Lent

Lent Reflections: Jonah

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Introduction

In a series of articles during Lent, we’ll focus on God's words to His people through the prophets. The story of the descendants of Abraham climaxes in the fulfillment of God's warnings to them through the prophets: that if they did not obey His commands, He would send them into exile, putting them at the mercy of other nations. These messages are accusations of sin, calls for righteousness, and finally, promises of hope in a future redemption. (Learn more about the exile.)

Israel was a country divided. The Northern Kingdom had split off years ago. They were coming out of a time of “prosperity and relative peace from pesty neighbors.” Years of fairly stable leadership had “created luxury and ease for many and spawned poverty and injustice for numerous others.”[1] Grassroot stirrings suggested things were not right; a growing feeling of malignancy was creeping through the country’s moral fabric. The king at this time was a man named Jeroboam II who “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 14:24). His namesake, Jeroboam I, was the founder of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, who had quickly steered the people of God toward idolatry (1 Kings 12).

In the middle of the uneasiness stood Jonah, a man of God, who spoke for God and assured the king that God would restore the borders of the land. Jonah, in his lifetime, assured the nation that others would not infringe on their territory. But the story of Jonah is actually the story of God caring about other nations and opposing the pride of Israel—all through the same mopey, reluctant prophet.

 

Let’s read Jonah understanding that it was written to satirize people like us.

The book of Jonah could be described as satire. Perhaps, looking back, people realized just how silly this prophet was. Jonah himself was real, as seen by how Jesus references him alongside other historical figures (Matthew 12:38-42). But the book of Jonah makes a statement about the patriotic figure and his country. The people bearing God’s name and waving his banner, if their resident “man of God” was any indication, seemed to be the ones who respond least appropriately to Him. While the winds and waves obey His command and even “pagans” from other countries bow the knee when confronted with God’s word, the man of God from the people of God is rife with pride and vomited out by a fish.

Jonah also shows an amazing lack of awareness for his surroundings. He seethed over God’s patience and compassion with the Assyrians (Ex 34:6-7). He couldn’t stand God for being so good or see how twisted his own desires were. He wept for a weed when God preserveds the entire populace of the Assyrian capital, including their cattle.

As Christians–God’s people who are supposed to represent him today–let’s read Jonah understanding that it was written to satirize people like us. When economic prosperity or simply a history of religiosity lead us to condemn God’s love for those we call our enemies, be careful. We may find ourselves swallowed up. Or as God asks Jonah—no matter what you think about what God is doing—“Is it right for you to be angry?”

This series is adapted from a Lent devotion from Nathan and Tessa Baker.

[1]  C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 39.

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  • Lent
Nathan Baker

Nathan and Tessa serve as missionaries in southwest Madagascar. They have three children, ages 5 months to 5 years. They love watching the story of God’s Word transform lives.

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