Judging Jonah

I have been pondering this thought about the Book of Jonah.

Does Jonah invite us to judge?

What an odd thought when the Bible often reminds us “not to judge” in an unrighteous manner. But what if Jonah is inviting us to judge him without knowing the full story? The book ends abruptly with God’s words of compassion.

God says a lot in a small book that contains only 48 verses and there is a plethora of themes to study. I believe one of the themes is about judging.

We judge Jonah, the Ninevites, the sailors and we even judge the big fish. We judge the sailor’s attitude when they cry to God. We judge the Ninevites turning from their wicked ways and we judge Jonah’s pouting and angry attitude. We might even say we judge God’s compassion on all the above.

What we do not know is the full story. We don’t know Jonah’s life story or when and where he died or what happened after Chanter 4 ends. Many of the Old Testament prophets rejected or doubted the call of God, Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah for example. Even Timothy appeared to doubt his calling in the New Testament. We seem to be a little harsh on Jonah and see  him only as a wayward, rebellious prophet. It is evident that God is with Jonah the entire time! God saw him as he was called to be. Jesus refers to Jonah in a positive light as well. He does not condemn the prophet but sees him as a representative of Himself.

On July 24, 2014, ISIS destroyed a tomb in Mosul, Iraq. Mosul is known as the ancient city of Nineveh. The tomb ISIS destroyed was the Tomb of Jonah. This tomb is known as the burial site of the prophet and it was not just a tourist attraction; It was a revered site to Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. It was described as an “antithesis to sectarianism”. In other words, it was a place that brought all peoples to a common ground in their shared history. ISIS wanted that common ground destroyed. They may have destroyed most of the tomb, but not the meaning behind it.

Why would a people build a tomb to remember someone who hated them? Did Jonah die in Nineveh? We do not know. We don’t know if the tomb contained the actual remans of the prophet or if it was built as a memorial. He may have  lived to a ripe old age in Nineveh and grew to love those to whom he preached. God’s patience and ending words in Jonah 4 may have resulted in the repentance of a stubborn heart. Or, Jonah may have died soon after his message from the injuries he more than likely incurred during his time in the fish.

I like to think that the former is true. 😊 It gives me hope in the redeeming of my own wayward and rebellious heart.

I believe Jonah invites us to judge so that we see how ridiculously futile it is and he guides us to see everyone as God sees them. Maybe he even invites us to see ourselves as God sees us.

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