A deliberate parody of God’s call

By Dave Henning / August 8, 2023

“In a deliberate parody of God’s call to ‘arise, go to Nineveh,’ Jonah ‘arose’ to go in the opposite direction. . . .  Called to go east, he went west.  Directed to travel overland, he went to sea.  Sent to the big city, he bought a one-way ticket to the end of the world.”- Timothy Keller

“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim against her, for their evil has come up before my face.’  But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the face of the LORD.”- Jonah 1:1-3a

In Chapter 1 (“Running from God”) of The Prodigal Prophet, Timothy Keller notes that the first verse of Jonah represents the usual way to begin an account about one of the biblical prophets.  However, already in verse 2 the original readers recognized a unique prophetic account.

Above all, Pastor Keller views this as stunning on two levels:

  1.  God calls Jonah to leave Israel and travel to a Gentile city.  Up until then, God sent Hebrew prophets to His own people.  Thus, Jonah’s mission was unprecedented.
  2. God warns Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire, of impending doom.  Assyria, one of the cruelest and most violent empires of ancient times.  Furthermore, unless a chance existed that judgment could be averted, there would be no reason to send a warning.  And Jonah knew this very well.

But, Pastor Keller posits, perhaps the most surprising element of this narrative centers on the fact that God chose to send Jonah, the son of Amittai.  The account provides no background information.  That means Jonah needed no introduction.

The original readers of Jonah remembered his as an intensely patriotic, highly partisan nationalist (see 2 Kings 14:25).  As a result, those readers would have been amazed that God chose to send such a man to preach to the very people he most feared and hated.

Today’s question: What Bible verses dissuade you from choosing a deliberate parody of God’s call?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A bigger problem – lack of vision”

About the author

Dave Henning

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