If you answered that he was swallowed by a whale, spit up three days later, and survived to tell the story, then you are . . . incorrect, but thanks for playing.
I think the miracle is something that hits closer to home (at least for me).
Yesterday I attended my parents’ church and listened to a great sermon on the subject. Rev. Daniel Taylor suggested that we’ve been thinking all wrong about the story of Jonah—even though many of us have probably heard it about a gabillion times.
But in case you haven’t, or need a refresher, here’s the gist. Jonah is an Old Testament Jew who reluctantly accepts the job of prophet. God calls him to go to a large city, Nineveh (which is filled with Gentiles, or non-Jews), to warn the people that God has seen their wrongdoing and is ready to judge them, but if they acknowledge their faults and turn from their injustices, God will forgive and spare them.
Jonah isn’t interested in the job offer, since he doesn’t want to deal with those nasty, wicked, non-Jewish people and doesn’t care whether they live or die. They aren’t part of his culture or his religion. They aren’t his homies, so why should he be the one to have to tell them? And since he believes they don’t deserve God’s compassion, he opts to take a pass.
He runs away, gets swallowed by a whale, hangs out in the creature’s belly for three days, and then gets projectile vomited onto shore, where God comes to Jonah a second time.
Still not hip to the idea—but hey, if a whale is the first challenge, what’s the second if Jonah refuses again?—Jonah agrees. Barely.
He halfheartedly shares the warning (judgment is coming), but neglects to include the good news (mercy is available). And when all the people (as in more than 100,000), including the king, grieve their actions and seek God’s compassion, Jonah rejoices, sees the error of his ways, realizes that God loves everyone, not just the chosen few, and thanks God for using little, insignificant him to change an entire city.
Haha, no. Actually, he takes his superior, bratified self out of town and rails against God for his kindness and then he melodramatically wishes that he were dead, because the city doesn’t deserve God’s compassion.
So here’s the miracle:
God chose a real stinker of a person as an instrument to share his joy and redemption with those who don’t know him.
One self-righteous, entitled, mean-spirited, spoiled, rotten, arrogant person who half-heartedly and begrudgingly obeyed God’s request influenced and transformed an entire city.
And not only that—God chose him. It wasn’t as though overnight Jonah became those things. Jonah was like that all along—and still God chose to use him. And when Jonah refused, God gave him another opportunity.
Too often we believe that we have to be perfect and have all our junk together before God will want to use us for his purposes. We think we can’t share the good news (the Source of all joy and happiness and peace) with others because we’ve made so many mistakes. And really, what difference can little insignificant you and I make anyway?
If you believe that, then God would like to point you to Jonah. If God used Jonah in all his condemnatory glory, then I have no doubt he’s ready and eager to use me. And you.
So the next time God whispers for you to do something for him that will bring help and joy to others, and if you offer him a bunch of excuses why you can’t or won’t do it, try to stay away from the ocean, Sea World, or even Long John Silvers. Just sayin’.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/69049772@N00/12075289134″>Argentina</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>