Jonah 3: 1--5, [9-]-10 [suggested]

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: "Go at once to Nineveh.., and proclaim to it what I tell you." Jonah went at once... in accordance with the LORD's command. .... Jonah... made his way into the city.., and proclaimed: "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" The people of Nineveh believed God. (1..5a)

Although written in prose, this text has an attribute of Hebrew poetry: parallelism. "Go at once" and Jonah went at once. Jonah... proclaimed and The people... believed God. If you do not see the similarity, think in terms of obedience.

"Who knows but that God may turn and relent? He may turn back from His wrath, so that we do not perish." (9) What kind of obedience does God desire?

God saw what they did, how they were turning back from their evil ways. And God renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon them, and did not carry it out. (10) The outcome from their obedience was, as you know, different for the Ninevites and Jonah. The text describes the primitive reactions of these pagan people, and the manner in which YHWH interpreted it. Jonah, the professional

churchman, reacted in another fashion, requiring further exercise of mercy and patience by the LORD.

Eventually things worked out for Jonah, but for the Ninevites it came more quickly, and with much less personal shame and agony. The reason for this is shown in another Hebrew poetic device: contrast. Jonah (finally) obeyed; The people... believed God.

Psa. 62: 5--12 [6--13, TNK]

Of the two things mentioned, the first, might, refers back to v.11, perhaps even to v.10. The second (in rising order of importance?), faithfulness, looks back to the thoughts of vv. 6 and 9. Might it also look ahead to the end, providing us with insight into God's definition of the deeds of obedience expected of us?

1Cor. 7: 29-[-32a, 35][suggested]

What I mean, [beloved], is that the time has become limited, and from now on, those who have... should live as though they had [not] (29). Because this world as we know it is passing away. I should like you to have your minds free from all worry. (31b-32a) I am saying this only to help you, not to put a bridle on you, but so that everything is as it should be, and you are able to give your undivided attention to the Lord. (35)

Without v.35, this portion of Paul's rantings appears to foster not faith, but anxiety and despair. The Apostle is not preaching doomsday: get your bomb shelters loaded and in working order. Rather, he is urging (quite strongly, at that) believers to get their priorities in order, so that everything is as it should be, and you are able to give your undivided attention to the Lord.

To what type of obedience does the phrase, undivided attention, point? To compliance with tradition, conformity to church rules and regulations, submission to some Christians' particular interpretations of Holy Scripture? Reflect on the Prophet's story: Jonah, the believer, obeyed YHWH's command; the Ninevites, on the other hand, believed God.

Mark 1: 14--20

As [Jesus] was walking along by the Lake of Galilee he saw Simon and Simon's brother Andrew casting a net in the lake-- for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, 'Come after me and I will make you into fishers of people.' And at once they left their nets and followed him. (16-18) Simon Peter, in his own inimitable way, gives us a parallel version of Jonah's kind of obedience. Again, in the end things worked out for the ardent follower, but not without much embarassment and struggle.

To what sort of obedience does Jesus call us? There he proclaimed the gospel from God saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel.' (14b-15) Some church people have fastened onto the first verb, applying to it a meaning that Jesus did not, thereby distorting the Lord's message. Jesus is speaking in a venerable poetic form: parallelism. God, through Jonah, the Psalmist, Jesus, and Paul, is calling people to faith: to trust in the Lord. To 'believe the gospel' is the meaning of 'Repent,' as is obvious since the invitation is issued to those who do not yet 'believe the gospel.'

And the Gospel, according to Jesus, has only one basic commandment, not 613 "laws", not (who knows how many) rules and regulations promulgated by this or that faction of the Church. The Gospel of John has three primary themes: obey, believe, and love, and in the final analysis, they are one. The Apostle lists several spiritual gifts, but places three at the top: faith, hope and love. So John and Paul are in full agreement with Jesus: the greatest of them is love. (1Cor. 13: 13) 'Repent, and believe the gospel.'


1 Selah omitted.

2 Haiku poems by Phil Gilman. Please feel free to utilize anything by me; just give God the Glory, Praise and Thanks and me whatever credit may be due.

(comments to Phil at )