Summary: For our God of compassion - no one is beyond the pale - not even in Ninevah

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NR 18-09-05

No one is too bad for the Love of God

In February, 1891, the "Star of the East", a whaling ship from Liverpool, England was hunting whales in the South Atlantic near the Falkland Islands.

A whale was sighted and two boats sent to kill it.

The first boat successfully harpooned the whale, but it swam away, dragging the boat with it.

Later, the harpooner in the accompanying boat also succeeded in harpooning the whale.

Both boats were towed about three miles by the whale, before it "sounded" or went below the surface. It then came back up to the surface and in its death throes, capsized one of the whaling boats.

All but two crew members were rescued by the other boat.

A few hours later, the now dead whale was lashed to the side of the ship and the crew began the task of cutting it up.

When they came to the stomach, they hoisted it onto the deck and were shocked to see something moving around inside.

They quickly cut the stomach open and found one of the missing sailors, 35 year old James Bartley, inside alive, but unconscious.

He was soon revived, but for two weeks was delirious. By the end of the third week he had recovered sufficiently to go about his duties again.

Sir Francis Fox wrote of Bartley :

His skin -where it was exposed to the action of the gastric juice - . . . face, neck and hands were bleached to a deadly whiteness and took on the appearance of parchment . . . (and) never recovered its natural appearance . . . (though otherwise) his health did not seem affected by his terrible experience. (

Is this story a modern day story of Jonah – or as some people think - a seaman’s yarn? I leave you to judge.

Jonah was one of the Old Testament readings in the Lectioanry this week. As I thought and prayed about the passage, it seemed to me that the book of Jonah has a lot of similarities with the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant that I preached on last Sunday.

You may recall that the two key points from the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant were

1. that forgiveness goes to the heart of the Gospel – and

2. as we have been forgiven so much by God, so Jesus calls us – as his disciples to have a similar compassion - to that which God has to us - towards others.

For me the story of Jonah teaches us two important things

1. Firstly that no one is too bad for the grace of God and

2. Secondly God wants us to have the same compassion for others as he has had for us.


Some commentators think the book of Jonah is a parable or an allegory - but I think that there may be evidence for the story being historical.

Why –

1. Firstly, because we do find a reference to the Prophet Jonah the son of Amittai in one of the historical books of the OT, where it says:

“25 He (Jereboam the Second) was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, in accordance with the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher. (2 Kings 15:25)

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