The Reluctant Prophet
Jon 1:1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying,
Good morning. I am glad to be here and share with you. This is a setting I am not very used to. You are very different from the time and people I grew up with. You look very modern to me compare to the place I come from. However, I am sure you are believers in the same God I serve.
So you understand who I am and my story I will tell you a little bit about myself. I am really not all that old. However, I am the kind of person who finds it a very rewarding thing to listen to the teaching and wisdom of those much older than I. My friends are always trying to find ways to have fun.
Sometimes I wonder about them. For instance, they recently found a rock that was fairly smooth and round and they tried kicking it around with their feet. Guess what they are doing now? You got it. They are soaking those feet in a tub of warm water.
Don’t get me wrong. It is not that I don’t like fun; it’s just that there is so much more to do. You see, where I live we don’t have access to the events of the world. I have noticed all your electronic gadgets and they make me jealous, but we have nothing like that. We don’t even have printed material so it is hard to live outside our own village or tribe. But when I hear of things some have called world events I am very interested. So if I have to give up a game of kicking a round stone around it is no problem for me.
Lately, there has been a real stir about the happenings of a group of people that exist, I guess, a little north and east of where I live. From all I can tell, these people are some of the worst kind of humanity. Since I am one of those who believe in Yahweh, I am keenly aware of right and wrong. But these people don’t even need to be compared to the teaching of the Lord. I don’t even know if anyone uses the word barbarian yet but this is what you would understand a perfect description of what they are like.
If I may, let me give you a few examples. I promise you I will not go into complete detail because this is polite company. I am not sure it would be appropriate in this setting.
The city specifically in mind belongs to a nation known as Assyria. If you judge this nation by their success I guess you might conclude that they were a great people. But what do you think about a people who would:
I’m no great example of complete righteous living. In fact, I have walked to far on the Sabbath, and I’ve stolen a bagel or two. But I have NEVER done anything like these barbarians. If anyone deserves judgment it would be them. Wouldn’t you agree?
To really understand my story you have to understand just one day in my life. It was a day that changed my life. You probably have had a day like this. However, I think my can top yours.
I thought it was going to be a normal day. I was headed to the rabbinic school to discuss the current debate on how God’s command to fill in the blank fits into today’s life.
As I left my house – following a great breakfast of – bagels, etc. No if you were thinking I had bacon and eggs you know nothing about my faith. I tasted pig once, another of one of my sins, but I confessed that and haven’t done it again.
Anyway, I am walking down the lane and I receive a strong impression in my heart and my mind. At first, I thought this was something connected to my own imagination. But, this impression did not go away. It wasn’t long before I realized that I was being spoken to by my God just like Samuel. I wished I had a priest like Eli to tell me this was what was happening. With great fear I said out loud, even though this voice was more of an internal one, what do you want?
2 “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.”
What? Really? Awesome.
What really excited me was that this was a city that needed God’s judgment. I was more than happy to go and pass judgment on these wicked people. Of course I was a bit fearful at this point but I imagined what it would be like to be the one that God used to deal with these wicked people. That made me anxious to go.
But then I begin to think. Oh no! I know the God I serve. Yes, he is just, and yes he hates sin, but he also has set up the sacrificial system, a system that teaches us he is merciful and compassionate. I begin to wonder what would happen to me if I went and preached to this city and they repented. I am sure God would be gracious.
What would that do to my reputation? I would come home and have to tell my Jewish community that I was the messenger God used to bring forgiveness to the Ninevehites. They would run me out of Dodge – or at least Dan.
I myself struggle with including outsiders. I have never always struggled with the proselytes. What is really ok for them to come and circumcise themselves and become a part of us. We are the chosen people. Now, God might forgive a whole city of their sins and an unclean city at that.
I was shaking now. On the one hand, it would be right to obey God but on the other, I didn’t think I could be a part of offering a message to pagan people that might bring about a revival.
I couldn’t risk it. In fact, I was pretty sure by now that I probably wasn’t hearing from God anyway.
Doesn’t it seem like a good time for a vacation? I thought so. Obviously I had no brochures on the city of Tarshish but I had heard that it was a great place to visit. I admit that a good practicing Jewish boy should probably not head to Tarshish but if God could ask me to go to Nineveh then how could he be mad if I went to Tarshish. By the way, the price to board a ship had been discounted and if the future stereotype that would be placed on my people are true, then how could I pass up a good deal.
3 But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
4 The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.
5 Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep.
6 So the captain approached him and said, “How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.”
7 Each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.
8 Then they said to him, “Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
9 He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.”
10 Then the men became extremely frightened and they said to him, “How could you do this?” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.
11 So they said to him, “What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?”—for the sea was becoming increasingly stormy.
12 He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you.”
13 However, the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them.
14 Then they called on the Lord and said, “We earnestly pray, O Lord, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life and do not put innocent blood on us; for You, O Lord, have done as You have pleased.”
15 So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging.
16 Then the men feared the Lord greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
17 And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.
Num 32:23; Prov 16:33
Josh 7:19; 1 Sam 14:43
Gen 47:3; 1 Sam 30:13
Gen 14:13; Ex 1:15; 2:13
2 Kin 17:25, 28, 32, 33
Ezra 1:2; Neh 1:4; Ps 136:26; Dan 2:18
Neh 9:6; Ps 95:5; 146:6
Lit What is this you have done
Job 27:22; Jon 1:3
Lit from upon us
Lit from upon you
2 Sam 24:17; 1 Chr 21:17
Lit dug their oars into the water
Ps 107:28; Jon 1:16
Ps 115:3; 135:6; Dan 4:34, 35
Ps 65:7; 93:3, 4; 107:29
Ps 50:14; 66:13, 14
Ch 2:1 in Heb
New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Jon 1:1-17). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.