What can we say about this week's lesson, that God is, "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9 NKJV), yes, absolutely, but that is not what the majority of the comments were about nor most of the daily lessons. Most were concerned about Jonah as a prophet and how God interacted with him and in turn how we are to be.
To me the story of Jonah is far more complex than we generally think it is and there seems to be a lot that was going on behind the scenes that we are unaware of. Furthermore we tend to idolize and deify biblical characters and make them supermen when they certainly were not (James 5:17; 1 Kings 19:2-3). Jonah had a lot to learn but perhaps the most important for both him and us is, "this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (Jn. 17:3 NKJV) and to have an abiding faith in Him as our protector and friend especially in reference to salvation.
As we review these lessons should we conclude that God will force us to do what we don't want to do? We sure can get that message when we look at the stories of Paul on the Damascus road and Balaam's problem with the donkey but are we talking about the same issues that Jonah presents? After all, both Saul (Paul) and Balaam were persecuting God's people in some way for different reasons but Jonah was not, he had other problems. Despite those circumstances these things raise serious questions concerning freedom especially with texts such as, "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Cor. 3:17 NKJV) and the conclusions we come to greatly impact our view of God's character and how He relates to us.
Our traditional theology has been that God caused the storm and then had a specially created fish swallow Jonah that ended up burping him up on some shore, west of where the boat was, then moved his prophet along to Nineveh. Certainly no one is going to raise any question that God has absolute authority over us and that He can do as He pleases with us as a potter does with what he makes (Rom 9:21). Further, we see that there are times when we force our children to comply with our wishes and we consider that love because in many cases doing so keeps them from danger. However, applying such things in a general way raises serious questions when we see some of the things people do and like Habakkuk we begin to question whether God is doing anything or that He seems to be selective in His treatment of people. We even see in our own lives that we have a lot of leeway in decision making when it comes to many choices including our acceptance or rejection of God. Generally we are against persecution because we believe that God will plead with the sinner but not force him into compliance! Because of this I conclude that we are not under a dictatorship of forced labor with God and I believe we should not interpret Jonah that way.
Therefore, I would like to propose another scenario concerning Jonah's experience. First we do not have to think that God directly caused the storm unless we wish to do the same for the one on the Sea of Galilee (Mat 8:24-27) or the one that Paul was involved in (Acts 27). To me, the storm could have been natural (although Jonah's testimony seems to suggest otherwise) or it could have been caused by Satan. It could easily be a case where God pulled His protection and allowed Satan to do what he wanted up to a point like He did with Job. Either way, Jonah knew for a fact that the storm was specifically about him (Jonah 1:8-12). Certainly Satan wouldn't want Jonah going to the capital of a country that he was using to suppress and destroy a people through whom the Messiah was to come. And there is no way he would have wanted those people won over to the Lord's side. So to me Satan's involvement would be a far more likely scenario than God punishing Jonah for disobedience and forcing him to do what he didn't want to do.
As for the fish, Jonah viewed it as God's act of salvation from a sure death rather than punishment from an angry God. This same general cycle of events is repeated in various ways all through the Bible. Man pushes God away - God withdraws because of rejection and causes a vacuum that Satan fills and calamity strikes because of that - man repents and God returns to bail him out. All those elements seem to be in the story of Jonah so to me that is what actually happened and from there Jonah learns a few things about what love is and how it treats those in opposition (Mat 5:44-45).
Thanks so much for your incisive comment! What a blessing. May God's character of mercy, kindness and love shine through us to our fellowmen as we grant forgiveness were it is needed and work for the blessing of all mankind.
The people of Nineveh were on the verge of destruction, and because of the love of God, Jonah was sent to them with a message of warning. The adversary was determined to keep the people of Nineveh in darkness. There are many souls that are perishing for lack of knowledge and we need to reach out for so that the light of the gospel may shine upon their souls and dispel the spiritual darkness that enshrouds them. But this demands that we wholly commit ourselves to God to get the spiritual strength to soldier on amidst the inevitable spiritual challenges.
Comment by Calvins Ondiek — May 10, 2013 @ 12:41 am
There is no way we can be forgiven, yet not forgiven. God here taught Jonah what Paul was teaching in Romans 3. Salvation is out there as available as the air we breathe. We just have to breathe it. The anesthesist gives us the breath of ether to put us to sleep to save us from the destructive powers of pain while the surgeon is doing his life saving procedure, we don,t refuse the ether. So why would we refuse a fresh breath of life saving salvation
This probably fits here in Friday better than Thursday, so I am sure by now you get the picture. Yes God is always faithful. Through Jesus Christ we can be too. The faith thing and the law thing in the last verse of Romans 3 is real power packed also. Read it from several different versions to get the full picture.
God knows that we have tendency to forget the important things. One way to remind ourselves is by constanly praising God and being thankful for what he has done. Also, write it down with dates and facts, read again when things get hard. We do not need to fear the future unless we forget what God done for us in the past
Comment by Jenny Barrionuevo — May 11, 2013 @ 8:51 am
I taught this lesson on Sabbath. It was good. There was a lot of discussion about why Jonah was the way he was and how much we are like him. We also discussed the experience and how that changed Jonah as a preacher, again like us, things happen that mold us for the future. We talked about forgiveness...it was a good lesson.