Monday, July 23, 2012

Jonah Read-through

Today, still following the sequence of the MT, I take on Jonah.

Jonah is one of the most unique books in the bible, at least in the MP.  First, Jonah is what many scholars regard as a 'transitional prophet'.  What is meant by this is that Jonah, like the prophets of the classical era of Nathan, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, etc., who spoke primarily to the kings (e.g., the representative heads of the people; here, the King of Nineveh) were also 'sign-prophets', and spoke directly with the Lord to receive their prophesy (not via vision, the normal mode of prophesy for the writing prophets).  But Jonah transitions by speaking directly to the people, as well.
Second, Jonah is a literary masterpiece!  I think it is widely agreed that Veggie Tales gets across the irony of Jonah's office contrasted with his obedience to God's call, the humor of how ridiculous Jonah acts; and the awkward cliff-hanger at the end of the book (VT does a good job debriefing the cliff-hanger also).
Finally, Israel is not mentioned in this narrative. Rather, it is a powerful gentile nation that is in focus and receiving the compassion of the Lord.  All these three observations make Jonah rather exceptional among the MPs.

Jonah is our earliest chronologically speaking of the MPs.  His career was during the 8th century BC; during the reign of Jeroboam II, and though Jeroboam II did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 14:24), he did push the boundaries of Israel further than his father, to the place they were during the reign of David and Solomon - this due to the Lord's compassionate relief (2 Kings 13:4, 23) of the Aramean oppression Israel had been subject to due to their former sins (2 Kings 13:3).  BUT, Israel was still a wayward people who had forgot their mission in the world.

The main themes of Jonah consist of:

1) God is sovereign over man and nature: “and he appointed” (1:4, great wind over the sea; 1:17 God appointed a fish; God commanded the fish, 2:10; 4:6,7 God appointed a plant and worm).
2  God is compassionate: in relation to “ra’a” - evil (i.e., towards Jonah in his selfishness, 4:10; towards the Ninevites when they repent, 3:10).  God will relent at repentance, because he still cares for His people (all His creature (cows too?), not just Israel).
3) God is still on mission to the Gentiles even if Israel has forgotten this as their mission.

I see the major application of Jonah, off-the-cuff, to be that we should seek the Lord in repentance of our evil (ra'ah), but always realizing this is in a larger scope of God's world mission.  God's welcomes our repentance in His compassion, so that we can refocus on His Kingdom.  

"You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night.  And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right from their left, and also much cattle?"  Jonah 4:10-11.

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