Putting God back on the throne

Published 7:55 pm Monday, October 14, 2019

Gath-Hepher was a border town in ancient northern Israel and the hometown of the prophet Jonah. Gath-Hepher means “wine-press;” Jonah means “dove.” Gath-Hepher is mentioned twice in the Bible, in Joshua 19:13 describing the boundaries of the land allotted to the tribe of Zebulun and in 2 Kings 14:25 as Jonah’s hometown in a passage describing his prophecy about Jeroboam II. 

Jerome, in his commentary on Jonah, describes Gath-Hepher as ‘an inconsiderable village’ and says that Jonah’s tomb is nearby. Now, according to Wikipedia, the only things left are the ruins of a small village on the top of a small hill at Latitude 32° 44’ 30” N and Longitude 35° 19’ 30” E and a nearby small Arab village, el-Meshed, about three miles north of Nazareth and a half-mile from Canna of Galilee.

Jonah would have been a friend of the court, having previously anointed Jeroboam’s great-grandfather Jehu when be became the king. So, God had Jonah prophesy (remember he’s the “dove” or messenger) good things about the reign of Jeroboam II; the nation of northern Israel would prosper during his reign and he would reclaim all the land lost by previous administrations. 

But there was a problem; Amos reported that as northern Israel prospered, they forgot about God. Finally they fell into the twin sins of arrogance and oppression. God pulled Jonah from northern Israel and sent him to Nineveh, their mortal enemy,but on the way he got lost and found himself in the belly of a whale.

“[7] When I felt my life slipping away, then, O LORD, I prayed to you, and in your holy Temple you heard me. [8] Those who worship worthless idols have abandoned their loyalty to you. [9] But I will sing praises to you; I will offer you a sacrifice and do what I have promised. Salvation comes from the LORD.” (Jonah 2)

Why do we wait until the last moment to reach out to God?  Jonah didn’t like what God was calling him to do; so he ran away. Only later, when he was dying in the belly of a great whale did he cry out to God. Why do we “worship worthless idols?” Prosperity fills our lives with things and quite often, those things replace God in our lives. We, since the garden of Eden, have an ongoing tendency to worship the creation and not the Creator.

And why do we, after running from God, suddenly praise God? Down deep, we know our worship is mis-placed, but we’re enjoying the “good life.” So we suppress our conscience in favor of the things filling our lives… until we are forced to face the truth. What is salvation? It’s many things, but the simplest way to describe it is “putting God back on the throne of our lives.”