Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Gospel in Jonah and why Israel should have taken notice

Many of us know the general story line of Jonah. After all it is a favorite of so many Sunday school teachers and has even made it onto the screen.

Yet how many of us have picked up on the import of the book of Jonah for the nation of Israel? We all know that Jonah was a very reluctant prophet and ran away in the opposite direction when God told him to go and deliver a message to that great wicked city of Nineveh. How many of us though have reflected on the book and noticed the really significant literary markers?

For example have you noticed that in chapter 1:1 it uses the Covenant name of God YHWH, translated Lord and it consistently uses that name for God until Jonah himself gives an account of who he is to the sailors in 1:9. Then he says "I fear the Lord, the God of Heaven." In other words, his God is both one who forms a relationship with Israel, first up through Abraham, and also the All powerful Sovereign Creator of the Universe.

In dealing with Jonah, God comes to him as the Covenant making God, the one who makes relationships with man. It is the covenant God of Israel, the Lord who made covenant promises to Abraham about his descendants being more numerous than the sands, and not just that but that their role was to be a light to the Nations. They were to "evangelise" the Nations and bring them to God. Over and over the nation Israel failed in this duty given them by God. They neglected it and as Jonah symbolises, sometimes they went to extreme lengths not to give that light to the nations of the world.

And where in the Scriptures that the Lord God gave to his people Israel do we first read of the two names of God as Elohim ( transl God ) and YHWH ( translated Lord )? It is in Genesis 1&2. Not two creation stories as such but an account of Creation by the All powerful Sovereign Creator, in Genesis 1 and then in Genesis 2 we see He is the one who makes a covenant relationship with mankind, first up in Adam and Eve.

How does this use of the name of God play out in the rest of chapter 1 and chapter 2?

The sailors could not throw Jonah into the sea to his death as they did not want to be culpable before God for that. so they tried to row to shore but couldn't. And importantly it is said of them that they called upon the Lord. And after Jonah was tossed into the sea, they offered sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
Miraculously we read that the Lord provided a great fish so that Jonah would indeed not die, and the sailors would not then have been culpable of his death.

What we have seen is that even in Jonah's running away, gentiles, the sailors come to know the Lord God and sacrifice and make vows to Him. Exactly the duty of Israel and the Jews as we read about in Genesis 12.

We need in our study of God's Word that He is very precise in the words that He wants His prophets to write down for our benefit. And secondly we need to see thematic markers that link back to earlier doctrinal truths such as Israel's duty to being a light to the Nations as expressed in Genesis 12. This will bring God's Word to bear much more on our lives as they are illuminated by the Scriptures themselves.

Next I will look at Jonah 3. You might like to consider it with the above in mind.

God Bless.

1 comment:

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