In our first session with the adult group, we compared the functional role of Jonah as “ignoble preacher defiant of God” with that of the pagan sailors, whose behavior–in contrast with the prophet–served the intent of God’s instruction. It was the captain of the boat, not Jonah, who feared the God of the Hebrews and looked to him for assistance. (Jonah 1:6) This type of role reversal is typical in Scripture and is given to shatter our self-righteous assumptions about each other.
Lest we idolize the sailors, the writers quickly turn the tides against the reader. As the Gospel of Matthew explains, “no one is good” but God. (Matt 19:17) Just as Jonah tried to pay his own way–supporting himself instead of accepting God’s provision–the sailors too found themselves rowing against the will of God. (Jonah 1:3, 1:13) From the moment the Word of the Lord appears in verse one, all sides in Jonah are consigned to a “no win” scenario, best intentions aside.
Finally, from a position of hypocrisy and at his own risk, Jonah preaches the Word of the Lord to the captain and his shipmates, offering a way forward for everyone. Matthew, who calls our attention to Jonah’s “sign” (the Word of the Lord) reminds us that since all men fall short, we are to emulate the teacher’s instructions, not his behavior. (Matt 12:39, 23:2) In the end, it is Jonah’s proclamation of the “fear of the Lord” that will lead to salvation for all parties. (Jonah 1:9)
Our youngest students, ages 6 and younger, enacted “shuv” from the story of Jonah. They traced the Hebrew letters for “shuv” which means “to turn or repent.” We have many characters turning in the story of Jonah: from the seamen who turned to Jonah’s God, to the large fish who turned Jonah around from Tarshish and delivered him to the shore of Ninevah, to the people of Ninevah who turned from their evil way, and even God who “repented of the evil which he said he would do to them; and he did not do it.” (Jonah 3:10)
We find that repentance may have less to do with the feeling in our hearts, and more to do with the direction of our feet and our action.
If you would like to join your children in their memory work, we are attempting to memorize chapter 2.
“Teach children to love true wisdom and they will possess wealth and glory such that money cannot provide. If a child learns a trade, or is highly educated for a lucrative profession, it is nothing compared to the art of detachment from money. If you want to make your child wealthy, teach him that the one who is truly rich does not desire great possessions, or surround himself with wealth.”
“I also always entreat you, and do not cease entreating you, not only to pay attention here to what I say, but also when you are at home, to persevere continually in reading the divine Scriptures. When I have been with each of you in private, I have not stopped giving you the same advice. Do not let anyone say to me those vain words, worthy of heavy condemnation, ‘I cannot leave the courthouse, I administer the business of the city, I practice a craft, I have a wife, I am raising children, I am in charge of a household, I am a man of the world; reading the Scriptures is not for me, but for those who have been set apart, who have settled on the mountaintops, who keep this way of life continuously.’
What are you saying, man? That attending to the Scriptures is not for you, since you are surrounded by a multitude of cares? Rather it is for you more than for them. They do not need the help of the divine Scriptures as much as those do who are involved in many occupations…reading the Scriptures is a great means of security against sinning. The ignorance of Scripture is a great cliff and a deep abyss; to know nothing of the divine laws is a great betrayal of salvation.”
John Chrysostom, On Wealth and Poverty