- Jonah tried to run away from God, to avoid the plan that God had for him to do. He who holds the universe in his hands…impossible, yet this prophet tried to flee from God! Ridiculous, yet how often have we done the same? How often have I run from the one who has called to me over and over as he sent his hound on my trail throughout my life? Even once I had surrendered, time and again I have sought to turn away to my own way…just like Jonah.
- Jonah surrenders (sort of?) in the belly of the fish. He does recognize his plight, that there is no one that can save him from death. In 1987 I was indicted and subsequently convicted for murder, sentenced to life in prison and thus entering my own ‘great fish’ wherein I expected to spend the rest of my life. Raised in the Catholic church I had little to no exposure to Scripture other than a brief time when I went to the Chapel Hill Bible Church while attending UNC. Still, my heart was dark and I remember looking up at the outside wall of Central Prison that cold, sleeting February night when I arrived and thought, “This is where I belong.”
- God’s word or call comes a second time to Jonah and this time he obeys…sort of. It is a word of judgement against Ninevah and that suits this racist prophet very much;“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4 ESV) In my case my being within prison walls was as if Jonah had suddenly been transformed into becoming an Ninevite. All my life I had been one of the ‘good’ guys; this had been reinforced when working as a paramedic; the old line from the TV series Beretta came back to haunt me over and over, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” Here I was, in Ninevah though a Jew (as it were). The first weeks are now a blur; it wasn’t until someone invited me to the weekly worship service in the chapel that anything really changed (honestly I went to escape the crowding in the dormitory…picture the Chicago stock yard). The first week, nothing much happened; the second Sunday, Chaplain Eugene Wigelsworth was preaching (to this day I have no idea what he said, only that a ‘feeling’ that at the end of his sermon it was ‘now or never.’
- So, Jonah obeys and preaches the sermon (gleefully no doubt), then sets up outside the eastern part of the city to await the destruction to come. BUT GOD…. His plan was very different from what Jonah was hoping for; instead of death, there came life to the Ninevites. Jonah’s self-pity and anger at God reflects how his heart was NOT changed, but what about my heart?
Philippians 4:8 ESV