Tag Archives: Jonah

The Pregnant Forty

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I just finished reading a book by Eugene Peterson called Under the Unpredictable Plant. In the book, Peterson uses the Jonah story to discuss the vocation of pastoral ministry. He’s really spectacular at drawing meaningful parallels from Jonah’s behavior, psychology, and circumstances to the life of a pastor, and often more broadly, to Christians’ lives. One example is his expounding of the message Jonah was sent to prophesy: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” To the ears not rooted in ancient near-eastern culture, the ears not familiar with biblical prophecy, the ears boastful of hearing what they’ve been fed yet condescending toward what they haven’t – my ears, our ears – to those ears, a prophecy like that sounds like some malevolent Zeusonian lightening bolt kind of hogwash. To the city of Nineveh, we are told, which didn’t have our ears, this prophecy sounded like an alarm. Not sounding the imminent destruction of a city full of innocent people, but a warning meant to steer a wayward ship away from the deadly rocks. Nineveh heard “forty days” and threw the ship hard to starboard… or port. They repented, fasted, and resolved to change their ways because in the declaration “forty days,” they heard “hope.” Continue reading