Monday, February 1, 2021

Did Jonah Finally Get It? Do We?

By Joe Slater

    “I’d rather die than . . .” We find some things so distasteful that we say we’d rather die than do them. Jonah meant that quite literally! The Lord ordered Jonah to preach repentance to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire. But Jonah had no intention to obey. He boarded a ship going the opposite direction!
     Jonah dreaded Assyria for good reason. Conquered people suffered unspeakable cruelty from Assyrian kings. Cutting off limbs, noses, and ears, skinning people alive, and burning them alive are just a few of the barbaric ways the Assyrians terrorized and humiliated their captives.
     I’ve read comments by professing Christians in reference to Islamic terrorists: “I hope they die and go to Hell!” That’s likely close to Jonah’s feeling toward the Assyrians. But while righteous indignation was justified, hatred was not. And it still isn’t!
     Even when God sent a storm to plague Jonah’s ship, he chose death over repentance and obedience to the Lord’s command to preach to Nineveh. No doubt he fully expected to drown when the sailors reluctantly threw him into the sea (1:12-15).
     Jonah finally submitted to God’s order, but he still wanted to die when the Ninevites repented (4:3). Such hatred! He lingered outside the city, hoping God might yet destroy it (4:5). When the plant that shaded him withered, however, he again wished for death (4:7-9).
     The book concludes when the Lord shows Jonah that His own concern for lost souls was far more pressing than Jonah’s concern about shade (4:10-11). Such an abrupt ending makes us wonder: Did Jonah finally get it? More importantly do we understand that lost souls are more important than our comforts? And yes, God’s love and concern extend even to the worst of sinners. Does ours? Do we get it?
- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

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