I have recently begun teaching from the book of Jonah in my adult Bible class at Trinity Bible Church. I chose this for some public and private reasons. In my teaching I regularly rotate between teaching an NT book, an OT book, and a topical series. We have just finished a short series on textual criticism and before that a long series on Romans, so we were due for some time in the OT. It has been a long while since I studied Jonah in depth, so I was interested in picking it back up again.
One important reason to me, though, stood out among others: I needed an opportunity to work through some hermeneutical issues more deeply than I had before. One of the biggest challenges to me in hermeneutics is the issue of application. Application is one of those things that we all do with the biblical text, but it is very difficult to elucidate an appropriate hermeneutical foundation for how application works. To borrow a common saying from another realm, it’s difficult to define but we know it when we see it. I thought that working through Jonah would give me a chance to focus on application and define further my principles for how it works.
Jonah does present some difficulties in application within a Christian context. First and foremost, it is an OT book. There’s a lot more of the canon which came later that affects how we think about God and how we relate to him. It is also about a prophet, a person who had a specific occupation within Israel that is not readily reproduced in the NT church context. Not to mention that the primary concern is the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, which no longer exists. These issues (as well as others marinating in my mind) make applying Jonah challenging. But in faith we affirm that as Scripture this text has something to say to us. Christians are under its authority. God can and will speak to us through this book. Put more germanely, it is certainly applicable. The challenge is how to do this consistently and appropriately within a biblical, hermeneutical framework.
I plan to post periodically with exegesis and application drawn from my teaching. Please feel free to interact with me in the comments as we work on these ideas together.