Jonah reminds me of my mother’s rose garden. Jonah’s task to the Ninevites is a lot like weeding the rose bush bed. He didn’t want to go and I didn’t want to weed. Have you ever been asked to do something that you really do not want to do?
Most likely, anyone who has had a parent or a boss has had this happen. When I was young , we had rose bushes on three sides of the yard. All those beds needed weeding. It was too much for my parents alone to do. And, my mother was partially raised by a grandmother and great aunt who had farms who believed that idle hands were a devil’s work shop. This meant that I was obliged to spend some time pulling out Bermuda grass, Johnson grass, and lots of grasses that had no names that I knew. To me they were all weeds.
My mother was smart enough to know if I had been lolly-gagging and not weeding my share of the garden. In that case, I was assigned an extra foot or three to weed. Unlike Jonah, I never ran away. I never went AWOL. And, I never got swallowed by a whale.
And maybe Jonah did not literally get swallowed by a whale, either. We are not exactly sure how to translate that word from Hebrew that we call ‘whale’ – it means a big fish. The writer of Jonah may have been using being in the belly of a whale as a metaphor – just as you or I, if we were very depressed might say we were trapped in a black hole, or down in a pit, or in the black hole of Calcutta – even if we’ve never been to India. To be in the belly of the whale for three days sounds like a terrible place to be.
So what? What does this humorous story have to teach us about ourselves and about God? For as the Word of God – it has a lot to say to us about our lives and about our God. So, where are we in this story?
Perhaps you are an unbeliever like the sailors or the people of Nineveh, but probably not. It is a brave unbeliever who comes through the doors of an established church — but it does happen. If so, consider how loving and merciful God is. Repent – and God will save you – for this life and the next.
We are most likely the Jonahs of the world, reluctant prophets, running from responsibilities. Perhaps in small ways. Perhaps in larger ways.
I can sometimes be Jonah. You can sometimes be Jonah. We may try to run from God and from our responsibilities. But God is always God, always loving and forgiving, even when we hate the people God is forgiving, even when we are cross when God forgives us.
And, we may be cross when having to weed that rose garden, but we can still enjoy the beautiful flowers. For a long time, the red rose has been a symbol of God’s love. It also reminds me of the mercy and forgiveness of God.