Unpacking Jonah with Tim Mackie

I recently became aware of Tim Mackie through the Bible Project. I’d heard good things about Tim in the past and raving reviews about the Bible project. After one video, I was 100% hooked!

Good Bible teaching has always been a passion of mine. Back in my early teens, I remember listening to TONS of John MacArthur while doing chores. I have always been particularly attracted to the speakers who brought a depth of historical knowledge and context to the Bible. It makes it come alive for me. In fact, I enjoy the historical context so much that I studied Hebrew for 3 years in high school! (In case you are wondering, I can still sound out Hebrew, but my vocabulary is pretty much nonexistent. לא טוב)

The way Tim Mackie is able to effectively summarize whole books of the Bible in a matter of minutes, including historical context and relevant application, is amazing to me. So I was very excited when my sister recommended I take a look at his podcast Exploring My Strange Bible. It took a few months to get around to it, but boy is it good!

I started with the very first podcast, which is Part 1 of his 5 part Jonah series, The Amazing Jonah. The titles of the various parts are:

  1. Running From Your Life
  2. Asleep at the Wheel
  3. A Severe Mercy
  4. Thrones and Ashes
  5. When God Loves Your Enemy

My expectations were not high, I must admit. I know the book of Jonah. I’ve heard the story. I get the major themes. And I’ve struggled (like many of you probably have) trying to grapple with the logical ramifications of getting swallowed by a fish. All in all, it’s an “action packed” story that I’ve found to be a little underwhelming in terms of personal impact. That all changed.

Turns out, Jonah is not really so much a story of someone running from God so much as it is a story about our own personal biases and excesses. Tim paints the narrative as a story about the supposed protagonist, who turns out to be a pretty horrible person, and the supposed antagonists who have hearts so soft that they repent after a 5 word sermon!

What is even more fascinating is that the literary tone of the story, according to Mackie, isn’t meant to be taken as a literal history, but is much more like a Saturday Night Live sketch. The excesses and over-the-top nature of the story is really quite comical. (Now, that’s not saying the story can’t be literal. Mackie takes great pains to point out that as Christians, we believe that Jesus raised from the dead, which is much more miraculous than anything in Jonah.)

This new understanding of the flavor of Jonah brought new life into this book for me. I now find myself spending much less time thinking about “how” God did the things in the book and much more time thinking about the symbolic nature and how often I, as an ambassador for God, fall into the same bigoted, self serving trap that Jonah embodied.

I found this sermon series both enjoyable and challenging. Understanding some of the literary nuances in the Bible make me love it even more! I highly recommend this series and think it will blow your mind!

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