Knowing Death is the Beginning of Life
Interpreting Jonah 2: Is this a model for sinner’s prayer? Or is this a confession made under the threat of death? If Jonah repented, how do we explain chapters 3 and 4? Is this a cry out of desperation? Or is this a textbook example of the hypocrisy of human nature?
2 Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish: 2 I called to the Lord in my distress, and he answered me. I cried out for help from deep inside Sheol; you heard my voice. 3 When you threw me into the depths, into the heart of the seas, the current overcame me. All your breakers and your billows swept over me. 4 And I said, “I have been banished from your sight, yet I will look once more toward your holy temple.” 5 The water engulfed me up to the neck; the watery depths overcame me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. 6 I sank to the foundations of the mountains, the earth’s gates shut behind me forever! Then you raised my life from the Pit, Lord my God! 7 As my life was fading away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, to your holy temple. 8 Those who cherish worthless idols abandon their faithful love, 9 but as for me, I will sacrifice to you with a voice of thanksgiving. I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation belongs to the Lord. 10 Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
1. Verses 2-7: Past tense
2. Verse 8: Present tense
3. Verse 9: Future tense
1. Knowing death makes us want to live.
2. Knowing death makes us value every life.
3. Knowing death makes us living sacrifice.
Kierkegaard: Three Life Stages
1. The aesthetic stage: pursuing happiness.
2. The ethical stage: pursuing justice.
3. The religious stage: pursuing eternal values through faith.
Knowing death makes us want to live
1. Replaying three minutes for three days and three nights.
2. American spirit: self-reliance.
3. Confucius: How can I know death? I am still learning to live. I pay the gods tributes to keep them away.
4. Heidegger: to face death is to know the authentic self.
5. The pandemic-inspired existential question: is it better to bore to death or to die of asphyxiation?
Knowing death makes us value every life
1. If Jewish lives matter, just cancel Nineveh!
2. I, I, I am better than them.
3. If God is just and almighty, how could God allow the evil city of Nineveh to exist?
4. God’s rebuttal
a. If I could forgive you, why couldn’t I forgive others?
b. Do you have a right to be angry?
c. Is it justice for you to demand those who cannot tell their left hand from the right to pay for the sins of their fathers?
Knowing death makes us living sacrifice
1. People pursue eternal value through faith and transcend the personal pursuits of happiness and righteousness.
2. You can be angry and still obedient. You can sacrifice for who you hate.