Monday's class at Providence Seminary involved a discussion about Jonah. The guy that got swallowed by the whale. That's what most people remember about Jonah. Now I have read Jonah a few times in my life, but it had not occurred to me how prevalent death was in Jonah's mind. Subsequent to his fleeing to Tarshish, in his attempt to escape from the Lord's presence, a storm batters the ship he is on. His solution to the problem: death, his death- just toss me overboard and everything will be alright. Instead they toss cargo overboard. Wow, I am not going to ship my Harley overseas with that shipping company. I wonder if the shipper had Lloyd's of London as their insurance agency?! Imagine the ship coming into port and Wal-Mart of Tarshish had a number of crates missing in the shipment. Perhaps some Emerson brand TVs that were going on special for next weekend's Tarshish State Fair Sale. Perhaps a new line of clothing that featured a daring new low cut blouse that actually revealed the ladies' Adam's Apple. Or how about a throwback outfit from the days of Solomon when capri pants were so short you could see the lady's ankle bone as she stepped up to get on her horse. Gone, all new items from the world renown designer in Joppa, all down the toilet of the deep blue sea. Greenpeace would have been outraged. International boycott of all shipping companies! Throwing cargo into the sea did not help. So they finally toss Jonah to the fish. What's Jonah thinking? "Ah, it's better for me to just die!"
The whale, an agent of God, saves Jonah, and Jonah does not die. God's first act of grace.
Now the bizarre. Jonah preaches to a very evil nation. Assyrians were not nice people. They did bad things to Israel. But they repent. Oh how Billy Graham, Corny Loewen, the Sutera Twins, Barry Moore, and other famous evangelists would have liked to have a Nineveh experience. Imagine holding evangelistic meetings in Las Vegas and what resulted from your revival meetings was the closure of the casinos. You would be higher than a kite on a breezy spring day in Lethbridge. You would chuckle all the way back to your home church and attain instant fame, and you would most likely even get a spot on It's A New Day. You would be booked for decades to come.
Not Jonah. He was ticked. And the solution to his angry? "God, kill me! Just let me die for death is better than life."
This guy is delusional.
God's grace the second. Jonah's life is spared.
Next the tree incident.
God's grace the third. He sends a tree to give Jonah shade.
The tree dies.
Jonah gets sun-stroke. His solution. "Just let me die, for death is better than life."
This guy's all about dying.
Here is the irony. The guy's a bit of a coward. In the very face of death, in the belly of the whale where he is about dead, he turns yellow. "Help. Lord, I am dying Save me!"
Jonah, I thought you wanted death.
And now I have written myself into a predicament. You know, painted myself into a corner!
I have often had a Jonah complex. "Lord, just take my life. I would rather die than live like this. God, I am tired of this battle. It would be better to just die."
Jonah never talks about taking his own life, however. He is not suicidal. He could have jumped into the sea. But no, he was tossed overboard by the sailors. Jonah never indicates he is going to kill himself, but he wants God to do the honors.
I have never thought about killing myself either, but I have thought that God should let me die.
But what would I really be like in the face of death? Would I cower like Jonah and beg for an extension on my life?
Hmmm, some thoughts about Jonah.