March 29, 2011

Minor Prophets L -Part II: Pagan Piety & A Prophet's Impropriety

Tarshish is at the southern tip of Spain near modern day Straits of Gibraltar. This location is amusing…because it is diametrically opposed to Nineveh which would’ve been in the absolute opposite direction in the area of modern day Iraq. (Jonah’s starting point was in Northern Israel near Nazareth). God told him to "arise, and go" instead Jonah "arose, and fled". Foolish man.

So, let us compare the "piety" (or should I say the impropriety) of Jonah to the true piety of the pagan seamen in Chapter 1.

The other sailors make better spiritual models than Jonah in a few episodes in this story. First we see in Jonah 1:6, that although they all call out to their own gods, they at least have enough sense to call on a power larger than themselves when confronted with what appears to be an insurmountable situation or obstacle. The captain even goes as far as to tell Jonah to “call on your God!” Inadvertently, the captain is telling Jonah EXACTLY what he should be doing: Calling on his God, Yahweh to get them out of this current predicament.

Interestingly, I must consider the “casting of lots” a biblical thing to do also. It was used by many in the Bible for important decisions including the selection of Judas’ replacement as an apostle. The idea is that a sovereign God controls all in His creation…and that includes the roll of the dice. In doing this it is not gambling if you are using it to call on God’s Will. "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord." Proverbs 16:33. As would be expected, if every decisions is the Lord’s, the lot landed on Jonah the guilty party. In verse 8 and 9 we see the sailors asking the “who, what, and where from” questions which Jonah dutifully replies that, he is Hebrew and he worships the Lord or the God who is “the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Whatta dunce! "The God who made the sea....". The sailors then have the correct and Godly response, they fear God and are terrified. They then pop the rhetorical question which amounts to “Jonah! You dope, what did you do??? We’re doooooooooomed!”

Even after Jonah gives them a logical course of action when he suggests that he be jettisoned overboard they are aggrieved at the prospect knowing that he is a Hebrew and a man of the Hebrew God (renowned as being powerful at this point judging by their reaction) and opt to row towards shore. When this fails they again petition the Lord for prerequisite forgiveness in the event Jonah dies when they are forced to toss him in the water. These may not be believers in Yahweh but they could very easily have become believers in Him had they been raised in different environments.

The icing on the cake in terms of a spiritual model of these sailors is in verse 16. Once they see the sea has calmed their response is impeccable. They offered sacrifices to the Lord and made vows to Him. If some of these men didn’t eventually convert permanently to worship of Yahweh…I would be surprised. Jonah on the other hand is an embarrassment to Yahweh. In this entire story even the plants, weather and the sea obeys God’s will…but not Jonah. It takes until the end for him to bend to God’s will and even then it is a struggle. His natural bend is in the “other direction away from God”. A mediocre prophet at best.

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