Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Does Jonah talk about the Messiah?

The theme of kingdom in the book of Jonah is not very prominent or explicit. However, this does not mean that it is completely absent. I would suggest that the theme of kingdom can be interpreted broadly from the book of Jonah. God is the righteous and the compassionate King over all the nations, presence cannot be constrained by the Temple. Let me demonstrate this thesis. First, it must be noted that Joseph fled from the presence of the Lord after he received his prophetic mission. This fact is noted on three different occasions (1:1 – 3;9). Jonah has a very small view of God. He falsely believes he can flee from his presence.

Second, Jonah places great confidence in the fact that his prayer is received in the holy Temple – the place of divine presence – even though far removed from the Temple (2:7 – 9). So, when push comes to shove and his own life is on the line, Jonah gladly admit that he can access the divine presence from anywhere – from the bottom of the ocean! In other words, Jonah falsely believed he could flee from the divine presence at the beginning of the story, but one he is thrown into the ocean and finds himself in the belly of the fish a radically reorient this theology – of course, God's presence is everywhere! This is why Jonah can pray with full confidence knowing that his prayer has been received in the Temple. The Temple is not something that constrains God.

Third, after Jonah washes up on the shore and finally carries out his mission to proclaim judgment to Nineveh, Nineveh repents. In fact, Nineveh offers up prayer and repentance to God without any apparent knowledge of God divine presence in the Temple. Surprisingly, God answers their prayer and avert his judgment. After this turn of events, Jonah offers a prayer which acknowledges that he knew that God would extended lovingkindness to the people of Nineveh and he petitions God to take his life. How ironic! In the midst of danger, Jonah cries out to God for his life. In the midst of complete safety, Jonah cries out for death.

Fourth, there is a theme of idolatry. The irony in the book of Jonah is that idolaters turned Yahweh – and the one who should be worshiping Yahweh is running from him. In effect, one could say that Jonah is the idolater in the story because he is trying to disobey/stymie the will of God. The overall conclusion is that Jonah's Idol – a small constrained perception of Yahweh – demolished in the face of a great and compassionate true God who exercises mercy on the nations (4:10). God is a just and compassionate God is not constrained by the Temple, but his presence and blessing is extended to all who call upon him and turn from their evil (3:6). So, although there may no mention of a covenant King, Davidic King, or even a future messianic King, the overall point about the supremacy of God's great, extensive, compassionate kinship remains. Yahweh is the great King escalation point

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