If you are at all like me, raised in a church-going home, you've been quite familiar since childhood with the story of Jonah and the whale. As a child, the story fascinated me. As an adult though I realize this story is about so much more than just Jonah and some great big fish. Is't about identification, God’s call and the struggle to obey and trust Him. It's about all that and more. The story is rich with layers and application. This short, 4-chapter book is packed with a number of phases that Jonah struggles through. These phases can even be reflected in our own lives.
I was recently reading through the book of Jonah and discovered the most amazing thing. On so many many levels I can completely identify the worst of myself in this story! When I read Jonah I feel as if I'm holding up a mirror and seeing my own reflection. I see the turn-and-run-when-life-gets-tough girl. I see the desperately-looking-for-a-way-out girl. I see the compliant-obedient girl, I see the angry-when-God-seems-to-care-more-about-my-enemies girl. And finally, and most importantly, I see God, full of compassion and mercy, for me!
Life is full of difficult situations, hard places that you and I journey to, and through. But there are good things waiting for us in those hard places. There is compassion, and there is mercy!
I am intrigued, as I read through the four chapters of Jonah, to see the four different phases he goes through with God. We see him running away from God, running towards God, running with God, and finally, running ahead of God. If you're like me, you have found yourself in all four of these phases at some point in your Christian life.
Let's look today at the four phases of Jonah's run.
The 4 Phases of Jonah's Run
Finally, and most importantly, what we see in the book of Jonah is God, full of compassion and mercy, Full of compassion and mercy for Jonah. Full of compassion and mercy for the wicked people of Nineveh. And full of compassion and mercy for you and me!
Quite often we are sent by God to hard places. But there are good things waiting for us in those hard places! There is compassion, and there is mercy.
As I was reading the book of Jonah I came across this new book by Tim Keller, The Prodigal Prophet. His comparison of Jonah to the prodigal son and the parallel between the two is fascinating. Both speak to the mystery of God's mercy. Something Jonah clearly had difficulty coming to terms with.
“The classic Old Testament example of these two ways to run from God is right here in the book of Jonah. Jonah takes turns acting as both the “younger brother” and the “older brother.” In the first two chapters of the book, Jonah disobeys and runs away from the Lord and yet ultimately repents and asks for God’s grace, just as the younger brother leaves home but returns repentant.
And yet there are unmistakably clear connections between Jonah, the prodigal son, and Jesus. Jesus in fact saw himself in Jonah. How could one of the most defiant and disobedient prophets in the Bible be compared to Jesus?
Jonah's journey also doesn't end when he is freed from the belly of the fish. There is an entire second half to his story―but it is left unresolved within the text of the Bible. Why does the book of Jonah end on what is essentially a cliffhanger? In these pages, Timothy Keller provides an answer to the extraordinary conclusion of this biblical parable―and shares the powerful Christian message at the heart of Jonah's story." ―goodreads
"Jonah wants a God of his own making, a God who simply smites the bad people and blesses the good people... he can’t reconcile the mercy of God with His justice.
Have you been sent by God to a hard place? Are you struggling, as Jonah did, to comprehend God's mercy? Which of the 4 phases of Jonah's run do you find yourself in today? And what can you do to ensure you are running with or towards God and not away from or ahead of Him?
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