The Mission of God and the Madness of His People: When Defiance Meets Sovereignty

Should we make decisions based upon our peaceful resolve?  How should we interpret Jonah’s willingness to be tossed off the boat?  Have you been called to a less than appetizing ministry?  We asked Art Azurdia…

Listen to sermon (Jonah 1:4-16):

How would you pastor/advise someone who comes into your office, and tells you they are going to make big decision about their future based upon feeling a ‘peace’ about the decision?

It’s always my compulsion to ask, “To what extent do the Scriptures speak to this issue?”  I think we have to go there first.  Doing so reminds us of the ultimate authority of the Scriptures.  And I think all too often peoples’ decision-making overlooks the Bible or assumes the Bible doesn’t speak to their issue.  I think the second question I would ask is, “Have you sought counsel from other very wise people, and is this trajectory you’re on in keeping with their counsel?”  Because I would be inclined to say that if it’s in contradiction to the counsel you’ve been getting, then I would only move ahead with great caution and a measure of temerity.  What we know about Jonah is that he did move out in clear disobedience to the Lord.  Then he found many avenues for rebellion open for him along the way; but he began fundamentally in defiance.

You interpret Jonah’s willingness to be tossed into the sea as an act of settled defiance.  Others have taken this to be the beginning of his repentance, or maybe a heroic act of self-sacrifice.  How did you make that exegetical decision?

It seems to me that repentance would be Jonah saying, “Turn the boat around, take me to the shore, I’m ready to be obedient to the Lord.”  We see nothing of that here.   I came across a couple commentators on the popular level who expressed that this might be the beginning of Jonah’s repentance, but none of the more technical commentators shared that view.  In terms of story, and how this fits in with the OT narrative – Israel’s defiance and rebellion, knowing that God may in fact use Assyria to chastise Israel – I think the interpretation that I chose better suits the data that’s here.  Jonah would rather die than go to Nineveh and be faithful to the call of God.  To me it seems you’re making a larger leap to say, “This infers Jonah’s repentance.”  In fact later on, after the whole deal is done, he’s still raging against God, which makes you wonder how comprehensive his repentance really was.

Have you been called to a ministry less than appetizing to you?

Yes, interestingly enough.  I was pastoring a college/post-college group for four or five years, and they were some of the happiest years of ministry my wife and I ever experienced.  After that I was asked to teach a class of young families, which I did for 18 months – 2 years.  It was the most unpleasant experience in ministry I think that I have ever had; in large part because they were a group of about 150-200 people who, for several years, had done nothing but talk about the family.  Thus it was a case where they had become family-centered, almost to the point of idolizing the family.  Beyond that, my wife and I were young and we had no children of our own.  And then I did a really, really stupid thing – I decided to immediately preach through the Minor Prophets.  It didn’t take about a month or six weeks before everyone was profoundly unhappy with me.  Obviously some of that was owing to my stupidity, and a good measure owing to the fact that they had become so family-centered that they had lost their passion for the gospel and the centrality of Christ in all things.

About Art Azurdia

Dr. Azurdia is the Doctor of Ministry Program Director and the Associate Professor of Pastoral and Church Ministry at Western Seminary. He is also Director of The Spurgeon Fellowship and Pastor at Trinity Church in Portland, Oregon.