By: TJ Johnson
Among the book of the twelve (Minor Prophets), Jonah stands out as the prophet’s prayer book. The secular sailors pray to Yahweh. The prodigal prophet prays to Yahweh. The nefarious Ninevites pray to Yahweh. What is even more astounding than their prayer, is that each group’s prayer is heard and ANSWERED by God.
None of them deserve it. Nevertheless, God gives it joyfully. It seems to me that Chapter 2 is not so much a word-for-word recording of Jonah’s prayer in the great fish, but rather a later poetical reflection on a God who delights to show mercy to anyone who calls upon His name. In so doing, it invites us to join the nations in prayer to the God who is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
It also serves as a rebuke to Israel. While the nations pray, Israel (the Northern Kingdom) neglects prayer. While the nations forsake their idols, Israel has forsaken steadfast love and obstinately clung to their idols.
The book ends rather strangely, with Jonah’s refusal to pray!
Jonah is a microcosm of Israel, a people chosen by God who has neglected the great gift of prayer. It serves as a warning to the church today. Jesus once called the Temple a “house of prayer“. But how often have we, like Israel, neglected the importance of prayer in our lives, in our services?
The book of Jonah is God’s plea to us: be a praying church!