(Sorry, I don't get back to things as fast as I mean to. I will get back to my ideas of how a Christian end times computer game might go without messing with my values, unlike what I have heard (but not seen. Shooting of individual games like DOOM just aren't my bailiwick) about the game they ended up with.)
But today, I want to talk about Jonah. (Amos will be next) I am studying the Old testament Prophetic books through an audio course from Columbia International University (Bryan Beyer is the speaker) and want to get down things that have been occuring to me as I do so.
You have, in Jonah (the OT! before the revelation of Acts 15.) several examples that it isn't just the Jews God cares about. There are the sailors in the ship. After Jonah is thrown overboard, the sea calms and they are fine. (And note! The sailors care more about Jonah's life than Jonah did about theirs! Jonah didn't think about the risk he was putting them in when he fled from God on their ship. Yet the sailors didn't want to toss Jonah overboard. Jonah 1:13-14) And, of course, God was sending Jonah to Nineveh to warn them about an upcoming judgement. The people living in Nineveh were Gentiles.
I wonder if the purpose of Jonah isn't to show the Israelites how they should be asking. God has revealed himself to them. They are his chosen people. And God has been warning them (and will continue to warn them) that because of their sins judgement will come. Yet it is the Ninevehites who, when the same warning comes to them (and without the "repent" clause -- Jonah 3:4 "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown."), repent. They throw themselves on the mercy of God, immediately repenting of their ways, just in case God will repent (Jonah 3:8-9 "let them [man and beast] turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?") God does not destroy them and it is Jonah (the Israelite) who is upset that he does.
It is striking the attitude of the Israelites here. So many prophets go, yet they continue on in serving other Gods. And they despise Nineveh, yet here it is that Nineveh (at least at this one point in time) "gets it" even better for not feeling that God owes them anything. Their repentance was complete, humble, and expecting nothing. And God cared about them so much that he saved them. -- When we go on to Amos we'll see more about this The Gentiles were always in God's place.
Another thing striking about Jonah comes from the comment at the end and how Dr. Beyer interpreted it that opened up new interpretations of the book for me. Jonah 4:11 "more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand" -- perhaps here, it is meant by "spiritually speaking." Earlier in the book, we are given a foretaste of this. Jonah 3:8 "But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth" -- they didn't know better than to clothes even their chickens with sackcloth as an indication of morning. It isn't just the people involved in their repentance, it was their cattle and other animals as well. You have a notion here of the principle of "To whom much is given, from whom much is required" -- God honored the intentions of the hearts of the people of Nineveh even though they didn't know the right forms of what they were supposed to do. (Given Jonah's attitude one can't think he was all that eager to teach them either. He was "going through the motions"-- but it was enough!) He also mentioned that if we are ever in the mission field (inner city) and teaching folk who didn't grow up the way we did church about Jesus, that we shouldn't be surprised if they do things differently. Even if it is something that would be scandalous for what we are used to, to look behind the actions to the heart and remember Jonah's "chicken in sackcloths." (And, I think, that some of the things we do now as a manner of course may fall in the same category for others looking in.)
Finally, we have Jonah's attitude. Here he was, having been used mightily of God to be in the midst of a miracle, and all he can think about is that his enemies are not being destroyed. If Israel's reaction had been better, if Israel had taken them in as new allies, would perhaps Nineveh's repentance of lasted longer, as they learned the true nature of God? Those who were once our enemies may prove not to be enemies after their total repentance and dependence on God. But that side of the situation didn't seem to occur to Jonah.
I like to think that it is Jonah himself who wrote Jonah. that he saw the mistake in his own actions and wrote the book (under inspiration of God) because he saw that he was wrong. But we are not ever told. The book ends without a clear "good ending" we are used to, but just a lot of questions.