The Jonah you never knew.

May 22, 2014.

Today was our last day at the English Language Academy, but hopefully we sowed enough seed to have some of our readers come to the party we are having tomorrow or the campaign we are having in the first week of June. If you don’t normally read my blog, I am currently in Nicaragua on a mission trip. We are helping english student’s learning by reading passages from the bible in English and discussing them. We have had many readers so far, and I think we will see them more in the future. We are throwing a party at the church on Saturday to build that connection.

Today I was talking with a member of the team and we were discussing how some of the bible stories we were taught as a child are not really the story that is told in the bible. Often there is a reason for this, as some bible stories aren’t necessarily suited for children (if you don’t believe me, just read the book of Judges), and the meaning of the story isn’t completely changed. But I think we have to be careful any time we distort a biblical story, especially if don’t ever mention that the story is different in the bible.

For example, until last year, I had no idea that the story of Jonah that we teach our children is not exactly the story of Jonah in the bible. Yes, I was taught the fact that many people say Jonah was swallowed by a whale when, in fact, the bible just says a great fish, but that is minuscule when compared to the other teachings of Jonah that are contrary to what the bible actually says.

“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. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.”
(Jonah 1:1-3)

This is the first call of Jonah. I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on us because we do get many things about the story of Jonah right in the children’s story. Jonah was called to go into a land that he didn’t want to go to and preach to them. He did flee from God by boat. There was a great storm where Jonah was cast overboard by the crew members because he told them to, for he had gone against the call of God. And of course, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and stayed in its belly for three days and three nights before he prayed to God and was rescued. So basically, we tell the story of the first two chapters of Jonah.

But there are four chapters in Jonah. What happens in the last two. It is very interesting what happens, actually, and possibly even a bit confusing. What I think the main thing we teach incorrectly about Jonah is why he fled from God. It wasn’t because he was scared, though this is what is often taught. Take a look at these verses from chapters three and four:

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.
(Jonah 3:10-4:2)

Jonah didn’t flee because he was scared, he fled because he didn’t want the men of Nineveh to hear the word and repent, because he knew that if they did, The Lord would not destroy them. He wanted God to destroy them. Jonah wan’t all that kind of a person. Now, there is some back story on how evil the men of Nineveh were and what they did to the children of Israel (and anyone they fought for that matter), gross, awful things, so you can understand why Jonah would like to see them destroyed. But this would not exemplify the love of God. And Jonah knew that. So he thought he would take matters into his own hand and just not deliver the message. If they didn’t hear the message, they would not be saved.

Jonah goes on to basically be whiny and depressed in my opinion, but I will let you read that for yourself. You will get a much better understanding the true Jonah and see that he might not be the man you thought he was. What’s most interesting to me, perhaps, is that the whole book ends on a question. It’s a good question, but a question nonetheless. I think what we can take from all this is that we need to study even the things we might take for granted to come to the full knowledge of truth.

Suggested Daily Reading: Jonah 1-4

The Lord bless you.

-Walter

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