One of the stories that we tell our kids in Sunday School is that of Jonah and the whale. It seems tailor-made for children: a dramatic storm, a friendly whale, even a worm and plant. It’s a great story.
The first thing we have to notice is how unusual Jonah is. He is a prophet, that much is clear, but he’s a very unusual prophet, to say the least.
While we know that some prophets struggled with their callings (most notably Jeremiah), most of them didn’t shirk their responsibility. They understood how necessary it was to deliver the message that God had entrusted to them. Even if the delivery was difficult, the prophets spoke what God had revealed to them. They had been sent to God’s people with God’s Word. The message would get through.
Which makes Jonah all the more unusual. For starters, there’s his audience. Whereas the rest of God’s prophets were sent to His people, Jonah was sent to speak to the Assyrians. We’ll talk more as to why that was so unusual next week, but suffice it to say for right now, this was an unusual situation, to say the least.
And let’s not forget that Jonah does a most un-prophet-like thing. He runs. He shirks his responsibility. He refuses to deliver the message. Even when he finally gets his act together, he does a singularly lousy job of it.
If you’re looking for a good example of what it means to be a prophet, Jonah’s the last place you should look. Jonah’s not a good prophet. If anything, he’s the anti-prophet.
And in some ways, that’s okay. Yes, he’s a dismal failure, but his example is still in the Bible for us.
I think the reason why is because we, like Jonah, often cut and run when we should stand firm. We too can be just as faithless in our calling to serve God and each other.
If God can use a guy like Jonah, that means He can use someone like me. And you. And all of us.
So tune in next week. We’ll start taking a deeper look at this very unusual prophet.