The Book of the Twelve (Minor Prophets) 13: Jonah Response Mercy of God
Our Response to the Mercy of God
The book of Jonah calls to mind a familiar story. The book of Jonah centers on this theme: Israel’s response to God showing mercy toward Gentiles. It represents a foreshadowing of the new covenant enlargement of the kingdom of God to include believers from the Gentiles world. Like Jonah we may also resent God’s compassion towards an enemy and fail to rejoice in the resurrection life God provides.
The Response of Jonah - We know very well the individual story of a disobedient man (referenced in 2 Kgs 14:25), a prophet running away from the will of God. He disobeys the call of God but by a humorous mercy is brought to repentance and deliverance. In the Psalm from the belly he says, “I called out of my distress to the LORD, And He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice” (2:2). After deliverance he “immediately” preaches in response to the second call of God (3:3). Though Jonah is delivered he does not want that deliverance to extend to Nineveh. And the very thing he feared happens, the repentance of Nineveh. Jonah is angry and downcast at mercy shown to the enemies of Israel.
The Response of the Jews - It is easy to see that the individual prophet Jonah, not unlike Hosea, stands for the whole nation. In fact, Jonah and Hosea share a theme. “He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him” (Hos. 6:2). Like Jonah, Israel is disobedient to being a “kingdom of priests” to the nations. So Israel will be cast into the sea of the Gentiles and a remnant will be saved (through Babylon and Persia). Finally, Israel will be spewed back into the Land after exile. Nevertheless, Israel will still be downcast at mercy to the Gentile world. This is a central theme in the pages of the Gospels.
The Response of Jesus - Jesus is the counter-example to Jonah-Israel. He was sent to “seek and save the lost” and offered Himself as salvation to the world. He said, “For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be a sign to this generation” (Luke 11:29-30). This sign is fulfilled in that Christ died suffering for their sins, was cast into the darkness for three days and was delivered through the tomb and come back to life. Like Jonah’s casting away and deliverance, so Jesus’ cross and resurrection fulfill the sign. Deliverance has come. There is no other name, there is no other salvation from the sea, except the fish, ICTHUS (Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior). The one who went into the belly of the earth and has been raised up has had mercy on all the world. What is your response to the mercy of God?
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more