A young man was preparing to leave home for his first year at college. Both the boy and his father were committed Christians, and the father was having some concerns about his son attending a secular college. Just prior to his son’s leaving home, the father came to him and expressed his concern: “Son, I want you to know how important it is that you don’t go off to college and get confused and mesmerized by all the secular teaching you’re going to hear. I don’t want you to lose your faith in the Scriptures—and I especially don’t want you to lose Jonah out of your Bible.”
“Dad, that’s not going to happen,” his son assured him. “I’ll be fine. I’ll go to college and come home and I’m sure I’ll still believe the story of Jonah.”
So off he went to school. At the end of the first semester he returned home, and his father called him into his study to talk. “Well, son, do you still believe in Jonah?”
“Yes, sir, I do. But I don’t think you do.”
“What are you talking about, Son?” the father asked.
“Dad, you don’t even have Jonah in your Bible,” the son answered.
“Why, of course I do. What are you talking about?”
“Sorry, Dad. You don’t. Hand me your Bible.”
The father pulled his Bible off the shelf and gave it to his son. The young man turned to where Jonah should have been and, sure enough, Jonah was missing from the father’s Bible. “What happened to Jonah?” the father asked incredulously.
“Well, Dad,” the son said. “You were so concerned about my not losing faith in books like Jonah when I went off to college that I decided to see how valuable it was, so I carefully cut it out of your Bible. It hasn’t been there for months.” His father was speechless. “After all, Dad, is it any worse to lose Jonah from education than it is to lose it from neglect?”
This story illustrates that Jonah is one of those books in the Bible that everyone is familiar with but no one seems to read. How is it that every Christian, and many non-Christians, know the story of Jonah and the whale but have either never read the whole book, or if they have read it, know little else about it? I guess it goes back to our tendency in Sunday school to tell the stories that hold children’s attention: Moses parting the Red Sea, Joshua at the battle of Jericho, Daniel in the lion’s den, and yes, Jonah and the whale. Well, who can blame our Sunday school teachers? Jonah is a great story!
Jeremiah, David. 1998. The Runaway Prophet: Jonah (Study Guide). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.