When you get to the end of Jonah, well… at least for me, I’m kinda like ‘Well what happened to Jonah? Did he repent? Did he change? What happened?’ I want a chapter 5.
So, what do you think happened to Jonah?
We’ve been preaching through Jonah at church, and we ended the series 2 weeks ago…
I must admit that I think things worked out ok. It is speculation and yet I think it fits within the trajectory of the book. We have the book of Jonah. It is a book that has Jonah alone at a bunch of times, for instance in the fish etc. That means that to have the book we have, with the details that are in it, either Jonah himself wrote it, or else he told the story (in detail) to someone and they wrote it. Either way, we have Jonah’s story recorded and it is a story in which he comes off as the biggest idiot of all times (well he’s a bit like us then isn’t he?) My point is that it’s not a flattering story for Jonah. He is shown up for his disobedience and his rebellion and the callousness of his heart (he cares more for a plant than a city). So, what person is willing to tell a story in which all their stupidity and hardheartedness is shown in 3D?
Again, it is speculation but I’d imagine that the only way in which you can tell a story like that which shows you warts and all, is if you’ve learnt your lesson. It’s if you have been so humbled and changed and transformed that you can now go: ‘Yeah I was an idiot. I’ll tell it like it was and let’s see God get all the glory.’ You can face up to the truth of your sin and rebellion when you’ve been humbled enough to come to God in repentance and you’ve consequently tasted the joy of forgiveness and the assured security of relationship with Him. You can then tell it like it was, regardless of what people think of you. Sounds rather liberating doesn’t it?
What most certainly isn’t speculation is that the book is a wonderful testament to the patience of God in the life of a recalcitrant follower of the living God. From the very beginning God had been working in Jonah. We saw it in Chapter 1: a blatantly disobedient Jonah, and God comes after him, in a scary way. And yet there is a pursuing grace in that: he doesn’t just give up on Jonah, even when God is well within his rights to. Instead to get Jonah back, God humbles him, to the point of death (chapter 2) so that he can come back to a newness of life in some ways. But even in chapter 3, even after being humbled, you somehow still guess that his heart just isn’t in it. It is strange that for someone already shown so much mercy, he fails to mention mercy at all to the Ninevites. There’s still work to be done in Jonah’s heart obviously. And so in chapter 4 we see God continuing to patiently work in Jonah. In anger Jonah ‘prays’ to God and in the gentleness of a Father with his child, God listens and then asks Jonah questions that get to the heart of the matter: the problem of him (Jonah) not letting God be God. And graciously, He goes even further in giving the implicit invitation for Jonah to share His own heart.
From the book as a whole I was struck by the patience with which God works in Jonah. It gave me comfort, because, gosh do I need that same patience as I have multiple Jonah-like moments. It gave me perspective, because I saw that in the times when God works in me (and it’ll be painful) it’ll ultimately be for my good, to let Him be God, the Rock on which I stand (Psalm 62). And as for that last bit of Jonah, the invitation to share God’s heart: well that is simply mind-blowing. There is a very real way in which God invites us, not to simply come under his purposes in some mechanical way, but to have our very hearts beat for seeing God’s good purposes come to fruition. To offer life. Think of the privilege that God would desire to partner with Jonah (and us) in His great work of salvation going out. Think of the actual idea of sharing God’s heart. To share God’s heart is to taste reality. It is to see and experience and value things as they really are. And at the top of that list, besides the right love of God, will surely be a right love of humanity. A deep longing to see their good as they come to know the God who created them, and who made them to know and love and live with Him as God.
Of course, we see God’s heart most clearly revealed in Jesus. That salvation we need so desperately is secured in his life and death and resurrection on our behalf. Through faith in this Jesus, we are given new life. A life that comes to know God and to have Him as God. And it is a life, where again, the invitation is made: come and share My heart. Out of the book of Jonah there is much to pray. Surely some of it must include not only the thanks to God for his salvation and continued patient working in our lives but also: ‘Oh Father, break my heart for what breaks yours!’