Meet Jonah: expert sulker
O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
It is said that God works in mysterious ways but Jonah has a problem with God working in predictable ways.
God asks his prophet Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell them to turn from their wicked ways or they will be overthrown. Jonah instead turns tail and flees in the opposite direction. He runs, sails, gets himself thrown overboard, swallowed by a big fish, forced into contemplation, spewed back up and eventually ends up back where he started: going to Nineveh like God asked him to.
Does this sound like an elaborate tantrum to anyone else?
It even has a ‘time out’ although the naughty step replacement leaves something to be desired.
Jonah may be a man and a prophet but he is acting like a toddler. It may be a little more extreme than ‘please put your shoes on,’ but God lives up to his role as Father and allows Jonah to throw a strop, see the error of his ways, come back and do the task he was asked to do.
Like many a tantrum over the millennia, Jonah’s comes from a place of not-yet-understanding. Jonah already knows God will not hurt the people of Nineveh if he can help it and sees only his embarrassment at the hands of God: that he will have to make a prophesy that won’t come true.
Later God will help Jonah to understand but for now the task needs doing and Jonah’s responsibly in Ninevah is not, as he might think, to be the bringer of punishment, but to be a catalyst for change. Jonah’s role is to warn, and to hope that the warning is enough, to help the city get back on track.
God help me to know my role in your plans.
I cannot see through your eyes,
I cannot understand all of your ways,
I do not possess the knowledge that you do.
Guide my feet and help me to trust you
with faith that one day I might understand.