The word of the Lord came to Jonah, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for they refuse to recognize the great danger posed to them and their children for all generations.”
But Jonah knew how the politicians of Ninevah belittled and humiliated such messengers before. Jonah didn’t want to be called “a liberal” for that is an abomination. He set out to flee from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
The Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up. The mariners were afraid. They said to Jonah, “What is this that you have done!”
For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. Jonah said the Lord had told him to go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their politicians are misleading the people about the dangers of climate change.
These sailors had witnessed the rising level of the sea and the increased ferocity of the storms. They were aware of the warnings that climate change could produce the collapse of ice sheets, a rapid rise in sea levels, difficulty growing enough food, huge die-offs of forests, and mass extinctions of plant and animal species.
They threw Jonah into the sea. But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “If you will rescue me from the belly of this fish, I will do as you ask. I will speak the truth to those who do not want to hear it. I will challenge those who know the truth who don’t want it told. With the voice of thanksgiving I will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will do.”
Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land. The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”
So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. He cited a United Nations report saying, “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, the sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have risen. Forty years more, and Nineveh shall be no more!”
When Jonah’s news reached the king, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclaimed “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No coal, oil, or natural gas shall be burned, the kingdom shall invest in new infrastructure, upgrading existing highways and transmission lines, the people will buy less ‘stuff,’ weatherproof their homes, become vegetarians, stop cutting down trees, use energy efficient gadgets, and drive only plug-in hybrids.
“All shall turn from their evil, wasteful ways and from the violence that humans are doing to God’s creation. Who knows? God may relent and change God’s mind; God may turn from God’s fierce anger, so that we do not perish.”
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
(An excerpt from Rodger McDaniel’s book “The Sagebrush Gospel” now available at sagebrushgospel.com and City News)