How is the ancient story of Jonah the prophet a microcosm of the human story in the 21st century? How does the prophet’s rebellious spirit and his resulting circumstances demonstrate the surprising and unstoppable grace of God?
Bible Gateway interviewed Anthony Carter (@eastpc) about his book, Running from Mercy: Jonah and the Surprising Story of God’s Unstoppable Grace (B&H Books, 2018).
Briefly describe the story found in the book of Jonah.
Anthony Carter: The story of Jonah is the story of God. It’s the story of God’s desire to use sinners in sharing the message that God saves sinners.
Jonah was a prophet called upon by God to go preach the message of salvation to those whom Jonah had determined did not deserve the mercy of God. Jonah refuses to go but soon discovers that God’s will does not get compromised by the will of men. Jonah suddenly finds himself in the middle of a storm—both naturally and spiritually. From the depths of the storm, he’s thrown into the depths of the sea; Jonah finds himself running from God, but he can’t outrun God. God finally gets Jonah’s attention, and Jonah repents of his sin while in the belly of a fish. The greatness of God’s mercy is seen in that God commissions Jonah a second time. And this time, Jonah preaches to the people of Nineveh. They repent and are the recipients of the mercy and grace of God as well. Jonah is frustrated at their repentance because he believes God’s mercy is too wide. Yet, God reminds Jonah that the mercy that was wide enough for him is also wide for all who call upon his name.
This is the forty-second lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
Life and Light Books
It is fair to ask the question: “How will my life be better if I understand the Bible better?” because it certainly is possible to own a Bible, carry a Bible, read the Bible, listen to Bible teachings and sermons, and neglect working to understand what the Bible actually means. It is worth everything to understand the Bible better.
First, understanding the Bible leads to a fruitful life. The very first words of the very first Psalm say this:
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers. (Ps. 1:1-3)
There’s a brand-new title in the Bible Gateway Plus library—the Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson). This commentary tackles difficult passages head-on using a balanced approach. It offers a concise, yet thorough set of passage notes that cover every verse of the Bible, which you can open in Bible Gateway right alongside the passages you’re reading (see how Bible Gateway Plus works here).
Unlike other commentaries in the Bible Gateway Plus study library sidebar, the Believer’s Bible Commentary illuminates the meaning of Bible passages by bolding key words and phrases to make it easier to focus on the ways in which God moves through the text. Whereas other commentaries are exceptionally thorough—sometimes overwhelmingly so—Believer’s treats each verse to a comparatively shorter note that concisely explains one or two important points.
I’ve found this particularly helpful when reading poetic and wisdom books like Psalms and Proverbs. In the case of these books, too, the Believer’s Bible Commentary actually has more notes to offer than longer commentaries, such as the well-known Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan).
By Craig Groeschel
Seeing so much poverty everywhere makes me
think that God is not rich. He gives the appearance
of it, but I suspect some financial difficulties.
—Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
If only life were like a sitcom.
When I was growing up, there wasn’t so much graphic violence and corruption on TV—all those antiheroes we were just talking about. And that’s probably just as well, because I imagine my parents wouldn’t have let me watch those shows anyway. So I grew up on a steady diet of classic sitcoms: The Brady Bunch, Happy Days, The Andy Griffith Show, and the scandalously sexy Three’s Company.
When life’s circumstances take you on an emotional roller coaster ride, how do you obey the Bible’s call to “be joyful always” when it sounds almost crazy—and out of reach?
Bible Gateway interviewed Stasi Eldredge (@StasiEldredge) about her book, Defiant Joy: Taking Hold of Hope, Beauty, and Life in a Hurting World (Thomas Nelson, 2018).
What’s the difference between “joy” and “defiant joy”?
Stasi Eldredge: The answer is an easy one. Joy means to have great pleasure or delight.
In this world we find ourselves living in, having joy in the midst of it often feels both crazy and out of reach. That’s why we need to possess a defiant stance.
Defiant means to stand against the tide. It means to go against the flow that’s comprised of a strong current of despair and difficulty. Believing that sorrow and loss don’t have the final word takes defiance. To have joy in the midst of pain or the current newsfeed can seem impossible.
And all on our own, it’s impossible. But just as Gabriel said after making his outlandish proclamation to Mary that she, a virgin, would give birth to the Savior of the world, “Nothing is impossible with God.”
When you read the Bible what do you hear? Can you identify the sounds in specific Bible passages? Take the brief 6-question Bible quiz below to find out and share with your friends!
Then download Bible Gateway’s free Bible Audio App to capture the audio richness of the Bible’s dramatic stories being read or dramatized.
With Bible Gateway’s Bible Audio App you can hear as well as read (at the same time) the Bible while on your daily commute, doing household chores, or as you drift off to sleep. Listen and read along with the Bible wherever you have an internet connection. It’s free and easy to use.
Bible Gateway’s Bible Audio App is a great tool to help you memorize Bible verses and passages. The verse text appears on your screen as you listen and changes when the spoken verse changes. And you can quickly swipe to navigate between verses.
“Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.” Isaiah 55:3 (NIV)
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Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit, Jacob and the stairway to heaven, Joseph and his brothers, Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath, Jonah and the big fish: the Bible is full of dramatic stories that have made it the world’s bestselling book, and yet few people ever get around to reading it from cover to cover.
Bible Gateway interviewed Philip Law (@SPCKPublishing), editor of The One Hour Bible: From Adam to Apocalypse in Sixty Minutes (SPCK, 2018), on how to gain a birds-eye view of the entire sweep of the Bible’s epic story in only 3600 seconds.
How is this book different from other Bible summaries?
Philip Law: There have been quite a few summaries and lots of anthologies published over the years. Back in 1982 Reader’s Digest published a ‘condensed’ version of the RSV—although that ran to 800 pages, so you’d still need a fair amount of time to read it. But I’m not aware of anything that offers a selection and distillation of the Bible’s main narratives, which uses only the Bible’s own words and can be read in one sitting.
By Bryan Loritts
On a Sunday in the late 1700s, a black man walked into a church and began praying. What he didn’t realize was that he was doing so in the whites-only section of the church. Incensed by his audacity, the people around him immediately confronted him and tossed him outside onto the streets of Philadelphia. African Americans were so appalled by what they had witnessed that they left the church and formed what would become the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
This bit of a history lesson is not to incite guilt, for we are a resilient people, and one of the most mystifying truths is how we have held on to something that rejected us and was used as justification to enslave the likes of my great-great-grandfather, who was led to faith by his enslavers. As the songwriter was wont to say, “God moves in a mysterious way.” The black church was birthed out of rejection. Just about every historic black denomination is the offspring of white folks wanting nothing to do with us.
This is the forty-first lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
Life and Light Books
I still cherish my boyhood memories of going fishing with my grandfather. It seems like it was yesterday. One day while I was sorting through the wide variety of tackle I had collected, fidgeting with lures and sinkers and bobbers and the rest in my fancy tackle box, my grandfather looked at me and said: “Mel, you won’t catch a thing unless your hook is in the water.” Of course, he was right. His hook was always in the water, and he had much more to show for it.