What Are We to Make of the Abrupt Finish to the Book of Jonah?
- 2012 20 Jun
"Yeah, it is extraordinary, isn't it? The last verse of Jonah, 'The Lord said, 'You pity the plant for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night and why should I not pity Nineveh, that great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?' So the last word is 'cattle.' It is the most extraordinary ending of a book in the Bible.
Here's my take on this. There are three ways in which you can emphasize what's really important. One is to put it at the beginning, one is to put it at the end, and the other is to put it in the middle. And in the book of Jonah, the central theme is put right in the middle. It's right at the end of chapter two, where Jonah is making his confession and he says, 'Salvation comes from the Lord.' That's the banner that you can put over this whole book. So he's not even ending it under the inspiration of the Spirit, with, 'Now look where the grace of God brought me in the end.'
He's giving the last word to God and confessing his own need of the compassion of God, and confessing that even long into his own ministry, he didn't have the compassion in his own heart that God was calling him to have, and right at the center he puts the banner. This is what my story's about. This is what my confession is about. This is what I really need. Salvation comes from the Lord. I need a Savior. I have a Savior, and that Savior is my Lord and my whole story is about how much I need him. Only a man who had learned humility could have written this book, and his humility, I think, it seen in giving the last word to God and not even to the triumphant grace in his own life.