One of the most familiar stories of the Bible is the tall tale of a wayward prophet who took a short ride on a very long fish. One of the main points in the story is that when God wants something to get done, it is going to get done, no matter what has to happen. God is God, and don’t you forget it.
The major main point in the story is that God is the Lord of salvation. It is God who sent Jonah to Nineveh, “The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” (Jonah 1:1, 2)
God is the Lord of salvation and as the Lord He has chosen sinful men to proclaim His message. Not their own message, and neither are they sent to a people of their own choosing. God is the Lord and their is no other. “I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.” (Isaiah 45:5-7)
The tall tale is not that the prophet got thrown from a ship and swallowed whole by a fish large enough to contain him for three days (Matthew 12:40), and spew him out on dry land.
It is not even that the capital city of Assyria, an adulterous people whose soldiers got paid by the heads they delivered; whose people invented devises of torture that would make Hitler cringe, who repented of their evil. That would be like every person in the world that has done heinous crimes, all gathered together into one big city of 200,000 people, who weep over their evil deeds. they change their wicked ways, go to church, help the poor, and live out the remainder of their days humbly sorrowful for the crimes, and rejoice that they received a second chance to make their life right.
The tall tale is that a holy and righteous God, the same one that came down upon Mount Sinai with fire and thick darkness, who said if even an animal approach the mount is should die, the God who is a consuming fire should forgive their sin and restore them to fellowship with Himself.
This great truth could not be seen so clearly had it not been for the candor of the prophet, who ran from his calling because of his deep seated prejudice and national bias for his own people Israel. How do I know Jonah was open and honest in expression, and frank about who he was? He wrote the story and told the tale.
And how does the tale end? Jonah is angry enough to die (for the third time) because of the heat of the day and the gourd that was eaten by a worm, which brought the heat of the sun down upon his head. And what did God say to him? “Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” Then the LORD said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand (that’s children), as well as many animals?” (Jonah 4:9-11)
And who gets the praise at the end of this story? Who goes into nothingness as a bigot, who cared more for a plant and his own comfort than for 120,000 children, who could be saved from God’s holy judgment upon them, by hearing him preach the truth of God? God gets the praise for saving the people, and Jonah is hung out to dry because of his selfish, prejudiced heart, for a people who by God’s judgment deserved no less punishment.
You see, Jeff Buckley got it wrong in his song Hallelujah. “And love is not a victory march, It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah …And it’s not a cry that you hear at night, It’s not somebody who’s seen the light, It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.” For it’s not man that makes the hallelujah of God’s children a worthy hallelujah, it’s the God of God’s children that does so. It’s the redeeming blood of Christ. It’s not the sinless perfection of God’s children that make God righteous and holy, it is God who is righteous and holy to perfection.
God will get the glory in His children in the final day, because He will have brought to perfection what he started here and now. The Christian’s transparency that comes from intimacy with Christ is the best proof. A person who is transparent and willing to give God all the glory, and allow himself to be seen as sinful, wicked, and deserving hell fire reveals the grace of God best.
Jesus words are spoken to all true believing Christians. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)