Sunday, November 14, 2010

Jonah: An Accidental Blog

Jonah is the most annoying character in the Bible.

OK, he might have competition. There's Alexander the Metalworker (2 Tim 4:14), whose only mention is of "having done great harm" to Paul. There's the Kings of Judah and Israel Ahaziah through Hoshea (with a couple exceptions) who basically hold an immorality competition. And I think it's safe to say, among the Twelve, that James son of Alphaeus was widely held to be less cool than James (who needed no "son of" title).

But oddly enough, I didn't sit down (long, long overdue) to write about my conjecture and possibly theologically irresponsible musings about 1st century cliques and in-crowds.

Jonah. Read this man's story and tell me he's a hero.* Tell me that he's someone children should be taught to emulate. He's not. He's selfish. A whiner. A coward. A bigot. A hothead. A quitter. A sluggard (I know, I'm excited to use that word, too!). He's annoying.

Here's the 2 minute rundown on the story of Jonah to show you I'm not making this up.

God talks to Jonah. Jonah runs the opposite direction. All out. In modern day terms he flies to Dubai hoping to catch a flight to the moon, which I bet they're working on in Dubai (and indeed, they are).

So he's fleeing (coward), then the boat starts to have some issues with a violent storm, but while everyone is fighting for their lives, Jonah is asleep below deck (sluggard). After some conversation, this leads to him being thrown overboard and the whale/big fish enters the picture (you probably know this part).

Jonah gets regurgitated back ashore and this time decides to listen to God and do as he's been told: Go to Nineveh (his people's rivals of another ethnic group) and warn them of Yahweh's displeasure with them. And lo and behold, after his one sentence proclamation, the people of Nineveh respond. They repent. They fast. They cry out in humility. They ask Yahweh for compassion and mercy.

And where is Jonah for this amazing turn of an entire nationality towards the True God? He's on a hill watching, hoping for a fireworks show of God destroying the city (bigot). Not just that, but when he sees God has been gracious and withheld his righteous judgment, Jonah is "greatly displeased and [becomes] angry." He then shouts at Yahweh declaring, "Now, O Yahweh, take away my life, for it is better for me the die than to live." (hothead, selfish, whiner, bigot, etc)

And it only gets more pathetic from there. Jonah takes comfort in the shade of a plant, but when the shade is gone, once again declares to God, "I'm angry enough to die."

The man . . . tells God . . . he's willing to die . . . because of anger . . . about a vine being taken away!

Jonah. Annoying. Absolutely.

But, none of this is the most annoying thing about Jonah. The most annoying thing about Jonah is that I can see myself in him.

I loves me some me. (selfish)

If not externally, I'll certainly complain internally when things don't go my way. (whiner)

I shy away from a challenge. Seriously, the internet's probably not the best venue to express this, but, why not? I've noticed a tendency where I will choose an afternoon of paperwork over stepping out and doing something that takes faith. I'd rather enter updated donation reports than go looking for a student, who may or may not care about the Gospel anymore. It's easier. Paperwork never lets me down. It's always there. And it "needs" to be done, right? (coward, quitter, sluggard, etc)

For my own sake, I'll stop there, but the similarity between myself and Jonah is nothing less than infuriating.

I don't want to be him.

I don't want to be that man.

But I also know my inclination, and yours too, is going to be more Jonah-like than Christlike. If my hope of not being "that man" is in me, then I have no hope. On my own, I will choose Jonah every time.

But praise be to God, those rules don't apply to me anymore.

Instead, Lord, let this be true: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-3)

He "endured the cross" for the "joy set before him." The thing Jesus obtained on the cross was nothing less than the souls of men and women. Jesus is the one who calls us "the joy set before him." He endured the cross so that he could have the joy of you.

That's a hope capable of turning us from Jonah to Christ.


*In the name of fairness, I will admit Jonah has some positive/redeemable characteristics. He's honest. He owns his mistakes (sometimes). And God uses him to ultimately point people to the One, True God.