Monday, November 17, 2008

Looking for the Big One

For the next couple weeks I'm taking our students through a study on the book of Jonah, with the series being called More Than a Fishing Story. Last week was our first one and we were able to discuss the sovereignty of God throughout all circumstances through the first chapter. Jonah is such a fascinating book to study because the primary message of the book is not the prophetic message but the prophet himself. Jonah, while being the anti-type of a prophet, is the prophet Jesus most associates Himself with (3 days in the fish, 3 days in the tomb), and we see in his story many similarities with our own. He received a direct command from the Lord to preach to the city of Nineveh (a cross between NYC, Vegas, and ancient Rome), and for whatever reason, whether fear or anxiety or doubt, he flees from God's call on his life.

Most people focus on the fish when talking about the story of Jonah, but a careful exploration of the text shows that this is more than just a story of a guy getting swallowed by a fish. It is the story of the Sovereign God of heaven and earth, the God who is never caught off guard because He is in control of every aspect of creation. The fish that swallowed Jonah was not a "Plan B" because God needed Jonah or else the Assyrians would be lost. No, God directed all the circumstances of the story (the storms, the lots, the sailors, the fish) for the purpose of His Glory being displayed through Jonah and in the city of Nineveh. One thing I think do not give proper attention to is the sovereignty of God. Many times we consider Him to know all possible outcomes and directions but the choice is up to us (like a "Choose your own ending" book), instead of a sovereign God who directs all things to the Glory of His Name. We see it in Jonah, we see it in the story of Joseph, we see it in the Exodus, and we see it in the cross. God's plan for all eternity for the salvation of humanity was through the Incarnate Son being the lamb. The Law points forward to this perfect sacrifice, all roads lead to Jesus in the Bible.

When we read the story of Jonah we see several themes that we cannot ignore. We see the Providence of God in all things, we see the mercy of God to the nations by sending them a prophet, we see personal mercy to a rebellious son (the same mercy withheld to Jesus), the stubbornness of God's people, and finally that salvation has always been intended for both Jew and Gentile. The Abrahamic blessing was to be a blessing to all nations, Israel as the elect people of God were charged to be a light to the nations so that they would know the Lord. We as Christians, God's elect people to be a light to the world, have that same command to witness to others who is the reason for our hope.

Jonah is a wonderful study and I look forward to what the Lord does through it. May we forget about the big fish and instead focus on the BIG God it shows us.


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