In the book Running from Mercy, published by B&H Publishing, who kindly sent me a copy to review, pastor-author Anthony J. Carter provides pertinent study questions in the back pages of his discussion of “Jonah and the Surprising Story of God’s Unstoppable Grace.”
Having read the Bible story numerous times, I didn’t feel like I discovered any big surprises in this book. Then I realized the conversational style is deceptively light as Rev. Carter’s words and wisdom fill us with insight into scripture and into ourselves.
The Introduction starts by grounding us in the fact that “Jonah is an actual person established in Scripture. We know he had a family and a father, whose name was Amittai (Jonah 1:1, 2 Kings 14:25). God had commissioned Jonah on another occasion to prophecy good news to the national of Israel. According to 2 Kings 14:24-27, God sent Jonah with a word of mercy and grace for Israel, despite the rebellion and disobedience of King Jeroboam. Jonah prophesied that God would bless Israel, and she would experience prosperity accordingly. Consequently, Jonah’s first experience as a prophet was a pleasant one. He experienced prophetic prosperity that no doubt brought him popularity and pleasure.”
The author goes on to point out that the city of Ninevah actually existed. More important, Jesus referred to the reality of Jonah in Matthew 12.
In “Grace for the Rebellious,” Rev. Carter equates the book with the entire story of the Bible! i.e., “Chapter 1 is the narrative of rebellion. Chapter 2 is the narrative of repentance. Chapter 3 is the narrative of redemption. Chapter 4 is the narrative of restoration” – all of which can be said about God’s Word.
Everywhere, everywhere – God is – in Word and deed.
In the same chapter, the author reminds us that “The idea of God’s omnipresence is not that God is simply present or partially present; the idea is that He fills the place.”
And so, like Jonah, we need to know, “You cannot hide from God. A better course of action is to hide in God.”
That awareness begins to surface when we, like Jonah, feel we’re drowning in problems and finally come to the end of ourselves. Then, as the chapter “Divine Appointments” points out, “When God delights to move in your life to rescue you, to redeem you, to save you, you have no doubt who did it.”
Ironically, that same mercy moves in the lives of the most undeserving people – like those in Ninevah. As the chapter “Jonah’s Resentment, God’s Restraint” reminds us,”Sometimes God defeats the wicked not by destroying them but by extending grace to them and thus changing them.”
If we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we, too, have resisted God’s will at some time in our lives. Maybe more than once! But, praise God, “…mercy comes running after you and me. It is mercy we need and, therefore, mercy we receive – undeserved, unearned, life-changing mercy.”