“The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’
But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After pay-ing the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.”
We seldom consider Scripture to be ‘funny’, so it might be shocking to think of the Book of Jonah as satire. A form of satire is reversal, where an author flips the conventions of a story to make their point.
We generally expect a prophet to act as an instrument of God’s will. When God told Hosea to marry a prostitute, he jolly well did it, no matter how bad an idea it might have seemed. Jonah however does the exact opposite. When told to head East over land to the Assyrian empire, he goes West by sea, looking to flee to the end of the known world.
His unwillingness to follow God’s instructions is hardly surprising. Nineveh was part of the Assyrian empire, which would crush the nation of Israel in the years ahead. Telling Jonah to go to Nineveh would be akin to instruct-ing a Jew in 1940 to march into the Third Reich and ask for an appoint-ment with Adolf.
This topsy-turvy vision challenges us to see things differently. After all, our faith should turn our view of the world upside down. Does your faith enable you to practice forgiveness where there might only once have been fester-ing resentment? Can you now see glimmers of hope rather than feel crip-pled with doubt?
Are you open to being surprised by God?