Jonah and the Whale... 

It's a great story! But it is much more than that. Read the following remarks from Anthony Ceresko writing in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary.

"From the standpoint of the author, Jonah belongs to a period that had already become the stuff legend. 2 Kings 14:25 indeed reports briefly on the activity of a certain 'Jonah ben Amittai' during the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (786-746 BC). But the author is clearly not intent on presenting us with a historical account. "The issues with which he deals primarily the mercy and justice of God as well as the obvious exaggerations the book contains indicate that he has another purpose in mind. Thus critical scholarship has rightly abandoned the attempt to treat the book as history. Nor have attempts to see the book as an allegory of Israel's exile experience, in which 'the great fish' represents Babylon and the 'three days and three nights' represent the period of captivity, won many followers. Recognition of the book's literary qualities has turned the attention of interpreters to the work's character and function as story. 

"It is a story, however, that has not been written simply to entertain. The central role given to God indicates that a primary motivation is theological. Also the description of the relationships between God and Jonah, and between God and the pagan sailors and Ninevites serves to elaborate and reinforce a particular world view. In other words the work has a teaching function as well. It thus may accurately be described as a parable; a 'comparison' in brilliant story form that seeks to illuminate an issue and in the process touches a number of other issues.... 

"In Jonah, one of the last representations of a prophetic figure, we find not someone of heroic stature but a caricature of a prophet. There is certainly irony in this, and even satire, which may reflect something of the disillusionment with and disappearance of prophesy that marked this period. But it also reflects a profound humility. The author turns the audience's gaze away from the prophetic messengers themselves to the One whose messengers they were, the One who is able to achieve his ends sometimes even in spite of envoys like Jonah." 

Here is an excellent example of Biblical writing that cannot be taken literally. Few among us would believe that Jonah could be swallowed by a whale and spit out again after three days on dry land. We have all seen Jaws or similar movies! When a book like this is presented as literal truth, people of our culture begin to question the whole of Scripture. But when we see ourselves in the parable, in the story, we can discover the truth revealed therein.

I have in my life been swallowed by a "whale" of work or suffering because I did not do what I knew the Lord was asking of me. I was 41 years old before I answered the call of the Lord to become a priest, a call I had known was there when I was just 13 years old! I also have "walked on water" at times in my life when I trusted that the Lord would indeed provide what I thought was impossible. If I kept my eyes on him and stepped out in faith to walk toward him, it was marvelous how he acted to open doors and change things in my life.  

As a parish we are seeking to walk on water in our Mission 2000+ plans for a new church facility. Will we sink or will we make it? I believe with all my heart if we truly keep our focus on what the Lord wants us to do with this effort, he will provide. It will happen. Our history in the last two decades should teach us that! 


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