Turning Your Back

Turning Your Back, Jonah 1, cropped

I attended a new church with old friends today. Journey Church was just starting a new series focused on one of my favorite stories, Jonah. While I don’t believe all the details occurred exactly as we read the story, I am absolutely confident this was a real, historical event.

The message today focused on the attitude of Jonah. Jonah loved people, Jonah was a prophet of God. Jonah is charged with a mission of reaching the people of Nineveh, the sworn enemy of his home nation of Israel. Nineveh was a very brutal and cruel people, particularly to their enemies. Jonah took the weight of his calling very seriously, and rightly so!

Jonah found every excuse imaginable to avoid setting foot in the vicinity of Nineveh. Finally, Jonah found his escape. His opportunity appeared in the form of a boat, a fishing vessel from Joppa, headed out to sea and the land of Tarshish. By taking advantage of this way out, Jonah turns his back on his God – spiritually and physically. This is Jonah’s sin. Not being afraid. Not being insecure. Not getting on a boat. Not even looking for an easier way. He turned his back on his mission.

The Jewish observance of Yom Kippur surrounds the story of Jonah. During this holiest of celebrations, traditions lead participants to chant the phrase “I am Jonah”. This is a reminder of how often and how easily we turn our back on God. Our modern motives are vastly more selfish and futile than Jonah’s. We aren’t facing a mission to call out an entire culture who parades the severed heads of those who oppose them….. Our call is largely to stand our ground in the face of injustice; yet we still recoil into preserving our self-image rather than rocking the boat.

Rock the boat. Face your Nineveh.

We are are Nineveh and we are Jonah.


Today’s drawing is oil pastel on drawing paper. I applied the color, then used white as my blending tool. I created the accents of ripples on the water using a pocket knife to scrape off the oil pastels. I added a little orange to the back and shoulders of the figure, foreshadowing the scorching sunburn Jonah must have sustained in his coming days at sea.


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