Jonah’s Concept of God

Drew Berding

Did Jonah the prophet know God?
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Jonah (about 800 BC) started off with a very limited view of God. He visualized Him as living in a box (the Ark of the Covenant) which resided in the Temple in Jerusalem. Thus he thought he could flee from the “presence of the Lord” by leaving Jerusalem and going to Joppa and then to Tarshish.

Although he should have been aware of David’s magnificent Psalm 139 which was written about 200 years earlier in 1000 BC, apparently it had not sunk in (we are very similar sometimes).

That Psalm says:

7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
12 Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.

Verse 7, “where can I flee from Your presence?” Jonah didn’t seem to understand this. Perhaps he did theologically with his head but it sure didn’t affect his actions. We are similar.

Verse 8, “If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.” He personally experienced this truth in verse 2 of Jonah chapter 2 “I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice.”

Verse 10, “Even there [the remotest part of the sea] Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.” Jonah experienced this too.

Verse 11, “If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night.” Jonah thought he could get away from his terrifying God by dying but even that didn’t work.

After Jonah saw the power of God (the storm, the cast lots that pointed to him, etc.) he reevaluated his concept of God. Now he saw Him as “the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.” Jonah 1:9. Even so, he only had a partial view of God—he saw Him as a terrifying, irresistible force—not a personal God or a God of love. He thought God would zap the Ninevites because they didn’t believe the way he did. We are so much like Jonah.

Just like Jonah, we tend to put God in a box and only let Him out when we are desperate, “I called out of my distress to the Lord, and He answered me.” (Jonah 2:2)

I’ll bet that Jonah has a much larger view of God now! Someday we will too.

Photo Attribution: Jeremy Bishop – Unsplash.com

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NOTE: Bible references unless otherwise stated are from the NASU (New American Standard Updated) copyright the Lockman Foundation.

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