Jonah, part II

I did say that I would complete my Jonah post, the first part of which you'll have to scroll down to find. This is taken from a 19th-century commentary by Scottish minister Hugh Martin on the Book of Jonah. It offers a striking and original exposition via scripture of the 'us vs. them' mentality that energizes today's polarization in society. I reminds me of the agressive Christians vs. gays stance so popular now. I've seen views expressed in ways that go beyond the civil to the berating, mocking, not to mention name-calling -often shot through with a distinct tone of smugness. Where do we see that in Christ, of whom it was said he would not wrangle or cry aloud in the street signifying a dignity and controlled purpose in His expression? He will not break a bruised reed. (Isaiah 42 2-3).

One might note that scripture does indeed see the world divided, but not between gay and straight, Republican and Democrat, traditional and radical, Greek or Jew. It sees humanity divided between those connected to God and those disconnected. Those filled with new life, and those not. Those alive to the Spirit and those not. And consider the emphasis Jesus placed upon upbraiding the religious leaders of his day -who failed at their task. And who were those who were attracted to God's call? A motley bunch. Party people, drinkers, tax collectors, etc. The religious leaders for the most part despised the message that in Christ all people would be on equal footing and outcasts were eligible for grace.

Consider Hugh Martin's diagnosis of self-righteousness, which traces and contrasts times of spiritual magnanimity and humility with times of self-righteousness which coincided with hatred of the "other."He uses the example of various periods in Israel's history (note he exchanges the term Israel with "church" -meaning community of God's people) On my previous post you can read more of the contrast between times of true spirituality (and the magnanimity that characterizes those times) and times of stunted self-righteousness and spiritual stagnation (characterized by a delight in castigating the outsider, sinner, outcast, 'other')

"[I]t came to this, that the heathen nations, as to their moral and spiritual interests, were among Israel, objects of simple contempt and neglect, and were dealt with as if Jehovah, the God of Israel, utterly neglected them also -as if, in short, they were beyond the pale of his government; or, in other words, as if Jehovah's government were not universal, but limited to their own nation alone."

Martin goes on to recount Paul's call to go forth from God's people to extend the grace of God to the Gentiles -a radical idea then, as they were that day's outcasts, and even sometimes considered dogs.

But what of those who desired not that the Gentiles be a part of God's plan? "[They] inevitably fell into views of the state and destiny of the Gentile world utterly at variance with the character of God as the Moral Governor of mankind, and fitted exceedingly to nurse into increased vigour their own proud, cold, stern, and malignant spirit of ecclesiastical self-righteousness and bigotry, and national intolerance and pride. "

Jonah is shocked to be sent to the "most renowned city of heathendom." "His was a most extraordinary call." "...the book of Jonah degenerates into a mere perplexing puzzle, unless we give diligent heed at the very outset to the relation at this time subsisting between the seed of Abraham and the Gentile world, and to the bearing of God's special government over Israel on His keeping in store a glorious 'salvation for all the ends of the earth' -a light to lighten the Gentiles as well as a glory to His people Israel. "

The "preliminary preparations" of Israel's redemption were designed to encompass all lands. "But it was not right that Jehovah's moral government over all kingdoms should be misunderstood or forgotten. And above all, it was not right that Jehovah's gracious purpose towards all nations should be buried in oblivion. A very burst of light, therefore, -almost of lightning -flashes out from Jehovah's throne on the dark Gentile world, and his connexion with it...In all the history of the prophetic Spirit and word in the Church, there had been nothing like unto it before, and there was nothing like unto it afterwards.

The Lord did a new thing by his prophet Jonah, - a startling, marvellous, and new thing upon the earth. He caused the light of prophecy to overflow the channels in which for ages it had been confined. He violated all the current notions and all the settled expectations of the sacred commonwealth, by manifesting His care and claims in regard to the heathen....He adorns that movement with the most marvellous and romantic incident, with one of the most striking, if not perplexing developments of human character, especially as occurring in a man of God, and with the symbolic death and resurrection of the agent under whose hand that movement is conducted; a death and resurrection on the very type of Messiah's: 'For Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, even as the Son of man was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth' (Matt. xii. 40) "

Martin goes on to describe how the self-righteous become offended at the idea of God blessing the "heathen." (remember this was written in the 19th-century) "Were they not prepared for it? How could they have kept themselves in ignorance of it? Did they not get most distinct warning to expect and look out precisely for such a movement or evolution in God's dealings? They can plead no ignorance -save the ignorance of blinded, blameworthy prejudice, that positively refuses to see. For 'I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people; and by a foolish nation I will anger you. But Isaiah is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not: I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands to a disobedient and a gainsaying people. I say, Did not Israel know? Did they not know, were they not told, yea, told from the beginning, that God would give his vineyard to others?."

Martin goes onto explain how God's actions He plans to use to woo Israel back. The spiritual inheritance is to be given to....outcasts.

"And has [the inheritance] been given to aliens and outcasts...?"