everything (and everyone), and yet he still thinks he’ll be able to escape! Not only that, but he is deeply angry that this God has called him to preach salvation to the enemies of Israel – so angry that he doesn’t want any part of it!
There is a disconnect between Jonah’s HEAD understanding of who God is and his HEART understanding of how that should influence his way of living. That disconnect, unfortunately, is all too common. We say we know God is love, but in so many ways our lives are inconsistent with that truth.
For Pondering & Prayer
What are some of the things that you absolutely believe about God’s nature and God’s character?
If those things you believe about God are true, what’s one thing you can do today to live a life more consistent with those truths?