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Reform Magazine | August 17, 2018

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Chapter & verse: Jonah 4:1

Chapter & verse: Jonah 4:1

Peter Knowles learns from a bad prophet

You know the scene: Wednesday midday and MPs’ faces are contorted in rage at the verbal outrage perpetrated by the other side, or laughing their heads off at the idiocy of the words just spoken. Then there’s a sudden change as ‘thoughts and prayers’ are offered at Prime Minister’s questions, after a report of some dire calamity. Not everyone gets the message in time – some are left gurning the wrong faces and making the wrong noises when all around them has changed to reverent silence. Jonah is one of those. He doesn’t read the situation right and is badly caught out.

Jonah campaigns for a change in heart on the part of the wicked citizens of Nineveh and the Ninevites spoil everything by repenting immediately and turning to God. ‘When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.’ (Jonah 3:10) Jonah is caught off guard by God’s change of mind and his reprieve for the city.

Jonah might have celebrated and given thanks to God for the way his message is taken up; after all, his prophetic mission is renowned as the shortest and most successful in the history of world mission. Instead, he throws the most enormous temper tantrum. He tells God: ‘And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’…

Peter Knowles is Controller for BBC Parliament and a lay preacher serving St Andrews United Reformed Church, Ealing, London

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This is an extract from an article that was published in the May 2018 edition of  Reform

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