Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A detour to Jonah

For those of you who don't know it, I'm with the youth from Calvary Baptist Church at M-Fuge Camp.  We're in Birmingham, Alabama, on the beautiful, spacious campus of Samford University.  Anyway, I'm living a youth camp schedule this week which includes: 1. getting up crazy early to shower; 2. running like crazy throughout the day; 3. eating in a college cafeteria; 4. worship that would be awesome if I hadn't gotten old enough that it's a bit loud; 5. being up insanely late, since I have to make sure all my guys are back and in their rooms.

Anyway, with all of this, blog posting is not as easy as I'd like it to be.  I meant to have this up yesterday, and it didn't happen.  Yesterday's Bible study was about Jonah.  I had some thoughts on Jonah, and I want to share them.

1.  We tend to think of Jonah as a story of God's missionary calling, even in the Old Testament.  At one level, that's part of why we have the book of Jonah.  Another reason to consider is to explain why the Assyrians (Nineveh is the capital of Assyria), who were known as vicious conquerors who left few survivors, would take the northern kingdom of Israel into captivity rather than eliminate them.  Look at the chronology of Bible events, and fit Jonah into the flow.  There is a change of behavior in Assyria.  And realize: No northern kingdom return, no Galilee.  No Galilee, no Nazareth.  No Nazareth?  See a problem?  Jonah shows not only God's call to speak the truth to all nations but also fits God's long-term plan for redemption of mankind.

2.  Notice how the sailors know the name of the Lord?  And are afraid?  This is the after-effect of God's work through Israel, starting in the 1400s BC in the Exodus.  God's work is never wasted.  If we allow God to work through us in His way, the ripples will extend for centuries, not generations.

3.  Ever compare the parallels between Jonah asleep in a ship in a storm and Jesus asleep in a ship in a storm?  (other than that I mistyped storm as sotrm in both phrases?)  Nothing accidental happens in the life of Christ, nothing surprises God, and very rarely do you have Biblical events with that many parallels accidentally.  Just a thought to chase----when I can think.

4.  We spend a lot of time haggling out why Jonah didn't want to go to Nineveh.  A new (to me) thought crossed my mind yesterday:  What if Jonah didn't want to go to Nineveh because of the message God was sending?  He's told to "cry against it."  Maybe Jonah's not a fire and brimstone preacher?  We don't know anything about him other than that he's the son of Amittai.  We assume that he's got it in for the Ninevites, and it's not a bad assumption.  Yet it is just that.  Perhaps Jonah's plan to take God's word to Nineveh is more subtle than raising a "cry against it."  Maybe he wants to go open a coffee shop, do some community surveys, build some relationships, things like that. 

Perhaps Jonah's objection throughout Jonah 1-3 is that he doesn't like the idea of carrying messages for a God who will destroy a city.  He's not into all this judgment and punishment, it's not a happy God that would do such things.  In fact, chapter 1 he'd rather die than serve a God that overturns cities or destroys people.  In chapters 2-3 Jonah comes to grips with a God who destroys.  His anger in chapter 4 is that he's gone through all this to learn God destroys, only to have God not destroy.  He's critical of the fact that he had a plan to turn the Assyrians to repentance, but God didn't want Jonah's "40 Days of Happy Preaching" campaign, but rather "40 Days until Destruction." 

There's not a lot of Scripture that would confirm this, but there's also not a lot to refute it.  This is part of filling in where the Bible is silent: you can draw a lot of conclusions, and some of those conclusions are contradictory.  The Bible isn't, but are fill-in-the-gap work can be.


Anyway, be reminded: God's message, God's method, God's glory.  Our own, whatever it may be, heads to storms and whales.



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