Like other Bible stories we were told as children, we can almost quote the major points of the book of Jonah in our sleep:
- God tells Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh
- Jonah says no and runs the other way
- Jonah gets swallowed by a huge fish
- Huge fish spits Jonah onto dry land
- Jonah decides to obey God this time and go to Ninevah
The old saying is that “familiarity breeds contempt.” In this particular context, we might say that “our familiarity with the story of Jonah makes us complacent when challenged to dig deeper and wrestle with all God wants to show us through this book.” Why? Because we tend to believe there’s nothing else in the story we haven’t heard before.
Like speeding through a beloved vacation site or national park, the story of Jonah must be slowed down –way down, allowing us to see everything we’ve missed due to traveling too fast.
What we discover, when we slow down, is that the story of Jonah is replete with nuanced biblical principles and truth.
Permit me to share with you just one.
In chapter 1, we find Jonah in a boat headed for Tarshish with a bunch of sailors who have no idea that he is trying to run from God (which is futile.) In response to Jonah’s blatant disobedience, God sends a tempest over the Mediterranean Sea that causes these seasoned sailors to fear for their very lives. (side truth: our sin never only affects just us.)
“All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.”
Tossing their supplies overboard didn’t help.
The 4th century theologian, Chrysostom, made the following piercing observation:
When I read that I paused – and my heart constricted.
Almost immediately, I found myself replacing Jonah’s name in Chrysostom’s quote with my name.
And I thought deeply of the weight Jesus bore on the cross – for my sin.
Lord, no one in history could bear the weight of my sin and depravity.
Thank you, my Lord. Thank you. Thank you.
Soli Deo Gloria, Nick