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Contemplations on the Book of Jonah, by Pope Shenouda III

5- The Obedience of the Irrational Creatures


The Lord shamed Jonah by the obedience of the Ninevites, the faith and righteousness of the mariners and also by the obedience of the inanimate objects and the irrational creatures.

How marvelous it is to see all these on divine missions and official errands which they performed to the best and most perfect degree.

What were those irrational creatures that were beneficial elements in accomplishing the Divine purpose?

When Jonah went down into the ship, the Divine Inspiration tells us: "But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up" (Jon. 1:4). Image: Balaenoptera Musculus whale صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: حوت من نوع بالاينوبتيرا ماسكولوس Image: Balaenoptera Musculus whale

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: حوت من نوع بالاينوبتيرا ماسكولوس

The wind performed its duty. It was a messenger sent by the Lord. It led people to prayer so that everyone cried out to his god. The prophet went down into the ship, unconcerned about calling people to prayer, whereas this stormy wind succeeded in what the prophet failed. In this is a fulfillment of the words of the Psalm: "Stormy wind, fulfilling His word" (Ps. 148:8). We sing these beautiful words twice a day in the fourth antiphon, contemplating this wind which fulfils His word.

In the same way that this stormy wind performed its duty at the beginning of the story, so it performed another duty at its end, where the Holy Bible says: "And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind, and the sun beat on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself" (Jon. 4:8), and we have discussed this issue before here on in other pages. Thus Jonah came to reasoning with God which ended in his reconciliation to God. This was due to that stormy wind which was fulfilling His word. Is it not beautiful that this wind is described with more or less the same expression given to the mighty in strength, the angels of God, "who do His word, heeding the voice of His word" (Ps. 103:20)?

In the same way that God used the wind He also used the whale to fulfill His purpose. In this respect the Holy Bible says firstly: "Now, the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah was in the belly, of the ,fish three days and three nights" (Jon. 1:17), then returns and says: "So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land" (Jon. 2:10).

Thus the whale received Divine commands and carried them out accurately, circumspectly and according to the Lord's purpose.

In the same way that God used the wind and the whale He also used the sun, the worm and the plant. The Holy Bible says: "And the Lord God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah" (Jon. 4:6), and says: "But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered" (Jon. 4:7), and also says: "And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind. and the sun beat on Jonah's head" (Jon. 4:8).

All creatures are in the hand of God. He uses them according to His purpose and in accordance with His will. They are in His hand malleable and submissive. He says to them: "Go, O wind! Go, O sun! Go, O wave! Go, O worm!...... and everything is accomplished, without dispute. All these creatures are faithful messengers. Thus God used the inanimate objects to convince man, and used the irrational creatures to shame the rational.

In the Book of Jonah, all these creatures were obedient to God. The only creature who was not obedient was the rational Jonah whom God had granted free will by which he could disobey Him!

It is true that frequently man misuses his intellect and his freedom. Many a time does man trust in his own wisdom so much that it conflicts with God's will. Accordingly, the Holy Bible says: "And lean not on your own understanding" (Prov. 3:5) and gives the reason by the maxim which is mentioned twice in the Book of Proverbs: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Prov. 14:12 & 16:25). Man is always self-elated over his own discretion and prudence. This is why the Holy Bible says: "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes" (Prov. 21:2). Even so is the foolish (Prov. 12:15). Such is man. As for other creatures they know nothing but obedience. However, not all men were disobedient in the Book of Jonah. All people obeyed save Jonah the Prophet!

Perhaps the most important obedience God requires from us is the obedience in the difficult missions, and He gave us an example by the obedience of all the other creatures.

We may be pleased and rejoice when God sends us to deliver joyful tidings and in us are fulfilled the words of the Holy Bible:

"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things" (Rom.

10: 15). We rejoice for those missions for the vain-glory we gain through people's praise and thanksgiving. As for the difficult missions they are burdensome to us, and when we carry them out, we do that for the sake of God alone.

How difficult is a mission in which God requests one of His children to cry out against a city that it will be overthrown. Abraham the Patriarch interceded for Sodom, pleading that it might not be destroyed, although he was not commissioned to cry out against it, but he could not bear the news of its destruction even though from afar.

Jonah did not flee from carrying out the errand due to his commiseration over Nineveh's destruction. On the contrary, he fled for fear that the city should subsist and not perish. He did not say any compassionate word nor did he intercede for it as Abraham did for Sodom, but he was sad, vexed and was exceedingly displeased, and saw that death was better for him than life. All this was because God did not fulfill his warning to destroy the city. Was that a sort of obduracy or hard heartedness on Jonah's part? Or did his esteem to his word supersede all else, even love and compassion? I do not know.

As for all the other creatures in the Book of Jonah, they carried out all the Lord's orders, whether they be seemingly joyful or troublesome. It was enough for them that these orders proceeded from the mouth of God.

God ordered the wind to buffet the ship vigorously so that the ship was about to break. The wind did as God commanded, and it was so. It did not say, "Why should the peaceful innocent mariners bear the brunt? Why should I cause them a great tempest in the sea?" No. It did not. We are not more compassionate than God. God actually proved that was His all wise disposition by which He led the mariners and the passengers to faith.

God willed that the sea should rage and it did rage, and willed that it should become quiet after throwing Jonah into it, and it did become quiet. How wondrous is the obedient nature which, unlike man, carries out all God's orders.

God ordered the whale to swallow Jonah and it swallowed him without harming him because it did not receive an order from God to eat him. Then God ordered the whale to vomit Jonah onto dry land, and it vomited him where it pleased God.

I sometimes pause in amazement, contemplating how these creatures received orders from God and how they understood them and carried them out! They have no intellect and cannot discern. It was all due to God's will acting in them.

In the same way that God ordered the great fish to carry out part of the Divine plan, He also gave an order to the little worm. He ordered it to smite the plant, and the plant withered. How amazing to see that even the worm is part of the complete holy act of God. Indeed how beautiful are the words of the Holy Bible: "Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones" (Matt. 18:10).

God's will is carried out in the way that accords with His pleasure, not as nature in its foolishness, dictates. Sage is he who resigns to God's will whatever it is.

God ordered the plant to grow and be shade for Jonah's head in order to "deliver him from his misery", and it carried out this compassionate order. God commissioned the sun to beat on Jonah's head so that he grew faint and desired death, and it did as the Lord ordered. It is not kinder to Jonah than God. There must be a benefit behind the sun's beating otherwise God would have not ordered it to happen. And it was so.

Indeed nature and all the irrational creatures in their relation with God are similar to the heavenly inhabitants. They only know the term "Your will, be done ".

May we take a lesson from all these creatures and realize also the depths of the term " Your will be done" in our life and in people's lives. Jonah failed to observe this term and could not attain to it until after many trials and wrestles with God, and after punishment and convincements. Finally God succeeded in convincing him of the goodness of His Divine will no matter how incompatible it was with his own.

God created the intellect as a blessing to man. Many a time this intellect stands as an obstacle between man and the life of surrender!

This happens when the intellect works alone detached from the illumination of the Holy Spirit and detached from humility by which the intellect stoops down, submitting to God's will. Someone touched his head, saying: "This is Adam's apple". He means that his mind is the cause of all his falls and trials.

The mind is not the only thing which stands against the will of God when convinced with other matters that disagree with His order or when it puts God's orders in the crucible of investigation and analysis. There is also the passion which may desire things forbidden by the Lord and therefore it may stand against the will of God.

Hence when man's intellect and passion are in the hand of God, then man's will is in accordance with God's will.

Man's obedience will be out of assurance, convincement and love for God's commandments. Man's obedience will be rejoicing at God's commandments and orders as he who finds great treasures as David did. If man's will contradicts with God's will, man will suffer imbalance whether in his thinking or in the desires of his heart.

In the case of incompatibility of these two wills, man has to choose between two ways of obedience: either he humbles himself, blaming himself, admitting his error and trying to reform his inner self in order to accept God's will gladly, or forces himself to obey whether or not he understands God's will, whether or not he accepts it from within. The important thing is that he must obey and say to the Lord in every matter: "Your will be done".

However, Jonah could not say to the Lord, "Your will be done". He could not humble himself before the Lord. He could not coerce himself to obedience. Thus God Himself had to intervene as we will see next.                     Divider فاصل - موقع الأنبا تكلاهيمانوت

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