Jonah 3:1-5,10; Psalm 62:6-14; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
January 22, 2006
Mention the story of Jonah to almost anyone and they will instantly think of a whale or a large fish. In fact today's story begins at the point AFTER the fish spits up Jonah on the beach.
To understand the story of Jonah a little better we need know that the story was written at a time when Israel had returned from Babylon to Jerusalem and began rebuilding. They saw the decree of Cyrus of Persia to let the Jews return and help them rebuild as an enormous sign of God's favor. For many, Jewish belief shifted from God's favor for this release from captivity to God's EXCLUSIVE favor and blessing of the Jews. From the idea of God's exclusive blessing this particular group of Jews developed a very strong sense of ethnic superiority and even a kind of nationalistic pride. Jonah is among this group full of superiority and pride and it will be his downfall.
Another group of Jews could not accept the idea of God's exclusive favor or the ultra-nationalism so the book of Jonah was written by one group of Jews as political satire about the claim of God's exclusive favor by another group.
The short book starts with God calling Jonah to go to Nineveh. For Jonah in Jerusalem, Nineveh is 600 miles to the east near the modern day city of Mosul in Iraq. What does Jonah do in response to God's call? He gets on the next boat headed west. He books a slot on a boat headed to Tarshish nearly 600 miles West – the opposite direction of where God is calling him to go. How many of us hear God's call and then do the opposite thing out of fear?
We all remember the story how the boat encounters a storm and the sailors end up tossing Jonah overboard to propitiate the deity. A large fish swallows Jonah and takes him back to the starting point spitting him up on the shore. God is basically telling Jonah, "Do I have your attention now? ... You are going to Nineveh. ...
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