Prophecy, not apocalypticism!
2021-01-24 | Jonah 3:1-5, 10

Rev. Tobias Brandner
  • Associate Director (External Affairs)
  • Associate Professor

The beautiful little book of Jonah, although written in the post-exilic period several centuries before Christ, speaks in an amazing way to people today: Jonah is sent to the great and ungodly city, as we are sent out into the city to be God’s messengers. I always like to use the book of Jonah as introduction to my course on modern theology because all the features of modernity are there: the city, the plurality of faiths on the boat when Jonah tries to escape, Jonah’s initial escape from being prophetic, God’s transcendence breaking into the present in form of a storm, etc.

In this passage, Jonah is sent out a second time and, although this time he does not escape, he again fails in his duty. He offers an apocalyptic message instead of the prophetic message for which he is sent. He presents God’s wrath as a given fact (“forty days more and you will go down!”) instead of taking into account God’s graciousness and the possibility of people to repent. We know how the story ends: Jonah gets angry about God’s magnanimity. Indeed, God’s benevolence and his power to forgive are part of what makes the biblical message so scandalous and what even those called to proclaim it sometimes fail to grasp. It is a message for all of us being sent into the city, to trust in the possibility of people repenting and God being gracious. This is what makes this passage a message of hope.