Reading Jonah

When one sits down to read through Jonah, an activity I do recommend, a sense of the extreme creeps in. Just let your mind process the following:

  • Nineveh is a great city. (1:2)
  • Jonah flees in the opposite direction by ship.
  • A great wind and fierce storm arise. (1:4)
  • The sailors seem to understand more about God than Jonah does. They have great terror in the storm and then great fear of the Lord. (1:10-16)
  • A great fish has been prepared.
  • Jonah is in the fish three days and nights praying!
  • Jonah travels for three days across the great city of Nineveh. (3:3)
  • The king of Nineveh refers to God’s fierce anger. (3:9)
  • All of Nineveh fasts and repents – from the greatest to the least.
  • Jonah expresses great displeasure. (4:1)
  • Jonah derives great pleasure from a plant. (4:6)
  • When the plant withers, Jonah says, “It is better for me to die than to live.”
  • At the end, God asks Jonah a question but what about the answer?

Do I believe Jonah is true?

The hardest to believe part of this story is the three days and nights Jonah spends in the belly of the whale. It is exactly this that Jesus refers to in Matthew 12:38-41. The scribes and Pharisees ask for a sign and Jesus refers to the sign of Jonah. “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” We know that Jesus was buried and rose again the third day. Jesus speaks of Jonah’s experience as if it is fact – so I believe it!

Jesus continues his teaching in the same “great” theme as the story of Jonah. “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

Great city, great fish, great emotions, great sign and yet, something greater is here! This certainly must be part of our message.

 

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