This Sunday we’ll be continuing our study of the little book of Jonah – reading chapter 3.
Have you ever felt like you’ve messed up too many times and it feels almost insincere to start asking God to forgive and set you a new path. I hope you haven’t, because I can tell you from my own extensive experience with those feelings that it’s not at all a fun place to be. The encouraging thing is, the Bible is filled with people who have experienced just that – people who mess up over and over again and yet God is quick and ready to turn their story around. Abraham, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Peter (and all the other disciples for that matter), Saul/Paul…and the list extends out from them to include a lot of the heroes of church history.
Jonah is a stand-out in that crowd. Jonah gets a chance at beginning again – again and again. If we’re right in reading this story as a satire and Jonah is a stand in for God’s people – there is something really comforting about chapter 3.V1-2 of chapter 3 are almost identical to v1-2 of chapter 1. They both start the same way – except the words “second time” are thrown into the mix. V3 of chapter 3 is where the real departure occurs – Jonah doesn’t run but instead obeys. If we started reading Jonah’s story in chapter 3, would we even know that Jonah had disobeyed the first time around? What is the tone of this opening? What does that tell us about God’s attitude toward our past failures? How often do you still hang on to past regrets that God has clearly no interest in reminding you of? What steps can we take to live with new beginnings in view?
V4-9 are funny and intentionally astonishing. How long does it say it took to walk Nineveh end to end? How long did Jonah walk? What does that indicate about him to you? What is missing from his message, in your opinion? It’s five words long in the Hebrew – and yet it gets results like nothing else ever recorded in scripture, or Israel’s own history…or even Jesus’ ministry for that matter. Jonah didn’t go far or say much – why do you think that was? If he was only half committed – how do we explain the powerful results? What does that tell us about the source of our ministry’s effectiveness?
V10 is supposed to read like a record scratch ending. God did WHAT? But…but, the Assyrians did so much evil and violence before…yet when they leave that and set out to sync up with God’s values, their future changes. Who is it that we consider beyond redemption? How does this verse challenge our understanding of God’s willingness to redeem?
I sure am enjoying the story of Jonah – hope you are too! See yez’ Sunday!