by Dennis Ricci
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Have you ever tried running away from an assignment God gave you? I have. You don’t want to go there.
My name’s Jonah, maybe you’ve heard of me? I’m the guy who had the unique pleasure of spending three days and three nights in the digestive tract of a large whale. Well, I don’t exactly know if it was a whale, and neither do you. And it doesn’t matter. What does matter it that God asked me to go to a town called Nineveh, a city filled with really wicked people, and preach His message to them—that God would destroy their city unless they stopped sinning.
Whoa! Who, me? I didn’t want to deliver a message like that, especially to those people. They were evil! They didn’t deserve a warning. Besides, a message like that wouldn’t be very popular. I was afraid I wouldn’t make it out of there alive.
So I bolted. I went down to Joppa and took the first ship I could find, which was sailing to Tarshish. I told the ship’s crew I was running away from God because He wanted me to warn those people in Nineveh. We all had a laugh and pulled out to sea.
Soon after we launched, it started storming like crazy. The boat nearly capsized, and the crew was tossing cargo left and right. Finally, everyone on the boat started crying out to their gods. Meanwhile, I’m sound asleep in the cargo hold. The captain came down, grabbed me, and shouted “How can you sleep at a time like this? Pray to your god for this to stop!”
On deck, the crew was throwing dice to see who offended their gods. They asked me who I was and where I was from. I told them I was a Hebrew and worshipped the LORD. It was then I realized the storm was all my fault because I was running from God.
I knew what I had to do. I told the other men to throw me overboard. They didn’t go along with my idea at first, but the storm became too much for them. So they asked the Lord to not hold them responsible for my death, and tossed me into the sea. The storm stopped.
Next thing I knew, I was fish food.
I did the only thing I could. I prayed. I praised God in the middle of my trouble. Even though He sank me into the depths, I looked to Him. I knew He would save me from death. I realized that people who worship false gods are turning their backs on God’s mercy! I knew that my salvation came from God alone.
Once I came to that conclusion, the whale, er, whatever it was, hurled me out onto the beach.
God again told me to go to Nineveh to preach his message. This time I did it. I shouted His message from the mountaintop, loud and proud. “Hey, you Ninevites! You have forty days to turn back to God or you’ll be destroyed.”
What happened next blew me away. The king of Nineveh–the king!–took off his robes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and ordered the whole city–people, animals, everything–to fast, stop sinning, and turn to God, before He unloaded his anger on all of them.
They did! And God relented. I couldn’t believe it. God spared those wicked people! I was not happy. “I knew you would do this God! That’s why I ran. I knew You were merciful and compassionate, eager to reconcile with people.”
Then God asked me, “Do you think it’s okay to be angry about what I’ve done?”
I didn't answer. I went to the east end of Nineveh, set up a shelter, and watched to see what would happen. God gave me a huge, leafy plant for shade. It was great. But then it died the next day. A worm ate it. I was steamed! The sun got so scorching hot, I just wanted to shrivel up and die right there.
Then God asked me another question. “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“Yes,” I said. “Even angry enough to die.”
Then God said, “You’re upset about the plant, even though you did nothing to put it there. But Nineveh has 120,000 people, whom I created, living in darkness. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for them?”
He had me. He was right. And I repented.
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Well, this article didn't "go the way" I assumed, based on the title, that it would. As good as it is, and it is (well written, good flow throughout) I thought you would add some anecdotal fare for us to feast on...it did, however, give me "food for thought" today as I consider the storms others go through when we, like Jonah, make a run for it. I did enjoy the "light hearted severity" you employed in your "revised version" of one of our well known tales. But, I was hoping for a modern day application gleaned from one of your personal experiences. Still, I like your wordsmith stylings.
P.S. Don't send comments to Private Messenger; I don't have it!