Have you ever wondered how the book of Jonah made it into the Bible??
It’s a question that’s occupied a large part of my thoughts over the past couple of weeks, mainly because I’ve been teaching Jonah at church, and for the first time ever, it occurred to me that in order for the story to be written down, Jonah had to tell it.
And he does NOT make himself look good. God calls Jonah to do something that he definitely does not want to do. It’s a hard pass for him, so he runs. In the process, Jonah endangers the people who happen to be around him, insists (repeatedly, I might add) that he’d rather die than do the thing God wants him to do, and basically lets his selfishness and anger run amok.
I think that if I was Jonah, I would have tried to paint myself in a better light. I’d skim over the rebellion and focus on the results of my preaching. I’d leave out the selfish bits and suicidal thoughts and instead talk about how I went into the heart of enemy territory and lived to tell the tale. It would be true (kind of), but I’d be humble bragging all the way, and in doing so, I’d steal some of the glory that belongs to God alone.
But the book of Jonah doesn’t do that, because whoever wrote it down realized that the story isn’t about him. Not really. It’s about every person who’s ever run from God and the God who pursues them. He’s hands-down the hero of the day.
Jonah comes out looking like a brat, but the Lord’s mercy, grace, compassion, and patience are on full display. And it’s stunning in its beauty and clarity.
The God of Jonah is relentless in his pursuit of sinners. His grace knows no bounds. Whether he’s sending a fish to rescue Jonah from the death he desired or relenting from the impending doom he’s promised the Ninevites, the Lord is altogether good and compassionate to the wretched.
No one in the story gets what they deserve. Instead, they receive grace upon grace upon grace.
The truth is that we’re all at least a little bit like Jonah. We’ve run from God and rebelled against him. We’ve sinned, and sometimes our sin has hurt the people around us. We’ve been ruled by selfishness and anger. We’ve been wretched. And we too have received grace upon grace upon grace.
That’s the kind of story I need to hear. It’s also the kind of story that I need to tell. Let us be a people who are always telling the story of a God who pursues, rescues, and redeems wretched sinners like us. May we be a living testimony of his grace at work. And may we have the courage to share it every chance we get.