Us and Them

Jonah 4:2, 10-11 (NLT)
I knew that you are a
merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing
love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Then the Lord said “but Nineveh has more than 12,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals.  Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”
 

Image courtesy of morguefile.com

While
reading a post by Rob Bell, I was reminded of the story of Jonah, often called
Jonah and the Whale.  What do you
remember?  How would you retell the
story?  What is this message?

You probably remember that God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh (it’s OK if you
couldn’t remember the exact city) and that Jonah ran the other way.  Somehow, Jonah is swallowed by a whale and
transported back toward Nineveh at which point he follows God’s directive.  Is that about right?  Can you fill in more detail?  Is the message that we can’t run from what
God commands us to do?  Well, yes, that’s
part of it.
Rob
Bell revealed the history behind the story and pointed out some important
details.  The Israelites have suffered
greatly at the hands of the Assyrians.  God
wants Jonah to warn the Ninevites of His wrath and offer a plan of forgiveness
and redemption.  Bell explains “the Assyrians were like a huge, gaping, open wound for the Israelites.
 Bless the Assyrians?”  Not me! Jonah hops a ship full of pagan
sailors.  Interestingly, when a storm
kicks up, the pagans pray but Jonah tries to ignore God by sleeping.
After
the fish part, Jonah begrudgingly complies with God and becomes outraged when the
Ninevites repent.  Ironically, the enemy
is more open to God’s Word than Jonah has been. 
Jonah is so disgusted by God’s compassion toward these people that he
becomes depressed and wants to die. 
Bell
says the story “blasts our biases and labels to pieces with the
declaration that God is on everyone’s side, extending grace and compassion to
everyone – especially those we have most strongly decided are not on God’s
side.  Religious people have been very
good over the years at seeing themselves as US and people that aren’t a part of
their group as THEM.  But in this story,
the dude who sees himself as
us
is furious because of how chummy God and them have
become.”

So
is this story about a fish?  Or is the
fish distracting us from the real message?

2 Comments

  1. Jeanne Doyon on November 13, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    Love the layers of God's word–like an onion. It's truth just keeps going deeper still.

  2. CathyChung on November 13, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    The series by Rob Bell "What is the Bible?" is very good. He posts it on Tumbler, but I find it on Facebook. He gives excellent historical insight into the meaning of common biblical stories. He is working his way through the Bible.

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