Genre: Christian Living
Publisher: Crossway Books
Publication Date: May 31, 2010
It’s one of the most familiar stories in the Old Testament. All Christians know it. Most non-Christians have at least heard of it (if they’ve watched the movie Master and Commander, for example). Some may mock it, but there’s a fascination with the story of Jonah. God tells this guy to go preach doom to some people. He doesn’t want to go and leaves on a ship so God works it out so a whale swallows him alive. After praying inside the whale, the guy is spit out on the beach. Then, he goes to preach to the people. Moral: Do what God says or he’ll get you.
That’s most people’s basic understanding of the story. But there’s so much more to it than that. God reveals so much more of His character in the story of Jonah than most people realize. In his new book, Surprised by Grace, pastor Tullian Tchividjian takes readers on a grace-filled ride through Jonah’s familiar yet surprising story of God’s pursuit of those who run from Him. It’s a fantastic journey, and one that will have me thinking about Jonah’s story (and God’s grace) differently from now on.
After setting the scene with a brief introduction to the story and some pre-emptive strikes against the objections people might have to the historical accuracy of the story, Tchividjian begins to slowly unpack the numerous layers of meaning and insight in Jonah’s short story. It’s always encouraging to hear the gospel of God’s grace preached from the Old Testament, and that’s exactly what this book does. Tchividjian uses various sources (with large doses of John Calvin) to demonstrate from Jonah that God is sovereign over all events and works all things together for the good of his children by His grace. What appears to be a story about a guy being swallowed by a fish for disobeying God is shown to actually be God’s gracious provision for a man struggling with fear and pride, a state to which all of us can relate.
If, like me, you grew up hearing the story of Jonah but never really listening to it, let me encourage you to read this book. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and the book of Jonah demonstrates that his grace was just as prominent in the Old Testament as during the time of Christ and today. He’s a gracious, loving Father who pursues His children however far from Ninevah they run. I repeatedly saw myself in Tchividjian’s descriptions of Jonah’s responses to God, and this book encouraged me that God’s relentless grace pursues me in exactly the same way it did Jonah so long ago.
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This book was provided for review by Crossway Books in exchange for a review. No expectation of a positive review existed.