Once upon a time there was a prophet named Jonah. God said to him, “Do your duty. Go to Nineveh and prophesy.” But Jonah hated those people, so he got on a boat going the opposite direction as far as it would go.
Not so long ago a preacher was told, “Go to the Capitol and tell them what Jesus said.” But the preacher thought those old boys were doing great. So he went on TV to tell the world how God loved what was going on.
Out in the middle of the sea a great storm blew up. It grew stronger and stronger, threatening to tear the boat apart. The ungodly sailors, however, caught on that this storm was telling them something.
Tumult began to ravage the land, as historic hurricanes beat upon its cities, and illness went untreated because of huge costs. People everywhere began to worry something had to be done quickly.
Jonah confessed, “Throw me into the sea and you’ll be spared.” The godless sailors hesitated to be so cruel just to save themselves but finally they yielded. The last they saw of the prophet, he was being swallowed by a huge fish.
In the back of the preacher’s mind was concern that those old boys in Distant Capitol were trashing all the values the preacher and his crowd had stood for, but they hated the same things and feared all those people of different colors. The preacher said, “What’s a little wind and rain when we’ve got such fine old men making things great again.” But some were watching in amazement, “OMG! The preacher’s been swallowed whole!”
Down in the deadly deeps, Jonah was wrapped in seaweeds as he succumbed to despair that led to confession. Even in the deadly deeps God was paying attention to Jonah, and God ordered the fish to puke the prophet out back onto the beach where he had started.
The preacher grappled desperately trying to figure out how to be both true to Jesus and loyal to the good old boys thumping each other on the back as they piled up their profitable deals. At last the preacher found himself right back where he’d started
Jonah made it to the huge city of Nineveh, home of the horrible people Jonah hated most. He vowed to do the absolute minimum. Getting himself barely inside the vast city he announced, “You’re done for, three days from now.” Then he turned around and left.
“Well, these days of high-tech, one doesn’t have to really GO to Distant Capitol to have one’s voice heard there,” the preacher decided. So he went on TV again, waved his hands comfortingly and crooned, “Remember Jesus.” Well, that wasn’t so hard
Word spread throughout Nineveh. Panic resulted. The king himself tore his royal robes, put on a burlap shirt and wailed repentance sitting in ashes. The whole city fasted and prayed. Nineveh turned to God. God spared them.
The tousle-headed Good Old Guy was congratulated by his wattle-chinned prime mover. PM declared, “It’s a wrap. We got’em now.” The city was in their hands court, capitol, commerce, and all.
Jonah was livid. “I knew you’d do that!” he railed at God. Poor Jonah wanted to see Nineveh in flames, but all that happened was his own shelter was eaten by worms so it was he who suffered from the heat. He heard that dreaded voice again, “Jonah, Jonah! You’re pissed off at me for saving these millions? Get a grip. Think!”
Outside the city, millions were no longer listening to the preacher. They hadn’t heard him say a word from Jesus for so long that they no longer expected to hear any. They had heard from Jesus directly, however, and they were on the move.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.