Jonah – Navigating a God-centered Life
Colin S Smith
Christian Focus Publications
Star Rating: 5
Having preached twice through the book of Jonah over past years, reading several commentaries on the book in the process, I wondered whether Colin Smith’s book would help me. But, in the event, it made me want to preach through Jonah again!
In his introduction, the author tells us that his book is ‘about the possibility that, having pledged your life to Christ, you may end up spending much of that life avoiding the God you set out to serve’.
That sets the tone for the rest of the book. It is a book about us, as much as about Jonah. It exposes how self-centred we often are and uses Jonah’s experience as a corrective.
The book comprises eight short chapters, which take the reader through Jonah’s story with a deft touch, helpful illustrations and probing application. Each chapter’s title summarises well an aspect of ‘navigating a God-centred life’, from ‘Embrace God’s call’ to ‘Rejoice in God’s salvation’.
Along the way, the author deals helpfully with the place of prayer, the need to have confidence in God’s Word, the sovereignty of God’s grace, submission to God’s providence, and the call to us, as well as Jonah, to reflect God’s compassion.
Without explicitly referring to Jesus’ teaching about Jonah, he brings out clearly how Jonah’s experience is symbolic of the experience of Jesus.
The author is rigorous in highlighting Jonah’s flaws, but he does so in such a way that we realise that we are often like him. For example, he comments on Jonah’s attitude at the outset in these terms: ‘Jonah was respected as a man who spoke God’s Word and led God’s people, but he placed boundaries on where he would live, what he would do and how he would serve. When God disrupted his plan, his selfish heart was exposed and he quit’.
How many of us are like that? However, we are not left to wallow in our failure. Indeed, the author points out that Jonah was moved to write his book ‘in the form of a confession, in which he tells us more about his struggles than his triumphs, so that we will find hope in our times of greatest darkness’.
And Smith’s treatment, in the final chapter, of the sovereignty of God in salvation, and how that is an impetus rather than an impediment to evangelism, is masterly. Highly recommended.