The prophetic books of the Old Testament follow a pattern: God gives a message to a prophet, God tells the prophet who to relay the message to, and then the rest of the book is usually about the messenger doing exactly that. It’s a good system. It works. So what happens in the book of Jonah is something of a shock.
Instead of doing what prophets normally do, Jonah tells the story of the Prophet who ran. Why did he run? Jonah could not get his head around God’s abounding grace and mercy. And at the end of the book, ironically, he is the only person who remains unrepentant. It turns out that Jonah’s heart was more rebellious than the hearts of those in the city he was supposed to preach to.
Martin Luther described him as ‘an odd saint, who is angry because of God’s mercy for sinners, begrudging them all the benefits and wishing them all evil…and yet he is God’s dear child.’
With humour and satire, this short but very well known book captures the truth about people’s tendency to rebel against God’s word but also demonstrates God’s relentless pursuit of those same people.