Themes: Calling & Mercy
Bible refs: Jonah 1-4
Similar clips: Payback – Revenge is mine! Or About Schmidt – Forgiving and forgetting
Location of clip: 20 secs to 3 mins 12 secs
Basin City is hell on earth. A collection of shady characters stalk the streets and back alleys. Marv is a hulk of a man on the hunt for the guy who murdered the girl in his life. Dwight accidentally kills a cop and is desperately trying to find ways to cover his tracks. Hartigan is a cop at the end of his career, on the last day on the job, who gets jailed for a crime he didn’t commit. Together they roam this Sin City – a place of sleaze, infested with crime and killers without a conscience.
Don’t go there after dark, whatever you do.
A woman in red stands on the roof of a skyscraper overlooking the city. She is beautiful and mysterious. A handsome stranger steps out of the shadows and offers her a cigarette. She ask if he is bored with the party. He tells her he didn’t come for the party, he came for her. They embrace, they kiss, she melts into his arms. They share a moment of love together. Then there is a gunshot, her body buckles and she collapses against his chest. This handsome stranger, who declared undying love for her, has just shot her. He lowers her to the floor and says he will cash her cheque in the morning. This is the kind of amoral place Sin City has become.
Ninevah was a nasty place. Horrific by any standards. Think Sin City multiplied by a thousand. It’s a bad place to be, and right at the bottom of the list of holiday destinations. No wonder Jonah did a runner. He was scared. The Ninevites used to skin their enemies alive. Why would an alien prophet want to go there? And having got there why would he then want to publicly denounce them as a bunch of evil sinners? Jonah had good cause to flee.
We glibly say things like, “Well if God called him there he should have known he’d be okay.” But we speak with benefit of hindsight, Jonah didn’t know that. Put yourself in his shoes. E.g. Where would you not like to go right now? (That’s not supposed to spook you by the way, just a metaphor re Jonah’s call.)
We often use Jonah as inspiration for evangelism, go out there and convert the heathen. But this is not everyday stuff. For one thing – Jonah was a prophet. He was a man used to standing up in public and preaching. He was a skilled leader. His comfort zone was probably much greater than yours. So let me take a risk and say – God shoving him out into enemy territory like that is not a model for most of us. I used to fear God would pack me up and send me off to the worst, drug –infested, fleapit he could find. Just to test me to the limit. Now that may still turn out to be true – but here’s something I have learned – God uses people’s gifting, personality and experience. Take Moses – an ex-prince, murderer, speaks his mind, broken and humbled by years in the desert. Not many people could put that on their CV.
Or Abraham and Sarah – a wealthy, childless couple who are desperate for a family because in their culture that’s how you live forever. Plus Abraham’s dad had already had designs on Canaan way before Abe got a text from the Almighty.
Sarah, Abraham and Moses – three people with very specific CV’s for very specific jobs.
Quite often God places people in the kind of situations in which they function best. He doesn’t want to go making it deliberately difficult for himself or us. I don’t know Jonah’s background, but my guess is there was enough about it to suggest that he would do a good job in Ninevah. And in fact that’s just what happens. Notice that once he’s there he acquits himself very well. He tours the city and boldly announces the bad news. He preaches so powerfully that the entire population repent – even the royal family.
No wonder Jonah was disappointed – even in his obedience he probably secretly relished the prospect of watching all those violence-loving perverts going up in flames. Now he was to be denied that pleasure. God was going to bless them. Where’s the justice in that? That’s not fair. These are despicable people. A month ago they’d have skinned him alive and made bedside rugs out of him. Now they’re people with a future and a hope. How can that be? Now wonder Jonah’s angry. He comes from the same stock as the prodigal’s older brother. The same stock as me. Sometimes God’s mercy is just too outrageous. It’s just not fair.
1. Do you ever fear God might be call you to something too difficult for you?
2. What clues are there in your life and personality that might point to the kind of things God would ask of you?
3. Does God’s grace ever make you angry or jealous?
4. Most of us do not witness the kind of mass repentance that took place in Ninevah. Evangelism is a small thing – one to one. Jesus didn’t see this kind of revival either. Does that encourage you by any chance?
5. Did the clip make you think about anything else?