When I was nineteen I spent a few hours at the port city of Jaffa, Israel. This ancient port is where Jonah, the prophet in the Old Testament, hired a boat and fled in the opposite direction of where God told him to go. I spent an hour sitting on a pier, with old and new boats floating in the glimmering Mediterranean Sea while I read the book of Jonah. Of course, as a child who grew up in the church, I had heard the story of Jonah countless times. The dramatic display of God’s power over creation, the storm, the whale that swallowed Jonah, the tree that grew to protect him. Amateur plays of youth workers pretending to be tossed and turned in a boat readily come to mind. Yet sitting in Jaffa, the exactly location that Jonah had been, made this book of the Bible much more important.
No longer was it a childish story of wind, waves, and whales. It was the location where a man of God, deliberately disobeyed the God of the universe and decided to run in the complete opposite direction. I sat, reflecting on my life, wondering when I had run in the opposite direction. In that moment, I prayed and asked the Lord to give me the strength to follow him, no matter the cost, no matter the location, no matter what he was calling me to do. Since then it has been a wild ride trusting and obeying the Lord.
Which eventually led me to the moment I needed to write my first audio bible study for oral learners. “Where do I even begin, Lord?” I prayed. “Start with Jonah,” I felt the Holy Spirit say. And so, I did.
As I studied the book of Jonah in more detail, I realized the book is much more than obeying God. It is a dramatic display of God’s control over creation so that in His mercy He is able to forgive sinful people, no matter what tribe or people group. The book of Jonah is not just about following God’s will, it is about God’s mercy and his willingness to go to great lengths to reveal himself to every people group, no matter the cost. As I have grown older, this book of the Bible has become more important. It is glimmer of God’s gospel of salvation. And this is why I decided to write Gospel Joy’s first audio bible study on the book of Jonah, because it points us to Christ love, mercy, and salvation.