Wednesday 12 March 2014

Bible Book:

"And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth." (v. 5)

Jonah 3:1-10 Wednesday 12 March 2014


The book of Jonah is a somewhat surprising and unconventionalpiece of prophetic literature in the Hebrew Bible (the OldTestament). Rather than a collection of proclamations it is ashort, colourful story about a reluctant prophet, repentant'foreigners' and a merciful God.

When God first approached Jonah to go and proclaim God's message tothe great but wicked city of Nineveh, he ran away, eventuallyfinding himself in the belly of a large fish! Jonah had suspectedthat God might be prepared to forgive these nasty 'outsiders' andhe didn't want any part in it!

Today's passage relates God's second attempt to call Jonah andthough he still appears slightly unwilling off he goes. Threatenedwith being overthrown, a fast is called in Nineveh (for people andanimals alike!) and the king decrees that all should turn fromtheir evil and violent ways.

Thankfully for Nineveh - though disappointingly for Jonah - God isgracious, merciful and abounding in steadfast love, and the city isspared. The message that God might act to redeem nations other thanIsrael was of course a radical one - and for some such as Jonah anunpalatable one. We also can all too readily limit God's grace andmercy to those who we feel meet certain criteria. God is biggerthan that!

The story of Jonah includes helpful pointers for us as we continueour journey through Lent. The power of prayer, the value of fastingand the merit of good deeds are all highlighted. Lent offers us anopportunity to focus on one or more of these disciplines as we seekto be more like God - and perhaps a little less like Jonah!

To Ponder

  • What do you think causes some religious people to bemean-spirited like Jonah rather than generous and gracious likeGod?
  • Have you ever considered fasting - during Lent or as a regularpart of your spiritual journey? Why not explore the place offasting in Christian tradition and practice.
  • What are your experiences of running away from God - and ofGod's persistence?
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