The Ups and Downs of Grace
A careful reader will note the movement in the book of Jonah. God calls Jonah to Arise and go to Nineveh, but instead Jonah fled in the opposite direction. From here we see a downward spiral as the prophet tries to outrun the grace of God.
ARISE is juxtaposed with, Jonah going DOWN to Joppa, DOWN in the boat, and sleeping DOWN in the inner part of the ship when the storm arises. But God’s grace out- weathers the storm; the story doesn’t end with the storm destroying Jonah. The captain goes DOWN and repeat’s God’s original call to Jonah, “ARISE and call out…”
Jonah RISES and returns to God, “I fear the LORD…”
And yet, Jonah’s story, like our story, doesn’t end here, on a high note. As God hurled a storm, the mariners hurled Jonah overboard and once again Jonah is seen going DOWN to the bottom of the sea. Yet again, God’s grace lifts Jonah out of his plight and has the fish vomit Jonah on dry land.
The downward trajectory of Jonah is once again reversed as God, once AGAIN, says, “ARISE.” So Jonah RISES and preaches to Nineveh. They repent and God relents.
END OF STORY….And they lived happily ever after.
Not quite. Jonah, a prophet of God, is disappointed in the effectiveness of his preaching. So he leaves the city and sits UNDER a booth he made for himself. But God, ever gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness, causes a plant to grow UP OVER Jonah. Though Jonah is moving downward again, “it is better for me to die,” God is still passionately pursuing this rogue prophet.
The book ends, a bit ambiguously. God gets the final word, but we do not see Jonah repent. We do no see Jonah in the upward movement of restoration. Nothing more is known about Jonah. But as the reader has noticed all the movement of God, he can’t help but think…the God who pitied Nineveh and did not leave them alone, certainly continued to lift this dejected prophet out of pity and placed him in God’s ever upward Grace. As we read through Jonah, may we discover the God of all grace who is constantly lifting us UP toward Himself.