Biblical Proportions?

In my day, in what you would call BC (Before Christ) or BCE (Before the Common Era–what ever the hell that means), when earthquakes, famine, pestilence, or other disasters struck, it was seen as a not-so-subtle hint from God to straighten up and fly right.

To repent for their bad behavior, the Israelis covered themselves with ashes and wore coarse garments (really). Denying themselves physical comfort and pleasure was a sign of penitence. They fasted. They rethought their direction. Eventually, things would return to normal. They would briefly be thankful, but soon–like every other group of humans–they would slide back into their old habits.

My favorite among them was Jonah. Not a very striking or significant man, as I recall–in fact, he was rather plain and unremarkable. God told him to go to Nineveh to tell the people there to repent or be destroyed. Jonah saw this as a fool’s errand at best, or a suicide mission, so he tried to hide from God. Naturally, he did not succeed. On board a ship during his futile attempt, a storm arose, he was blamed, tossed overboard, and swallowed by a fish. (Even I know that whales are not fish–so there.) By hook or by crook (or fish), he ended up closer to Nineveh and got the hint.

Grudgingly, he delivered God’s message to the people of Nineveh. Surprisingly, at least to him, everybody listened–including the king. They all repented, donned sackcloth, and sat in the ashes or dust as a sign of their acceptance of God’s judgement and to express regret for their actions.

God spared Nineveh.

The people of Nineveh were grateful–but not Jonah. He had expected to see great power come down from the heavens to destroy the city–fire, brimstone, lightning, avenging angels, and more. Because the people and their king had repented, there were no celestial fireworks.

Jonah was disappointed.

God was not. He was pleased.

Maybe today’s pandemic is a not-so-subtle hint to you.

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