Tim Keller | July 22, 1990
The book of Jonah is a very simple story. It’s a book about a man running away from God and about God pursuing him, and as a result of that, this book is one of the most concrete ways to learn what the Bible means by sin and grace.
Almost everybody is familiar with the words sin and grace, but what they actually mean is another thing. Essentially (as concretely as you can put it), sin is running away from God and grace is God’s effort to pursue and to intercept self-destructive behavior. That’s it. Sin and grace. Running and chasing.
In this passage, we’re going to see, first of all, Jonah is called to do something. Second, Jonah runs away from it. And third, we’ll see how God pursues him.
The story of Jonah tells us about how running away from God is a form of sin and how God’s grace steps in to stop us from harming ourselves. In big cities like New York, many people can relate to the idea of avoiding God, maybe because they don’t want to follow religious rules or they’re having trouble believing in God even though they grew up in a religious family. It’s important to realize the ways we hide from God if we want to start a relationship with Him.
1. Jonah is asked to do something
Jonah’s story shows the hard job of speaking out against evil in a dangerous place, kind of like trying to tell people to change their ways in a city torn apart by war or during the Cold War. God might ask us to do difficult things too, and while He might not always make things easy or explain why, we can trust that He knows what He’s doing. Our decisions can reflect either Abraham’s faith in God or Jonah’s trust in himself, highlighting the need to rely on God’s perfect nature.
2. Jonah runs away from it
Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he was too proud and biased, scared that the people there might change their ways and receive God’s kindness. His pride stopped him from sharing about God’s love and forgiveness, showing the need to admit our imperfections and rely on God’s mercy. The gospel is presented as the answer to feelings of superiority or self-hate, emphasizing the need to accept God’s grace as a gift, not something we have to earn. Disobeying God is like cheating on a diet – it might seem easier at first, but it goes against who we really are.
3. How God chases after him
Like radioactivity, sin slowly destroys us from the inside, leading to bad outcomes. But the storms God sends are meant to show us our true state and bring us back to Him, fighting against the dark forces that try to pull us away. Trusting in Jesus, who faced God’s anger and can bring peace to our hearts, is the best protection. It shows God’s grace that never stops trying to save us from our harmful behaviors.
February Book Offer
In his book Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller shows us how a proper understanding of the Bible reveals the truth about societal ideals and our own hearts — and that there is only one God who can wholly satisfy our cravings and fulfill our hopes.
February Book Offer