This is not due to the fact that Jonah was really a very admirable prophet, he really was not. The name Jonah the book of Jonah has one clear message, God was and is gracious and merciful slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, a love that is for ALL people!
I recently read the following about the book and the man. I think it is well put!
You have to love a Bible story where the least interesting thing about it is that some guy gets swallowed by a big fish and is spit back up on dry land. It’s the image we remember most from Jonah. Memorialized on the pages of illustrated children’s Bibles, nursery wallpaper and felt boards. We think of Jonah and we think of being in the belly of a big fish, after all Jonah in the whale is a great image.
I guess Jonah throwing a temper tantrum, Jonah as he, who would rather die than have God be merciful to those whom Jonah finds distasteful, basically Jonah as bigot, … those images are just not great baby quilt
So, basically God comes to Jonah and tells him that the stench of Ninevah’s wickedness has wafted all the way up to heaven and God needs Jonah to please tell them to knock it off. So Jonah high tails it in the exact opposite direction from the despised Ninevah. He runs as far as he can from his task, taking the role of reluctant prophet farther than most. Jonah tells us why he ran from God. It was not because of low self-esteem. It was not because of laziness or even the fact that he didn’t agree that the Ninevites should be warned. We are told exactly why he ran away. Because he knew that God was gracious and merciful slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Yep. That’s why he ran. That’s a biiiig problem, a God like that. Why? Because that kind of God is really hard to manage.
We, like Jonah flee in our own ways from a God that is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Having a God we can appease, to whom we can offer correct sacrifice…the sacrifice of our money and our piety and our goodness and our time on church council and ….well, having that kind of God is just more…manageable on our part. We can take things into our own hands and know where we stand. But having a God who is gracious and merciful slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love? Well, how do we know where we stand and more importantly where we stand in relation to where others stand? Because that’s how we really know our own value.
One way to manage one’s standing in God’s eyes is to point out the unworthiness of others. We point at our own Ninevites. Our own Jonnycome- latelys. It’s easier to be indignant at the injustice of the “other”, the lazy, the infidel, the freeloader getting the same pay, than it is to sit in the suffocating silence of the fact that we are all beggars. All of us. The church council, the person who never gives any of their time and money to the church, just shows up to worship like it’s free or something. Those of us who are faithful to our spouses, and those of us who cheat. Those who pay all their taxes, and those who evade them. We all sin and fall short. All beggars at the table of God’s grace.
I wonder about our impulse toward pointing the finger at those who are less worthy, those who unlike us have not pulled themselves up by their own spiritual or financial bootstraps. I wonder if the temptation to point to those who rank lower in our little scales of righteousness isn’t just an age old distraction technique. Because the busier we are stoning the woman caught in adultery, the less we have to look at which of our own sins are being written in the dirt.
Managing our own worth and value—That can be a real curse of wealth and privilege. The curse of those who have been given so much, is endless self-justification. It can feel like a full time job, self-justifying –
Because the alternative, accepting God’s mercy is the same as admitting, that I need it. I’d rather think I earn my keep than think I’ve been given something I don’t deserve. It’s easier that way. More manageable. The truth is, it’s painful. Being loved for who you really are, good and bad. It can seem easier to try and maintain a ledger of righteousness for ourselves and others…always knowing where we stand based either on our own efforts, or on how we think we’re doing compared to others. We come to this honestly, you know. There are lots of messages in our culture about where our value comes from – namely what we produce and what we consume, what we own.
But in God’s Kingdom, the world according to God, our true value and how God relates to us is not actually contingent on what we produce or consume. It’s a crazy economy of the unearned. In the economy of the unearned – In the world according to God ‘The last shall be first and the first shall be last’.
Our value is simply not based in what we produce and consume, but based in the fact, that we are all the beloved children of God. Even those who rank lower and higher in the ledger of righteousness we all seem to keep. Even our enemies.
That’s what really sent Jonah over the edge…he even becomes a bit of a drama queen. “I would rather die”, Jonah says, “then to live in a world, where my enemies aren’t punished for their sins.” Yet, on the cross God says “I’d rather die, than be in the sin accounting business any more”.
The fact is, we have a God who is gracious and merciful. Slow to anger. And abounding in steadfast love for Jonah and the Ninevites and the hard workers and the slackers and for me and for you. So put away the ledgers and come to the feast, all the other beggars are waiting for you.