Jonah, the reluctant prophet
Jonah 3.1-5, 10
Do you have a favourite book of the Bible? I do. It’s the Book of Jonah.
So I want to talk about Jonah, the most reluctant prophet ever. The Book of Jonah is only four chapters long, and only forty eight verses. Read it when you get home—it’s far more than a story about a prophet who had a whale of a time. No, the Book of Jonah is a great satire on those who can’t keep up with God; specifically, God’s superabundant willingness to forgive and heal people.
I don’t mind saying that the first time I read it in one sitting I found it to be hilarious. I laughed out loud. Don’t worry if you do too—it is meant to be funny!
The story begins with the word of God to Jonah:
Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.
Seems straightforward enough. God wants Jonah to go to Nineveh, which was situated on the edge of modern-day Mosul, the second-largest city of Iraq and the site of much of the fighting in that unfortunate country. Jonah was to cry out against Nineveh because of its wickedness.
What problem could Jonah have with that? The most obvious objection he might have had was that Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, the superpower of the time. And Assyria was the enemy of Israel. Perhaps we might assume that Jonah thought he may be killed by his enemies?
Nice try, but Jonah’s real problem was somewhere else. We’ll come to it soon.