A great little Jewish story…

Change Your World View

Jonah 3:1-5, 10 & Mark 1:14-20

This little book of Jonah from the Old Testament is a great Jewish story about God’s nature and God’s care for all people, and even “critters” — animals.  It is much more than a book about being called to ministry.  It is about changing our way of looking at the world, and growing in our understanding of God’s amazing grace in Jesus!  

Let’s consider this story from the book of Jonah.  Read the whole book.  It is short.  

Everyone in this story is religious.  

  • Each sailor cries out to his particular god for help in the storm.
  • The people of Nineveh quickly hear and respond with repentance.  They demonstrate their repentance through fasting and wearing scratchy, itchy sackcloth—a visible sign of saying I’m sorry.  The king even commands that no one, human or beast, can eat anything, and that all—humans and animals must wear sackcloth.  

Everyone in this story is religious!

The sailors are more humane and generous in their behavior than Jonah.

Even when they discover that Jonah is the one responsible for their predicament they try desperately hard to save him as well as themselves.  They are not willing to just throw him overboard to save themselves.  They pray to the Lord of heaven and earth—Jonah’s God—and ask not to be held accountable for the shedding of his blood—taking his life!  These are good men of noble character.  After they throw Jonah overboard and the storm subsides with the sea becoming calm, they offer a sacrifice and make vows to this new found Lord of heaven and earth!

Even the king and citizens of this wicked city fear God and respond with appropriate faith.

The purpose of this story is to enlarge our world view to match God’s all encompassing mercy, grace and love.

Jonah is a narrow minded religious bigot.  He cares about his own country and people, but no one else.  His ideology could be “make Israel great again.”  His prophetic message for the northern kingdom consists of proclaiming the northern kingdom being restored.  

Contrast Jonah’s attitude with that of the anonymous sailors.  They care about him even though they know nothing about him.  Contrast Jonah’s attitude with God’s.  Jonah is arrogant.  He is selfish and narrow minded.  He is angry and stubborn.  He knows enough about God to know God is loving and compassionate and that if the wicked people of Nineveh repent, God will grant them mercy rather than destroy them.  

Jonah, in this regard, places himself above God—as if he should teach and instruct God how to deal with evil people.  “Nuke them!”  “Destroy them!”  “Wipe them completely out!”  

God, through this amazingly little book, challenges our small minded thinking.  God, through this incredible bit of Hebrew literature, seeks to change and enlarge our world view—our way of understanding ourselves and the world we live in.  Our way of dealing with problems and issues in life.  God through the book of Jonah is trying to help us grow up spiritually.  

Jonah is angry with God.  He is angry that God would show mercy to the enemies of God’s people.  He is feeling sorrow for himself and is “angry enough to die!”

Then read the last verse of this awesome book.  

“Should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”

This Hebrew short story points to the cross of Christ—to the living expression of God’s love and mercy for the sake of the world in Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection.  

Jesus is God’s answer to the brokenness of our fallen world.  You cannot answer evil for evil.  You do not overcome darkness with more darkness.  You cannot defeat violence with more violence.  Only love—the power of God’s love in and through Jesus—can overcome the evil and darkness we grapple with.  Only the light of the One who is the Light of the world can change us and our world.  

I love this little book.  I love Psalm 62 that helps us speak to God in such a way that we affirm our faith and confidence in God alone being our rock and fortress, our salvation, our deliverance.  

You and I are called to be witnesses to this world view—the understanding that God is in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.  We are called, liked those early disciples, to get to know Jesus—to follow Him and live for Him and help others to know Him.  

In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

also check out these verses…

John 3:16

Ezekiel 33:11

2 Peter 3:9

2 Timothy 2:4

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