This past Sunday (1/13/08), in introducing Jonah, we looked at some of the historical and geographical background.
Regarding the historicity of Jonah and this story:
The truthfulness of the Jonah story is no more difficult to swallow than is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, just as our hope in a new heavens and new earth is no less justifiable than is our acceptance of the creation of this present earth as described by God in Genesis 1,2. Yes, our faith embraces that which is utterly fantastic, and we deal with a God who is wild and wonderful. And what is our problem with that?
Regarding the geography of Jonah:
The far, even unreasonable distance which Jonah was unwilling to travel east to Nineveh was more than matched by his willingness to travel even further west to Tarshish (perhaps on the SW coast of Spain). But then, the distance that Jonah was willing to traverse in order to avoid God, God is willing to solve in order to forgive and fellowship with His people:
“as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalms 103:12 ESV)
“I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 8:11 ESV)
The low esteem which Jonah held toward the Ninevites could be contrasted by the high value he placed on his own self and independence from God. Jonah helps us to see more clearly, then, the humiliation of Jesus, who placed such high value on miserable sinners that he voluntarily humbled himself to serve us and save us.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV)
And so we see Jonah, the Recalcitrant Prophet, that is, one who digs in his heels and resists his summons to testify. Perhaps we can see some parallel with this excerpt from a portion of our legal code, and maybe even a hint of what is in store for Jonah, the Anti-Prophet.
U.S. Code Collection: TITLE 28 PART V CHAPTER 119: § 1826. Recalcitrant Witness (a) Whenever a witness in any proceeding before or ancillary to any court or grand jury of the United States refuses without just cause shown to comply with an order of the court to testify or provide other information, ..the court, upon such refusal, ..may summarily order his confinement at a suitable place until such time as the witness is willing to give such testimony or provide such information.