The Rime of the Runaway Prophet
Jonah’s running from the Lord. The Lord had told him, “Go, Preach my word to Nineveh.” But Jonah answered, “No!” “I like my job in Israel. The people think I’m great. Preach your word to that vile herd? To people that I hate? “Sorry, God—I’m out of here. Please find another guy. The ship is here, the coast is clear, I’m off to Tarshish. Bye.” Jonah’s sleeping in the ship. The sailors cry with fright— God’s sent a storm, their sails are torn— It is a dreadful night! “Wake up, wake up!” the captain cries, “Pray that we perish not!” “Whose fault is this?” the sailors hiss, And so they cast the lot. The lot falls on the runaway! “Tell us where you’re from. Who are you, what do you do, And why has this storm come?” “I fear the Lord,” Jonah admits, “The only God and true. Sea and dry land are in his hand. In short, I’m a Hebrew.” “Why have you fled from him?” they ask, “What should we do to you?” “Why, throw me in, though I can’t swim.” And that is what they do. Jonah’s sinking in the sea, The storm has turned to calm. The sailors, amazed, are offering praise While Jonah’s sinking down. But God won’t let him get away. He blocked the route to Tarshish. And now he’s keeping him from death By sending him—a fish.
For anyone who may be wondering whether I can write anything but rather melancholy sonnets, I offer you this Coleridge-esque piece. I’ve given it a tiny dusting down today, but I actually wrote it quite a few years ago when my pastor at the time began a sermon series on Jonah. He described the book of Jonah as a comical book and that is, I think, what comes through in this poem. I had a lot of fun writing it and it still makes me smile when I read it now. I hope it makes you smile too.