The Book of Jonah is short but for all that it packs quite a punch. God of Jonah has the quintessence of quality that makes God as the Sovereign Lord of heaven and the earth. What was Jonah but a man, a representational man with his prejudices and attitudes. The book however amply illustrates the truth stated by Prophet Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord./ For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Is.55:8-9)”. This we need keep in mind whenever we discuss Holiness. Holiness of man at best as the prophet informs in another place is a trap for him to fall therein. For he is relying on his righteousness that only his blindness prevents him from seeing for what it is. Righteousness of man is like filthy rags. Now for the words of Prophet Isaiah:” But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken (Is.28:13)”. Is it not how sects quote verses from here and there and cobble a set of doctrines to declare they are different from all?
God had determined to judge Nineveh. “For their wickedness is come up before me (Jonah 1:3) God would yet give the city a chance to repent their wicked ways and come clean before Him. The prophet however is awed by the notoriety and believes their rampant godlessness has raised a bronze door of resistance against his mission. Partly out of fear of failure and of envy of their pomp and circumstance he ducks the task laid upon him. So what does he do but takes a ship to Tarshish instead. He went into the hold as though he would be safe there. He had therefore put the entire ship in jeopardy.(vs.4) God sent a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Jonah fleeing from the presence of God is an illustration of disobedience.
We may give a simple definition of sin and it is outside the will of God. Disobedience of Adam was a sin.
Holiness of man who relies on his strength is observing will-worship. He does impose a strict regiment of dietary restrictions and does all as prescribed. Does that go far enough? If he cannot stand within the will of God it is one-upmanship of man trying to justify himself. Righteousness of God as exemplified in the Son of man was his obedience. King Saul on disobeying God invited censure from old Samuel. “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams (1 S.15:22)”.
What was Jonah to the ship but a dangerous cargo? The crew were not aware of the passenger who posed the risk of collateral damage to the entire ship and them. It was no different from Adam whose disobedience ever since put the entire world to risk. For our rational minds a question may arise: is it not disproportionate to condemn the whole world on account of a single infraction? Holiness is not determined by wisdom of the world but by what signifies the Name of the Most High God. Holiness is what He embodies.
(To be continued)