The prophet Jonah is simply cut from a different cloth. God chose him to be his bearer of ill tidings in Nineveh, the dreaded capital city of the ruthless Assyrians who have, time and again, invaded and enslaved the people of Israel. Prophets, like Jonah, live for bringing God’s words out into places where he desires them to be spoken. It does not matter whether the place that God wants them to go to is under clouds of peace or beset by war. God’s message comes first and any prophet who is designated takes it as a special honor even if he is asked to march into the teeth of death. Jonah, like an errant son, turned his back on God and ran away.
The Mystery of Jonah’s Action
Many have tried to explain the mysterious behavior of Jonah that goes against the grain of any would-be prophet much less someone who was already established in the hierarchy of prophets. It is easy to point to fear as the culprit. But Jonah did God’s bidding in a previous assignment that was also very dangerous and came out unscathed. It could not have been fear alone that drove him to spurn his calling. When he felt that God had let him down by not fulfilling his expectations on the fate of Nineveh, Jonah took it as the perfect opportunity to explain his wayward action. He called out God for being compassionate and gracious and pointed out that it was exactly the reason why he did not want to preach in Nineveh in the first place. He did not want to feel dismayed. Was this an acceptable explanation from Jonah?
God as the Arbiter
If Jonah was being tried in front of a jury, the members of the jury would be gnashing their teeth in frustration. What right does a mere mortal have to question his creator? God, however, was patient with Jonah. We should be too. We are human, like Jonah, and prone to lose our way when the going gets tough.