Some of you may remember the song, “Sinnerman” from the early sixties.
It goes something like this: “Oh Sinnerman, where you going to run to. Oh Sinnerman where you going to run to? Run to the rock, rock won’t you hide me, run to the rock, all on that day” — and so on.
Towards the end of the lyrics, Sinnerman runs to the devil where the devil, “been wait’n.” When I think of Jonah, this song comes to mind.
Israel, in Jonah’s day, had been enjoying a period of relative peace and prosperity. A job well done deserved a reward, or so Jonah thought. Unfortunately, easy living turns to spiritual laziness, and so the Lord intervened. He had a mission trip lined up for Jonah. He was about to unleash His judgment on the Assyrians, Israel’s neighbor to the north, and He needed Jonah to warn the unsuspecting nation. The Lord gave Jonah a clear directive, but Jonah ran the other way. Didn’t he know, no Sinnerman ever could ever outrun the Lord? Still, Jonah was a pretty determined fellow. Rather than obey, Jonah boarded a ship headed south to Tarshish.
Why was Jonah less than enthusiastic about warning Nineveh of God’s impending wrath? With spiritual apathy comes arrogance. According to Jonah’s way of thinking, Nineveh, Assyria’s capital and largest city in that gentile nation, did not deserve God’s mercy. Was not Israel God’s favored nation among all nations? Jonah stated three times he’d rather die than warn Israel’s enemies. (See Jonah 1:12; 4:3, 9)
“Here’s the thing, Lord,” he protested, “You are a compassionate, relenting God, and slow to anger. You’re too merciful for your own good, and that’s why I didn’t want to go.” (BK translation)
Sinnerman run to the sea. Sea won’t you hide me … all on that day. Sinnerman … why weren’t you prayin’ … Oh Sinnerman, why weren’t you prayin’ … all on that day. Well, when Jonah’s life was ebbing away after being tossed out of the ship and swallowed by a big fish, he did pray to his merciful, relenting God, and God heard. To make a short story shorter, our reluctant missionary did as he was initially told. But when all was said and done, Jonah sat outside the city and proceeded to pout, to wait and see what the Lord would do. Horror of horrors — Nineveh repented.
“See, I told you so, Lord,” Jonah cried in anger (4:1,2).
Jonah built a shelter, which the Lord in His infinite grace covered to provide shade from the unrelenting sun. Now, Jonah was a happy camper (vs 6). Happy until the Lord intruded once more and took back the afore mentioned gift. Oh, Sinnerman, when will you ever learn?
I can relate to Jonah’s sad story. God often gives us a nudge in a certain direction, contrary to the comfort zone where retirement beckons. Where you gonna run to sinner woman? Run to the Arizona desert? Not so fast! Like Israel in Jonah’s day, we are living in relative prosperity and comfort. But I’ve been standing on the wall with Habakkuk lately, and I see trouble brewing… right here in River City—not to push the musical envelope too far. To warn or not to warn, that is the question. Okay, I’ll say it, God’s judgment is not too far off.
Retirement is a figment of the American dream. It is a new concept inspired by an entitlement mindset born in the last century, here and in Europe. This is a personal judgment call, even while I, myself, live in the uneasy comfort of just such a community. I don’t believe God meant for man to retire from the hard work of living a Christ-honoring life. If honoring God is too easy, then something must be amiss.
So, with something akin to Jonah’s reluctance, I heeded the Lord’s nudge to start a Bible study in the RV Park where I winter. It was not well received. Still, the Lord sent two faithful ladies to join me. Who knows what God will do? Yeah, sometimes I feel like sitting outside the park to pout and complain, because I’m judgmental by nature.
“They really don’t deserve Your mercy, Lord,” I mutter, sounding every bit like Jonah. Screech. Stop the record and replace the needle in the beginning grove.
“Run to the Rock. “Rock won’t you hide me … all on that day.”
Author’s note: The lyrics and melody I remember are very similar to Nina Simone’s rendition of “Sinnerman.” You can hear it on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bn5tiuZU4JI.
Please send in your faith articles (500 to 800 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org.