Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

O.T. Tuesday - When God Wants Something Done...

Everyone knows the story of Jonah, right? He was doing something in the ocean, fell off a boat, got swallowed by a whale and the whale spit him up on dry land because God saved him. Right? That's the story I got as a kid (I wasn't raised in an evangelical religion) and if you ask the average person on the street this is the story they recall. Sounds good to me. 

Until you actually read the book, then the real story takes on some incredible depth and becomes a fascinating study of how when God wants something done, it gets done. I actually fell in love with the Book of Jonah after about the 2nd time reading it and listening to a lecture on the stories implications, so let's look at the real story:

Jonah didn't start out as a prophet, and to be honest, I don't think any prophets except Jesus actually do start out as a prophet. It's not a job you apply for, there never was a school of advanced prophecy, it's a calling from God, and as Jonah finds out, it's a calling you can't ignore, no matter how hard you try. Jonah is a passive man, living up to his name (in Hebrew Jonah means "Dove") and he was just hanging out in Israel doing his thing. The bible doesn't say what his thing was, but ancient Israel was not a welfare state, you either did a thing or you starved to death. Suddenly one day God spoke to Jonah:

"Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me." - Jonah 1:2

Jonah arose, looked toward the east where Nineveh lay (near present day Mosul, Iraq) and promptly split for the west. He hightailed it to Joppa (on the Mediterranean coast, present day Tel Aviv) and boarded a ship bound for Tarshish, which is Spain, or, more importantly to Jonah, as far west as one could possibly go in 750 BC. Nestled at the heart of Assyria, Nineveh was one of the largest cities on Earth, and being an Assyrian stronghold it was not Jew friendly to say the least, so you can understand why Jonah was intent on leaving a vapor trail heading off into the sunset. 

Life aboard ship soon grew unpleasant as God saw what Jonah was up to. Soon He caused a great storm to arise and the sailors did everything to keep from sinking, they threw the cargo overboard and they called upon their gods for mercy while Jonah slept below deck. Finally, under questioning from the crew Jonah admitted he was running from God. 
He said to them, "Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you." - Jonah 1:12
The crew didn't throw him overboard immediately but tried to row to shore, but when they realized that it was hopeless they threw him overboard. Immediately the storm stopped and God sent a great fish (that's what the Bible says, 'great fish' NOT a whale) to swallow Jonah. For three days and three nights Jonah prayed
"I called out of my distress to the Lord,
And He answered me.
I cried for help from the depth of Sheol;
You heard my voice. - Jonah 2:2 (Ps 30:3)
Finally the fish vomited up Jonah on shore and God once again told Jonah to go to Nineveh and warn them that if they don't repent that the city will be overthrown in forty days. This time Jonah went to Nineveh and warned them, and surprisingly they listened to him and repented and God did not destroy Nineveh. However Jonah grew angry, and who could blame him - all eaten up by a fish, smelling like fish guts, walking across the desert into enemy territory all just to save a bunch of gentiles? Gentiles! God wasted his mercy on Gentiles? It's better to be dead than to have risked his life to save gentiles, he told God. So now it comes out, he wasn't running because he was scared, he was running because he didn't want God to save the Gentiles!

So Jonah went out into the wilderness to pout. He found a place to sit and it grew hot. God caused a plant to grow to give shade to Jonah, and Jonah liked the shady plant, I bet he even gave it a name, I'll bet you he named it Tsel. But that night God sent a worm to kill the plant and the next day a hot wind came up and killed it dead away, and Jonah was angry! His pet plant, Tsel, was dead! and he wanted to be dead too.
9Then God said to Jonah, "Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?" And he said, "I have good reason to be angry, even to death." 10Then the Lord said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 11Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?" - Jonah 4:9-11
That's pretty powerful stuff; God showing mercy and love for a city full of Gentiles. Contrast the fate of Nineveh with the fate of Sodom. God demanded that Nineveh repent and they did. All God asked from Sodom was 10 righteous men and they couldn't even come up with that, and in the end both cities got what God promised. And that's where the story ends. It's a very short story, but it's jam packed full of adventure, excitement, and lessons: 
  1. God keeps his promises, He promised Nineveh that if they would repent he would stay his hand. They did repent and He didn't destroy them. In fact Nineveh prospered for another 140 years and it became one of the largest cities on earth in 668 BC. I've heard it described as "God changing his mind" but I'm not sure of that. He did promise to destroy them if they didn't repent and to spare them if they did. They repented and he spared them, it was their choise and He kept His word.
  2. God's mercy and love is not just reserved for his chosen people but for all of mankind. Is this the first time he showed the Israelites his love for Gentiles? I'm not sure
  3. When God wants something done, it gets done.
There's one more topic that comes to mind: Did Jonah actually die in the fish and God resurect him? or did God miraculously protect Jonah from the fishes teeth and digestive acids and provide air for him for 3 days? The narrative doesn't say, however  In Matthew 12:40-41 Jesus says:
"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.” 
Jesus arose after 3 days in the heart of the earth, Jonah arose after 3 days in the belly of the great fish, is there another parallel? Were both men dead for those three days? The Bible has no qualms about parallel situations so could this be one of them? Any insights or opinions on this would greatly be appreciated

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