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Meditate on This!

The book of Jonah has always been connected to a whale and rightfully so. The whale is certainly an interesting element to this classic Old Testament story. In the second chapter, the main character is swallowed into the belly of a large fish in connection with his rejection of God's command to go to Nineveh. This is where I used to end my interpretation of the book of Jonah; if one rejects God's command, bad things will happen to them. Although that is a lesson that can be taken from the book, it is certainly not the overall intent. In fact, the whale can often be a distraction for the challenging lesson that this book intends to offer. 
Jonah is actually about the societal tensions of "us and them." Jonah was an Israelite (and represents the nation in this story) who hated the Assyrians. His hatred can certainly be understood because for centuries the Assyrians laid siege, captured, and deported the Israelites (2 Kings). Thus, Jonah's "them" was the Assyrians. In Jonah's mind, they were people who did not deserve to be saved. However, and thankfully, that is not how God viewed them. Even in their rebellion, God still extended his grace and mercy to the people of Nineveh. 
 
The book of Jonah is intended to disrupt our bias. God is on everyone's side, and extends his grace and compassion to all. This was the same call that the Israelites were commanded to do in Genesis 12. It is difficult to embrace our enemies but that is what God calls us to do. So this week, do not be distracted by the whale but embrace the challenge that God gives Jonah to extend grace and compassion to all.