Stories are the most prominent biblical way of helping us see ourselves in “the God story” which always gets around to the story of God making and saving us. Stories, in contrast to abstract statements of truth, tease us into becoming participants in what is being said....
One reason that the Jonah story is so enduring ly important for nurturing the life of faith in us that Jonah is not a hero too high and mighty for us to identify with- he doesn’t do anything great, instead of being held up as an ideal to admire, we find Jonah as a companion in our ineptness...Even when Jonah does it right...he does it wrong. But the whole time, God is working within and around Jonah’s very ineptness and accomplishing his purposes in him.
Jonah 1-4 - One day long ago, God’s word came to Jonah, Amirai’s son. “Up on your feet and on your way to the big city of Nineveh! Preach to them...But Jonah go up and went the other direction to Tirshish, running away from God...as far away from God as he could go.
But God sent a huge storm at sea, the waves towering...Jonah had gone down into the hold of the ship to take a nap. He was sound asleep...Let’s draw straws to identify the culprit on this ship who’s responsible for this disaster.” So they drew straws. Jonah got the short straw...He told them, I’m a Hebrew. I worship God, the God of heaven who made sea and land....It’s all my fault. I’m the cause of the storm. Get rid of me and you’ll get rid of the storm. But no. The men tried rowing back to shore. They made no headway...Then they prayed to God. They took Jonah and threw him overboard. Immediately the sea was quieted down. The sailors were impressed...in awe of God. They worshipped God, offered a sacrifice, and made vows.
Then God assigned a hugh fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah was in the fish’s belly for three days and nights. Then Jonah prayed to God...”When my life was slipping away, I remembered God....And now I’ll do what I promised I’d do! Salvation belongs to God?” Then God spoke to the fish, and it vomited up Jonah on the seashore.
Next, God spoke to Jonah a second time...This time Jonah started off straight for Nineveh, obeying God’s orders to the letter. Nineveh was a big city, very big---it took three days to walk across it....The people of Nineveh listened, and trusted God....Even the King of Nineveh began to turn back from an evil life and the violent ways that stain their hands. Who knows? Maybe God will turn around and change his mind about them, quit being angry with them and let them live.
God saw what was done...He did change his mind about them. What he said he would do to them he didn’t do. Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at God and argued that God changing His mind was the reason he ran off the first time...God said, “What do you have to be angry about?” But Jonah just left. He went out of the city to the east and sat down to sulk....God arranged for a broad-leafed tree to spring up. It grew over Jonah to cool him off and get him out of his angry sulk. Jonah was pleased and enjoyed the shade. Life was looking up. But God sent a worm. By God the next day, the shade tree withered away...
Then God said to Jonah, “What right do you have to get angry about this shade tree?”.... How is it that you can change your feelings from pleasure to anger overnight about a mere shade tree that you did nothing to get?...So why can’t I likewise change what I feel about Nineveh from anger to pleasure, this big city of more than 120,000 childlike people who don’t yet know right from wrong, to say nothing of all the innocent animals.
Acts 28:1- 28:9 -
...we were on the island of Malta. The natives went out of their way to be friendly to us. Paul pitched in and helped. He had gathered a bunch of sticks, but when he put in on the fire, a venomous snake struck his hand and held on. Paul shook off the snake into the fire, none the worse for wear. They kept expecting him to drop dead but when it was obvious he wan’t going to, they jumped to the conclusion that he was a god!
Publius, the head of the island, took them into his house as his guest....His father was sick at the time down with a high fever and dysentery. Paul went to the old man’s room and when he laid hands on him and prayed, the man was healed. Word of the healing got around fast and soon everyone on the island who was sick came and got healed.