December 21, 2017

Unforgiving Jonah

Jonah 1

I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love.

—  Jonah 4:2

The story of Jonah is among the most exciting stories in the Bible. But this book of the Bible is not named after a hero—Jonah is no hero. At the beginning of the story, he is running away from God, and at the end, he is arguing with God. The book of Jonah is more about God and how great God’s love is. God never gives up on Jonah—not when he runs away and not when he sits under a vine and pouts (Jonah 4:6-9).

God saves Jonah from the sea storm by providing a great fish to swallow him and then to vomit him out later on dry land (Jonah 2:10). Jonah doesn’t deserve to be saved, and yet God saves him and provides for him in extraordinary ways.

There’s a name for what God does here—grace. Our God is gracious and abounding in love—even though we don’t deserve his love. The grace God showed Jonah is the grace we receive through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

That’s why Jesus calls his own burial and resurrection “the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 12:39). As Jonah was buried in the fish, Jesus was buried in the earth. As Jonah came out of the fish, Jesus came out of the tomb.

Jonah’s story points us to Jesus’ story, and Jesus’ story tells us how far God will go on our behalf—all the way down to a manger, all the way up on a cross.

Lord Jesus, you came to be the friend of sinners. We are so glad because you are our friend and Savior. Thank you for giving us a second chance. In your name, Amen.

About the author — Thea Leunk

Thea Nyhoff Leunk has been a high school English teacher, a director of Christian education, a pastor of discipleship, and a regional coach for the Christian Reformed Church in North America. She is currently the senior pastor at Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Thea has also written courses for teens and young adults on world religions, Christian faith traditions, and science and the Bible. She and her husband have three adult children.

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