Hello Dear Friends and Readers! I have been diving into the book of Jonah (forgive me!), and I’ve come to the keyboard to pen a few thoughts in order to keep them from swimming away (okay, I’m finished, I promise 😉). Care to come along?
First and foremost, I am going to assume that you have read the book of Jonah. (If you haven’t, use the link to read it.) While many of us grew up on “stories” about Jonah and the whale, we need to understand that this is no mere children’s story. Jonah was not on some grand and romantic adventure. He was commanded by YHVH to do something that tap danced on his prejudices, opposed human prudence, extended unmerited favor to his enemies, and tested Jonah’s tolerance of YHVH’s sovereignty.
And the people Jonah was sent to were…well they were scary! Nineveh was the most populous city of the Ancient Assyrian empire. Pick up a history book and read about the military prowess of the Assyrians sometime. They were cruel, and while it would be another 40 years or so before Assyria would ultimately conquer and deport the Northern tribes of Israel, history notes that they had already been a threat to Israel by the time of Jonah’s calling. (Note: Nineveh was on the Tigris River and was in the vicinity of present-day Mosul, Iraq).
Now, go find 2 things on a map: 1) Israel and 2) Tarshish.
Jonah was SERIOUS about not going to Nineveh!
(You may be surprised, as I once was, to find that Tarshish is at the southern tip of Spain near the modern day location of Gilbralter. Yes, that’s a good 3,000 miles from Israel).
So we find Jonah with a ticket to Tarshish!
Why is that?
Was he afraid? — Perhaps, but when Jonah actually reveals his reason in chapter 4, that is not the reason he gives.
When God saw their deeds — that they had turned from their wicked ways — God relented from the calamity that He said He would do to them, and did not do it. But it greatly displeased Jonah and he resented it. So he prayed to Adonai and said, ‘Please, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my own country? That’s what I anticipated, fleeing to Tarshish — for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and full of kindness, and relenting over calamity.’ Jonah 3:10-4:2
Did you catch that? Jonah attempted to flee to Tarshish because he knew that YHVH was a compassionate God! Jonah had such hardness of heart for the Assyrian people that he did not want them to be saved.
Can we imagine?
I bet we can.
My guess is that we all have a little group of people in our minds that we think are undeserving of salvation.
And you know what? We are right about that.
Our grave mistake is in thinking that WE actually deserve salvation ourselves. That should bring us to our knees. Who are we to think that we have the wisdom to guard the gate of salvation?
I am reminded of Yeshua’s denouncement in Matthew 23:13 of the “Torah Scholars and Pharisees” who not only did not enter the kingdom of heaven, but shut others out of it also.
Are we being petty about who we believe can receive the Salvation of YHVH?
Are we attempting to shut anyone out of the kingdom?
Are we standing in line to buy a ticket to Tarshish?
As we can see in the history of Jonah, YHVH’s way will go forth. Jonah was brought to a position of willingness for the original assignment, giving up his self-appointed position as the “gatekeeper of salvation.” After 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of a great fish, from the belly of Sheol, even, Jonah began his journey to Nineveh.
And Nineveh repented.
And YHVH was gracious and compassionate.
Salvation was not Jonah’s to decide upon or bestow.
It is not up to us either.
May we be obedient to the calling that YHVH puts on our individual lives and avoid being brought to a position of willingness inside the belly of a great fish!
Time to get refunded for any tickets we may have to Tarshish, Friends!
I hope to be back soon to invite you to seek the scriptures with me!
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