One Sunday we were reading the story of Jonah to the kids. With the simpler translation and a little background information, I saw more clearly than I had before that this story is meant to be comical and fanciful, so that it can teach a lesson about how Israel too-often relates to those not born in the covenant.
I couldn’t help but think of how this story would make a great kids’ book. It especially made me think of The Runaway Bunny. Can’t you just see it being made into a parody of sorts? Something like this, perhaps?
Once upon a time, God called a prophet named Jonah. He said to Jonah, “Get up and go to Nineveh. Go and preach to them because they are being so bad there.” Jonah who didn’t want to teach to Nineveh. It was a Gentile city, not in Israel, and Jonah did not want to go tell them to repent.
Jonah said to himself, “I do not want to preach to Nineveh. I am running away.”
“Hmm,” thought God. “Jonah thinks he can run away. Well, I will just run after him. For Jonah will be my prophet to Nineveh.”
“If God runs after me,” thought Jonah, “I will go far away to Tarshish. I will get on a boat and float far away.”
Jonah got on a boat, but God blew the boat with the wind.
“Well,” said Jonah, “I will hide away inside the boat where God can’t see me.”
“Jonah thinks he can hide from me!” said God. “Well, I will cause the wind to blow so hard that it scares everyone on the boat”
God made a mighty storm and the passengers were afraid. But Jonah decided to keep sleeping.
When the passengers woke up Jonah, he said, “I am running away from my God. Throw me into the sea so the storm will go away.” They did, and God stopped the storm.
“Hmm,” thought God. “If Jonah thinks he can hide in the sea, I will send a big fish to come and swallow him up.” So God sent a fish and it swallowed up Jonah.
“Well shucks,” said Jonah, “I see now that I can’t hide from you. I may as well leave this fish and be your prophet. I know you love me. I know you can save me.”
So God made the fish spit out Jonah and finally Jonah preached to Ninevah. The city was so large he walked all day and there was still more city left. But he preached to the Gentiles there. He told them they would be destroyed because they needed to repent. And the people listened.
God saw that their king fasted, the people fasted, and even their animals fasted!
He also saw that their king wore sack-cloth to show his repentance. The king commanded the people to wear sack-cloth. And he even commanded that their animals wear sackcloth!
And God didn’t destroy Ninevah. He changed his mind and spared the people.
But Jonah was not happy. “I knew you loved them before I even went there,” he told God. “I never wanted to go preach.” He was angry, and sat on a hill to watch what God would do with the people.
He made a small tent. God watched and made a plant grow to shade Jonah from the sun. “Have a gourd tree,” said God.
Jonah was glad of the gourd tree. But then the next day God took away the tree. Jonah was angry because the sun was hot and the wind was blowing off the desert.
“Why did you take away my tree?!” asked Jonah.
“Why do you care for the tree?” asked God. “Did you care for it and grow it yourself?”
Jonah didn’t answer.
“But I care for you,” said God. “I followed you when you ran away. I followed you when you were under the sea. I followed you and saved you.”
“Yes, I know,” said Jonah. “I know you love me.”
“And I care for Ninevah, where there are thousands of people, with their families, homes, and animals.”
“Yes, I know,” said Jonah. Then he said quietly, maybe hoping God would not hear, “But I didn’t want anyone else to have your love.”