Nothing Like It in All the World

Recently, in my Bible reading, I came to the book of Jonah (I've been working through the Minor Prophets). It struck me how remarkable this message is compared to everything else in the ancient world. Homer was a contemporary of Jonah (mid 8th century b.c.), and his epic books of the early Grecian world fascinate readers today with themes of war and peace, honor and disgrace, love and hatred. A few decades later, Hesiod would put down the definitive version of Greek mythology, starting with the god Chaos and ending up with the petty, self-absorbed deities of the pantheon. In such radical contrast, Jonah tells of the prophet's frustration with God amidst the terrors of the Assyrian threat to Israel. What is Jonah's complaint? That God has grace for the wicked. The Lord sends his prophet to preach judgment to the capital of the enemy nation. But Jonah knows the Lord intends mercy through repentance and faith. The final chapter of Jonah explores the pathos of a holy man who struggles to embrace the surpassing grace of a God who forgives the ungodly out of his own wellspring of love. As literature, where will you find something to rival this message, which is also the sacred revelation of the true and living God?

I wonder as we read our Bibles, returning to long-familiar books like Jonah, if we realize that we are encountering a message that is like nothing else in all the world. Where else will you discover that your own sin is the great problem of your life - not the sins of others and the petty squabbles about which you obsess - and that a God of love is working in you to surrender to his grace. Where else in all the world will you discover a message that tells you to rest in the mercy of God and spread his gospel of hope to all the world? The answer is that there is nothing like the Word of God in all the world. As Micah marveled right around the time that Hesiod was conjuring up tales of Zeus and his cronies: "Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in showing mercy" (Mic. 7:18). There is no God like our God. There is nothing in all the world so marvelous and true as his gospel of grace.