Do you ever want to run away when you screw up in life? I do. Which means I want to run away a lot!
What if the view that others have of us was based on that one time that we really, really messed up? What if there was even a story written about it that became so popular, it became required reading and it was handed down from generation to generation for thousands of years?
No one recalls or remembers the good things we did, the people we impacted or the lives that were changed. They just know about that one time when we messed up and wanted to run away. The generations that followed only hear about our angry outburst and stubborn attitude. They only know us as someone who swallows up anything and eventually what we devour makes us so sick we vomit it out.
Jonah and Big Fish have both received bad reps from one snapshot of time. Hardly seems fair, doesn’t it?
Do we see Big Fish as the obedient servant that God sends to rescue one of His own? Or do we see him as the enemy that swallows up just about anything, including bad tasting prophets?
Do we see Jonah as the rebellious, single minded, selfish, and angry prophet that tried to run to away from God? Or do we see him as a faithful prophet that God trusted, struggling to come to terms with an exceedingly difficult task?
My views and prejudice against Jonah have really taken a pounding this go around in the Book of Jonah. I have failed to see the difficulty of his task. From what I know so far, he was the only prophet that was ever instructed to physically go into enemy territory and to preach directly to them (and it was not a “make-me-feel-good-live-life-and-be-happy” sermon!) Other prophets preached to the enemy nations but did so from afar.
Jonah was sent to a nation that he knew would soon destroy and overtake his own country. He was aware of the prophetic sermons of Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah, who were probably all contemporaries at some point. He might have known that he would forever be an outcast at home if he went on this mission. Trouble was coming and he was being sent to the troublemakers!
Think about that. God spoke to Jonah and gave him an extremely hard assignment. He knew it was hard when He assigned it. But he also knew His prophet. He knew Jonah would struggle with the assignment and He knew that he would need some rescuing as he came to terms with God’s plan. God never abandoned Jonah. He was with him every step of the way.
As I reflect on this today and as I step back to get a bird’s eye view of the story, I see my own stubborn, know-it-all views and judging of a person based on one small snapshot of his life. And once again, I am overwhelmed by God’s gentleness, His mercy, His patience, and His Sovereignty over all things.
The beginning of the book illustrates His Sovereignty and Power, the middle of book reveals His patience, the end of the book reveals His gentleness and mercy.
I used to be frustrated being in Jonah so much, but God’s patience with me has been amazing. This book is fantastic, and it has so many themes to peel back layer by layer.
I love You, El Shaddai!