Limping Along

“Now the Word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.’ But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” (Jonah 1:1-­3)

We instantly recognize the familiar, fishy story of Jonah. God asked this reluctant messenger to go, but he ran away instead, where the storm blew wild, and the fish gulped him whole. Whereas all God’s other creations of sea, fish, and worm were willing to obey his precise bidding, Jonah only halfheartedly obliged.

The prophet’s shrimp-­like faith limped along, in direct contrast to the narrative’s mega‐sized participants: the ferocious storm, the enormous fish, the prosperous city, and the 120,000 repentant inhabitants. That’s before we even contemplate God’s extravagant capacity to forgive.

The final chapter opens with these compelling words: “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.” He loathed the ruthless Ninevites and despised Jehovah for saving their measly lives. How dare God redeem such undeserving enemies! Why had Jonah bothered to come, if Jehovah would rescue them regardless? The nerve of God, to do what Jonah thought unfair; he figured God could not be trusted.

Seen in this light, Jonah appears silly and childish. He disapproved of God’s actions and was grievously disappointed by the circumstances God orchestrated. Yet are we any different? Each time we balk at God’s unwelcome decisions, we imitate the immature prophet.

Elizabeth A. Mitchell

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