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Jonah, Christopher J.H. Wright, and the Nations





I have to admit, some books just haunt me. That is, they keep calling me back to read them over and over again. This time it's The Mission of God by Christopher J.H. Wright that called me back. Check this passage out concerning Jonah:
"The book of Jonah has always featured in biblical studies of mission, sometimes as the only part of the Old Testament deemed to be of any relevance. Here at least is someone who has some semblance of being an actual missionary, sent to another country to preach the word of God. However, for all the fascination of the character and adventures of Jonah, the real missional challenge of the book undoubtedly and intentionally lies in its portrayal of God. If Jonah is intended to represent Israel, as seems likely, then the book issues a strong challenge to Israel regarding their attitude to the nations (even enemy nations that prophets placed under God's declared judgement), and regarding their understanding of God's attitude to the nations. The concluding open-ended question of the book is an enduring, haunting rebuke to our tendency to foist our own ethnocentric prejudices on the Almighty." (The Mission of God, 461)
The blessing to the nations promised by God to Abraham and through his seed comes up again here in the book of Jonah. Should Jonah have expected God to play favorites and keep his blessing for Israel alone? Is His mercy limited in scope? We see this thread running through the Old Testament Scriptures over and over that "The Judge of all the earth," "who will unquestionably do what is right, is also the "gracious and compassionate God" who "takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but rather that they turn from their ways and live. The character of YHWH is exercised in forgiveness and mercy, extended to all nations, not just to Israel" (461). The embarrassment that Jonah feels because of God's merciful actions toward the nations and not especially to Israel is a sign of his stubborness and hardness of heart in failing to see the full portrait of God as displayed in the Old Testament.
I admittedly am embarrassed at why God pours out his blessing to the nations that I see as too far gone from the mercy and grace of God. My heart is in the wrong place and my gaze does not lift beyond the veil of the 50 states I reside among. Yet, I am reminded just the other day, that God does not play childish games of withholding mercy for a select few because they've been good to Him. No, God's mercy is reflected in blessing that shouts out among the cities of this world, Sao Paulo included, and the nations that are radically bent in all directions. My immediate and often impatience with God's work in the world is not something I'm proud of but in the recognition and repentance of this truth there is solace.

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