A whale of a story

One of the more memorable Bible stories is Jonah and the Whale.  Children seem to love it.  On the internet we can find cartoons of Jonah set to catchy jingles, such as this one:

Who did who did who did who did

Who did swallow Jo-Jo-Jonah?

Who did who did who did who did

Who did swallow Jo-Jo-Jonah?

Who did who did who did who did

Who did swallow Jo-Jo-Jonah?

Who did swallow Jonah down?

The whale did the whale did the whale did the whale did

The whale did swallow Jo-Jo-Jonah,

The whale did the whale did the whale did the whale did

The whale did swallow Jo-Jo-Jonah,

The whale did the whale did the whale did the whale did

The whale did swallow Jo-Jo-Jonah

The whale did swallow Jonah down.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVFMMUF441Q)

Often the moral of the story is something like, “Jonah survived being swallowed by the whale, so God can do miracles.”  Or, “Jonah tried to hide from God but couldn’t, so we can’t hide from God either.”

Actually the Jonah story, which we will consider in our worship on Sunday, July 12, is more for adults than for children.  And it is about a lot more than a stubborn man riding in the belly of a whale and coming through unscathed.  It is a story of obedience and disobedience.  It is a story of justice versus mercy.  It is a story that makes a whale of a claim about God, one that prompts the reader to ask:  “Can I accept a God who is unfair–unfair in the mercy, compassion and pity he shows toward very wicked people?”

At the end of the story, this question is unresolved for Jonah.  Will he grow enough spiritually to have the same compassion and pity that God feels for the wicked?  We don’t know because Jonah just sits there, sulking under his withered bush.  The real ending of the Jonah story is up to us to write.

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