Classic iMonk Post
by Michael Spencer
from May 2008
Here’s a useful question for me right now. (Maybe it will be useful to you, or maybe not.)
Can you find places in scripture where someone had to drastically revise their idea of God in order to know and follow the true God? If so, why and how?
I’m not asking for places where people just needed to learn some new information. No, I am talking about those in the Biblical story who had to radically revise, even abandon, the kind of God they believed in in order to take hold of the true and living God?
We can call it the Jonah 4 Club, because in Jonah 4, the reluctant prophet had to admit that God was a lot more merciful and gracious than Jonah had previously thought. Actually, in Jonah 4, Jonah is righteously ticked off that God is actually nice to pagans, and expresses pity and forgiveness for them.
Jonah had his idea of God all together on the issue of what bad people deserved and what God should do to bad people. Jonah had, of course, written quite a large check on the “I’m one of God’s truly beloved people” account, and he only found himself outside of Ninevah by the same grace of God extended toward him.
But like many Christians, Jonah prefers the God in his head and his prejudices to the actual Yahweh who is relentlessly forgiving to a whole culture of cruel and violent idolaters. (There were some pretty rotten characters in Ninevah.)
The Jonah 4 Club has some other members.
Abraham believed in some kind of moon god when Yahweh started speaking to him. In Genesis 22, when he has Yahweh all figured out, he has to think about God in ways no one wants to think about. When we’re sure what God will or won’t do, along comes a Genesis 22 experience.
Moses no doubt thought that God had hired him for a temp and was going to run the show himself, but he had to learn that Yahweh intended to work through a mediator and everything wasn’t going to be a Red Sea crossing. Sometimes, you were going to spend 40 years making a trip that should take 2 or 3 months at most.
The disciples of Jesus had a traditional Jewish idea of God and messiah, but hanging out with Jesus for 3 years put everything on the table for a revision. Jesus seemed to always be doing something that amounted to “tear up everything you believe about God, guys. We’re doing something different today.”
In Acts 10, God has to give Peter the vision of the unclean animals in a sheet in order to get through his stubborn belief that God has lots of rules of who can eat and fellowship with whom.
The Jonah 4 Club. I’m a member. That makes some people nervous, but I’m in very good company.
So how would you answer the question? And what’s been your own experience at joining?