(this transcript has been lightly edited for readability)
Well, you sort of have to ask yourself, “Why in the world is Jonah in the Bible?” This weird story of this rebellious prophet and this big fish, and it's listed as a prophet, but there's almost no prophecy in Jonah, a forty-eight-verse weird narrative. Well, I would propose that Jonah is in the Bible because this narrative captures an entire biblical worldview in a podcast.
There are four elements that are part of a biblical worldview that are so powerfully depicted in Jonah. First, you have, in Jonah, a God of awesome, inestimable glory. This God is in absolute control of His world. I love, as you begin to go through the narrative, that first you see God sending the storm; He's that in control. And then it says that He appoints a fish to do something. Now either you say, “That's just a metaphor or this is real history.” Near the end of Jonah, we find God appointing a worm; I mean think, how many worms are there that a single worm will do the bidding of this One? It’s a God of just mind-boggling power and glory.
You see a world that's terribly broken by sin. You see sin in its ugliness in Jonah both in the huge corporate sense in Nineveh, which was a wicked city, and in the heart of Jonah who would rebel against God and fall into such spiritual insanity that he could actually believe that he could escape the presence of God. Let me just say this; “If, in any moment, you think you are able to escape the presence of God, you are spiritually insane!”
And then you see, in Jonah, just beautifully depicted, the existence of powerful, rescuing grace. In fact, the subtitle I would give to Jonah is, “Unrelenting Grace.” You see grace in its most amazing forms, surprising grace. You see grace operating so that this fish that has swallowed Jonah, now vomits him up on the beach. Sometimes grace looks like vomit! We have chapter and verse for that! It's surprising. God will do whatever is necessary. He will use whatever tool is necessary to draw us back. He will not abandon His work of grace.
And then we see the fact that we human beings were made to live for something bigger than us! Jonah was called to live for something bigger than Jonah's comfort, Jonah’s vision of what his life should be, his political leanings. Every human being was created for transcendent life, way, way bigger than what we would normally choose for ourselves.
But what really captures the power of the message of Jonah are three words; three of the most important words that have ever been written down on a page, three of the most important words that you could ever, ever consider, three words that have the power to change you and everything about you. Here are the three words, “But the Lord.” What changes the narrative of the book of Jonah, this man was heading for disaster, was the divine interruption.
And that's our hope too, “But the Lord;” there would be no covenant promises. “But the Lord,” there would be no Bible. “But the Lord,” there would have been no coming of Christ. “But the Lord,” there'd be no church. “But the Lord,” there would be no conviction in our hearts. “But the Lord,” there would be no ability to believe. “But the Lord,” there would be no protecting, providing, delivering, transforming grace. Our life hangs on those three words, “But the Lord.” If Jonah were only three words long, “But the Lord,” it would be worth its place in the Old Testament.