Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jonah: God and Man are Different

No less than six times in the tiny book of Jonah is the phrase "But Jonah . . . " or "But Yahweh (or the LORD) . . . " used. Presenting a stark difference between the character of Yahweh, the God who made the sea and the land, and Jonah, the reluctant (annoying) prophet.

"But Jonah . . ." is always used to signify disobedience from our main character:
  • (after being called by Yahweh to go to Nineveh) "But Jonah ran away from Yahweh and headed for Tarshish" (1:3)
  • (after Yahweh showed mercy and grace to Nineveh) "But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry." (4:1)
In the first case, its worth noting two things, Tarshish was a sort of hub port, far away from Nineveh and with plenty of boats to take you even farther from Nineveh. He's not just running away, he's downright fleeing. Second, who does Jonah think he is? I heard this compared to Jonah acting like a suspect in a police chase on TV. Where the helicopter is circling and the suspect thinks if he jumps out of his car on foot and lies down in the prairie over there, he might just get away. THERE'S A HELICOPTER RIGHT ABOVE YOU! Do you really expect this to work?

In the second case, Yahweh has shown great mercy to Nineveh in response to their humbling of themselves, but Jonah angrily launches into a complaint against God, saying, "I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity."

An odd protest from a man who, if God was not "slow to anger and abounding in love", would have been dead by this point in the story. The human response exemplified by Jonah sees the goodness of a perfect, holy God and vacillates " . . . but . . . " and disobeys.

Yahweh's "But" statements stand out differently, they all center around God providing for Jonah, rescuing Jonah, or gently reasoning with Jonah in the face of offensive belligerence (1:17, 4:4,7,9,10).

First, God "provides a great fish to swallow Jonah" saving his life. Next, Yahweh twice asks Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry?" (a great question to ask ourselves when we feel wronged). And finally, he exposes Jonah's selfishness and shows His own character pointing out the human souls in Nineveh that He values so, so much, while Jonah is concerned with nothing but self and comfort.

"But Yahweh . . . " is very different than "But Jonah . . . " or "But Marc . . . " or "But I . . . "

All of this leads to the greatest conjunction in the world.

Get ready for it.

Are you ready?

I don't think you are.


"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. BUT because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved." Ephesians 2:1-5

He's different.

He is love.

He makes alive.

He indeed is "gracious", "compassionate", and "abounding in love"!


Chase said...

Marc, great thoughts. I really appreciate that you share with us the insights God has given you. Keep up the good work of the Gospel.

Lion Kisses,