Is it possible to run from God? Maybe, but not for long!
Today’s reading covers the Book of Jonah.
God instructed Jonah to preach a message to Nineveh, yet instead the prophet ran in the opposite direction.
One possible explanation for this is that Nineveh was at the heart of the Assyrian empire, known for its cruelty and for destroying the Northern Kingdom of Israel around 740 BC. Perhaps Jonah did not want the people of Nineveh to hear God’s word and repent of their sins and be forgiven. Maybe he wanted them to perish!
Looking at it this way, it makes sense that Jonah would head in the opposite direction, fleeing to the Mediterranean sea (it also makes it look like the stormy sea weather that nearly sinks his ship is a sermon from God to change his ways!). Jonah admits to the frightened sailors that he is the cause of their distress, and they toss him overboard. But rather than let Jonah perish in the sea, God sends a fish to swallow him, and miraculously preserves Jonah’s life in spite of what Jonah attempted to do. When in the belly of the fish, Jonah cries out to God — a sign of repentance — and after three days the fish spits him up. Now Jonah knows first hand what God’s judgement as well as God’s mercy is like. Perhaps this experience makes it easier for him to preach to the Ninevites.
Once the people of Nineveh hear God’s message, they believe, and every one repents. They wear sackcloth and undertake a fast as a sign of their changed hearts.
Let’s Play Jeopardy!
After you’ve read through the scripture readings, click on the link below and find out how many details you remember!
Jonah and the Fish
In just four short chapters, the story of Jonah provides us multiple instances of repentance and forgiveness. Jonah gets called by God to repent of his ways. The sailors ask God for forgiveness. The people of Nineveh repent of their sins. Perhaps the even fish itself repents after a fashion (swallowing Jonah = indigestion)!
In every aspect of the story, God is depicted as one who has every right to punish and destroy, but who shows patience and mercy, provision and love.