Hurl Me In
When I think of the prophet Jonah, I think of a selfish, angry, bigot. Why? Because he was given the opportunity to preach an inspired message and hated being chosen to do so. What? Yup. Jonah is chosen to preach to people he hated. In Jonah 4.2, he tells God he didn’t want to preach to those people because he knew God would accept them if they repented.
How is Jonah selfish? In Chapter one, while Jonah heads the opposite direction of his charge. Spain is to the West, Nineveh to the East. When confronted with the storm on the sea his option is death. Jonah does not know the story of Jonah. His answer is “hurl me into the sea”. This is death. No one asks to be tossed out while on a boat ride while in the middle of the ocean. After he finally preaches to Nineveh, he tells God he is “angry enough to die.” (4.9) 120,00 people have responded to God’s message: to Jonah’s preaching! Yet, he is “angry enough to die”.
His anger is called out by God in 4.4 in a gentle way. Like the loving Father He is, God offers gentle rebuke in phrasing correction “Do you do well to be angry?” This is Jonah being asked to evaluate himself and his attitude. What could Jonah possibly be mad at? Yet, the only time that Jonah does not have this disposition is in Chapter two, when he is bobbing in the belly of a sea beast. Examining that prayer, we find penitence, but such penitence is limited to obedience, not pleasure in service.
Jonah uses a phrase that explains his anger in 4.2; “my country”. These Ninevites were not Israelites. They do not deserve God’s favor. So we remember from Chapter three the half-hearted herald he heaves: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” I understand the message is given by God, but this is hardly “good news”. He then shows his anger for God showing pity (4.10-11).
Through Jonah’s interactions, I find encouragement as well. Despite the failure of my attitude God’s Word will accomplish Through their interactions with Jonah, everyone in this story is made to give glory to God! The mariners in Chapter one, the Ninevites in Chapter three, even Jonah in Chapter two. May God always love us enough to show His strength through our weakness!