Jonah’s life was marked by flagrant fouls; by grievous inconsistencies. He claimed that he “feared God” (Jonah 1:9), but he really didn’t. His actions spoke more clearly and accurately than his words.
Jonah was a non-praying prophet. Yes, it must be admitted that he prayed in the belly of the fish. “I called out to the LORD,” (Jonah 2:2 ESV). But he did not pray in chapter 1, even when urged to do so (1:6). He prayed only when he had to, only when he was compelled. This is like when a person confesses their sin .. once they are caught. You can never tell if the repentance is real or authentic. And you can not tell the authenticity of the submissive soul except when it prays willingly, and not merely out of desperation.
And so when Jonah prayed, he must have felt so good about himself. “What a relief to get this off my chest! I feel so good when I pray, kind of like making up after a fight. God and I are good again.” Is this true religion? A brief religious exercise that purges our conscience but changes little else? And don’t we do the same thing? Don’t we, in our occasional prayers, actually betray our own selves, indicted by all the times when we fail to pray, and that our prayerful pledges of love and dedication sit stranded in lives lived in autonomy from God’s help and direction in our lives? What about the songs that we sing? “Oh, how I love Jesus; Oh, how I love Jesus, Oh, how I love Jesus, because He first loved me.” Certainly love for Jesus is fitting. But memorizing in our heads this little chorus is far different from having our hearts trained to fly to Jesus in love moment by moment throughout each day of the week. Or how about “I Surrender All?” “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust him, In His presence daily live. I surrender all. I surrender all. All to Jesus I surrender; I surrender all.” Really? Complete surrender? Has anyone ever surrendered absolutely everything to God outside of Jesus Himself? Yes, the category of song is that of Aspiration. Perhaps the song is not stating a fact, but a desire: I desire to surrender all. Really? Don’t you at times desire to rebel? To live independently from the will of God, fleeing from the doing of his will, like Jonah, the liar? “It is the Cry of My Heart to follow You.” Well, sometimes. But a lot of the time, the truth is that cry of your heart couldn’t even be voiced aloud due to the shame that it would bring to you and your family.
The truth that must be said of ourselves is not that we are excellent in our religious practices, but that we are sinners. And then, gratefully, it can also be said, truthfully, that God is gracious, and that He is able to drive His grace just as deeply into our hearts as our sin is rooted.
Secondly, Jonah is much too willing to blame God for his predicament.
“For you cast me into the deep,” (Jonah 2:3 ESV)
“Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight;” (Jonah 2:4 ESV)
Don’t we do the same thing? How could God let this happen? Imagine the setting, the stench, the slime, the revulsion.
But are we careful to trace how the consequences of our sin bear themselves out in our lives? And in our most reflective times, are we willing to sort through the events of our lives to see if it could be that a loving Father is using discipline in our lives that will correct his erring children, and purify us for His purposes and for our sake?
So we have these two lies from the lying lips of Jonah: the pretending of a Christian consistency; and the pretension of a Christian blamelessness. Once again, I find that I am more like Jonah than Jesus. By God’s grace, that will change.