Today’s story is a paradox, and everyone in it, including the prophet, reacts the exact opposite of what we’ve come to expect in the Old Testament. Who’s this prophet? Well, let’s pin the wheel of twelve minor prophets. It’s Jonah, of course, quite possibly one of the the worst profits ever. Or is he?
To set the stage, we turn back the clock to 750 BC to the time of Elijah, before the twelve tribes of Israel were lost. At this time, Nineveh is the capital city of Assyria. Yes, the same Assyria that will eventually attack and scatter the ten tribes of Israel in SEM, 21 BC. So the Assyrians don’t like the children of Israel at all, and vice versa. Nevertheless, the Lord calls Jonah to go to Nineveh to openly declare repentance.
How’d you like your mission call to be to your arch enemies? Well, when Jonah’s called, he does what many of us might want to do run away and hide. But can we ever really hide from the Lord? Is there any place we can go where the Lord doesn’t know where we are or what we’re doing? Obviously no.
Heavenly Father’s always aware of us wherever we go, whatever we do. So Jonah boards about, heading the exact opposite direction of Nineveh. But while on the ship, a huge storm arises, merely sinking it, causing every man to cry out for deliverance, each to his own God. Panicking, they wonder aloud, why has this awful storm come down? Almost, Jonah fearfully confesses I’m a Hebrew and I worship the Lord God of Heaven, and I’m kinda running away from him, so startled.
Thank you, man. What should we do to you to stop this storm? Jonah sighs, pick me up. Throw me into the sea. And the sea will calm down.
But after a moment’s hesitation, these hardened sailors instead start rowing as fast as they can for land to try and save. Jonah acting the opposite of what we’d expect, however, the storm only gets worse until the sailors cry out to the Lord. We pray, o Lord, please don’t let us perish for this man’s life. Did you see that? They’re now all praying to the one true God of Israel, instead of their own individual gods.
Awestruck by the Lord’s great power, his sailors vowed to serve him. So even though Jonah’s trying to run away from his mission assignment, he inadvertently converts an entire ship full of men, showing us that wherever we end up on our mission is where the Lord needs us to be. Finally, at Jonas’insistence, he’s cast overboard to save the ship. The storm stops, and a giant fish big enough to swallow a man without squishing him, swimspy at the exact time and place where Jonah’s thrown off the ship. Nothing short of a preplanned miracle.
Now, all of chapter two is a prayer from inside the belly of the fish, and Jonah’s praying like never before. Have you ever prayed with that kind of intensity like you’re inside the slimy, disgusting belly of a fish, feeling that life has lost all hope. So Jonas spends three days nearly dead in the darkness of the great fish before his life begins again, clearly foreshadowing Christ’s resurrection. The fish then spits him out on shore, unsurprisingly. This is a turning point for Jonah, and he repents and walks to Nineveh.
Upon arriving, Jonah’s entire preaching consists of eight words 40 more days, and nineveh will be overthrown and opposite of everyone else’s response to most other Old Testament prophets surprise. The nineveites immediately believe they fast and pray, including the king, and they’re converted so the Lord doesn’t destroy Nineveh and they’re righteous for a generation. Now, despite being a lousy prophet, running away and preaching only once, jonah has the best conversion rate. He bats a thousand. Yes, despite any personal problems or weaknesses, god can use the most rebellious of us to work miracles and convert the world.
So there’s hope for all of us rebels without a cause. From Jonah’s book of paradox as we learn that God loves all of his children and offers his gospel to everyone, including hardened sailors, people in innova, or someone inside a big fish. And welcome back to the Wheel of Twelve minor prophets. Let’s give it a spin. My my.
It’s Micah. Micah lives in the middle of Judah, a couple of decades after Jonah. During the time of Isaiah, Amos and Hosea, he asks the people and us, what does the Lord require of you? Then answers himself to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. He also has another scripture that probably comforts a lot of older men make yourself bald and cut off your hair.
Enlarge your baldness. Okay? Now, Micah’s writings are particularly important because while many of the prophets prophesied about the birth of the Savior, he’s the only one to reveal the birthplace. But you, Bethlehem, are only a small village, yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, and he will be the source of peace. Yes, it’s important to remember that when we feel like running away or doing the exact opposite of all we’re supposed to do, god still loves us, and he is the source of all peace.
Next time, we discuss three more minor prophets. No minor prophets.
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