The book of Jonah is easily one of my favorites in the entire Bible. For most of us, even those who aren’t familiar with the Scriptures, we seem to remember something about Jonah and a whale…
I think that’s what originally drew me into the story as a kid. Is was cool imagery.
As I was taught the story at a very young age it was presented as “this is what happens when you don’t follow God – you get swallowed by a whale and end up doing what God wanted anyway.”
I suppose that was meant to scare me into following God but it was far more successful in showing me that there are just some cool and extremely weird things in the Bible.
Many years passed and then I started to study the history of Jonah when I saw that there were an equal number of people who believed it was a literal story and who thought it was poetic in nature that told a larger truth (we’ll talk about this in a future post).
This shook me for a bit until I saw something far deeper and greater was happening in this story that reduced the importance of the more fantastic parts of the story.
Jonah, at its heart, is an incredibly countercultural story both in the time it was written and today.
I fell in love so deeply with the book of Jonah and what I learned from it that while pastoring I taught a 5 week series on it and eventually even got a pretty rad whale tattoo (I know, insert your own hipster pastor joke here ________).
While the story of Jonah presents us with perhaps one of the most memorable images in the Scripture that image has come to have a much deeper meaning.
I want to dig into this book with you now because I don’t think the story of Jonah has ever been more appropriate than it is in our context today.
The book of Jonah attacks the binary concept we have of an “us vs. them” mentality. It seems that today we have a growing number of Christians who consider themselves as “us” and everyone who exists outside of our group as “them”.
So who’s in? Who’s out?
It shows us that sometimes those who are “in” are embarrassed by the outsiders in the ways of following God.
Jonah explores what happens when we’re not willing to forgive or when we won’t extend grace and mercy to those different than us.
It examines our hearts and how we can be so stubborn when it comes to mercy.
It attacks our feelings about those who we would consider our enemies and how God treats them versus how we want to treat them.
Is any of this starting to sound relevant to today’s cultural climate at all?
I’d invite you to join me as we look at Jonah over the next few weeks and let’s do a deep dive at some very important questions.