Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, “Salvation comes from the Lord.
Jesus speaks reasonably frequently about the ‘Sign of Jonah’. It is easy to draw parallels between the three days Jesus spent in the tomb and the three days Jonah was trapped in the belly of the fish. Beyond that, I cannot imagine Jesus was too eager to be associated with Jonah’s worst traits.
In the 1990s there was a phenomenon in America where Christians wore bracelets that asked: “What would Jesus do?” I rather doubt we will see a movement where people ask, “What would Jonah do?” This strikes me as a bit of a shame, as it is a question we should be asking ourselves. I even have a reasonably good idea what the answer is: it is probably whatever you are doing right now.
I would not want to discourage anyone from trying to be actively Christ-like. It is a fine aspiration and something we should all strive for. Jesus’s human aspects are, after all, what makes Christianity such a compelling faith. Equally, for those that start to convince themselves that they have a unique understanding of Jesus’s message – it does not take long before their efforts to walk in his footsteps can cross over into arrogance and intolerance.
I am not suggesting we should lower our aspirations. It is no doubt far easier to be Jonah-like than it is to be Christ-like. It is however useful to recognise ourselves in Jonah and his story.
At this point Jonah is at his most pious and, perhaps, his most human. I am sure we can all think of a time when we have offered up prayers like those offered by Jonah here. “Go-on-God-do-me-a-favour-this-once-and-I-promise-I’ll-be-good-next-time…” On occasion, it might do us good to check our lofty aspirations and recognise our own Jonah-like hypocrisy.
There is no reason to fear this kind of honest self-reflection. I just would not suggest you invest heavily in a lot of ‘What would Jonah do?” bracelets. You will never sell them.