Coward or Courageous?

Have you ever hated someone?

The dictionary defines hate as this “to dislike somebody or something intensely, often in a way that evokes feelings of anger, hostility, or animosity” That is pretty intense.

Jonah is a great story that shows what hate can do. It is so much more than “the fish story” for young children!
When you think of Jonah what immediately comes to mind, for me it was the word coward. I had glanced over the Jonah story quite a few times! Growing up in church I had heard it, seen it acted out on the felt board and colored pictures of Jonah and the whale.

Last night I was reading Jonah and I discovered something that I had skimmed over before. The man who I had once thought as a coward I saw in a new light.
I think there is a lot more the Jonah and his character than we give him credit for!

Jonah 1: 1-3 “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go before the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.”

Jonah clearly did not want to go to Nineveh; it was a very powerful city in Assyria at the time. The Assyrians had been enemies of the Israelites for a long time.
Why would Jonah, an Israelite, waltz into his enemy’s city and try to help them? Tell them to repent so that the wrath of the Lord would not come upon them.  I would think he would want God to destroy them. Who wouldn’t?

Now, Jonah did try to run away from God. (Which is impossible by the way * Psalm 139: 7-8 “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.) But I don’t think it was from cowardice, no I think he hated the fact God wanted him to help his persecutors.
Jonah left and most people know the story.

While he is on the boat a storm brews up and all the passengers pray to their gods. Nothing works! They cast lots and the lot falls on Jonah. They ask him to pray to his God. Jonah tells them that the storm is destroying the boat because of him. (I think that took courage!)

Jonah goes as far to tell the panicked men to throw him out of the boat into the unforgiving sea to calm the storm! That is pretty noble, risking his life so that the innocent men can get ashore. After the men see nothing will mollify the storm they throw Jonah over and the storm quiets down.

*Read Jonah chapter 1

I don’t know about you but I think Jonah, even though he ran away from God and his will, did some pretty gutsy things here! He was in the middle of the ocean with a mighty storm destroying his boat and he willingly lets the other men throw him out, in the middle of a watery death trap to save these strangers lives.
I don’t know if I would have the boldness, especially if I was aware God was not too pleased with me!

Jonah was a human just like you and me, so don’t categorize him as the great coward of the bible who tried to run away from an all-knowing God!  I believe Jonah had more courage than most people today, who do you know that would jump off a cruise ship in the middle of a storm to save a bunch of strangers?
I will be writing more about Jonah during this week! Try to read the posts as if you have never heard “the fish story” before.

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  1. Gma

     /  July 31, 2012

    Good perspective. I often have to remind myself that it is quite easy here in the 21st century–on my cushy tushy, reading my Bible with a full tummy, an air conditioned house, a life most lovely–I must indeed remind ME–that these folks whose stories made it into the Bible–are not super humans. They are, as you so wisely pointed out–simply humans. Second guessing what heroics I would have accomplished, had I been in their place–is laughable–as I would likely be under the bed. God used fallible folks like us–then–and now.

  2. It is easy to forget! I had always thought the same way till now.

  3. That did take courage and willingness to own his sin. Then we see God’s grace powerfully on display. Jonah should have died and God spared his life. I think that is amazing in itself. Yet, there was so much more to it. Encouraging to know there is hope for us all.

  4. Jonah is a good book!


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