18 September 2007Jonah 3:1-10
"The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, 'Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim it to the message that I tell you'. So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days' walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going for a day's walk. And he cried out, 'Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!'" (v.1-4)
What a cheek! There was Jonah just recovering from his near
death experience with the big fish, when he'd got things all wrong
and just escaped by the skin of his teeth. Now he was telling the
people of Nineveh what a bad lot they were!
Granted, the story tells that was the original task that he was given. Granted the people of Nineveh weren't particularly angelic. But even so…
Jonah takes a huff in chapter 4 and is really peeved at God's generous action with Nineveh. How could God choose such a fickle character to express the mind of the Almighty to people? Were there not better preachers and messengers from which to choose?
Every good yarn has unexpected twists and turns, and this is no exception. This story would have been told and retold countless times - a great Old Testament parable from which a host of meanings could be taken and a myriad of questions asked.
This epitomises the theme for this week - Relenting and Repenting. Jonah eventually relents and does that which God asked, even though the original thought of mixing with Ninevites was repulsive. As Jonah has had God's graciousness shown to him, so this incident shows God's mercy to a wayward community. But Jonah was not happy.
Repenting is not just about being sorry, but putting something right and having a complete change of mind. Jonah did not want his mind changed.
Why should 'wicked' people receive as much care and love from God as those who behave much better?
Is it right that a criminal should be equal to a churchgoer in God's eyes?
How can we distinguish between what is God's mind and what is our stubbornness?