Most people, even those who are nonreligious, are familiar with the book of Jonah: a rebellious prophet defies God and is swallowed by a whale. Less familiar to most people is the second half of this Biblical story--what happens after Jonah is released from the belly of the fish. Yet it is in this second half of the story that one of the most powerful and important lessons of the Bible is hidden.
The famous story shows how, if we would understand the mercy of God, it will always take us in directions we would rather not go, toward people we would rather not care about, and ultimately into the deepest counsels of God. In a time of growing division, The Prodigal Prophet shows us God's love among people, and how Christians must listen to God's call even when it takes them to uncomfortable places.
Keller (Hidden Christmas), the founding pastor of Manhattan's Redeemer Presbyterian Church, argues that the biblical story of Jonah asks readers to reckon with the complex nature of God wrathful, merciful, and just instead of running from it. Keller begins by stating that, to understand the book of Jonah's many sociological insights, one must first see that "its main teaching is theological." In his view, Jonah reveals the dangers of invoking nationalism, fearing and rejecting the other, and believing that Christian identity can pass for Christian behavior. These problems, Keller argues, originate in a person's failure to reckon with sinfulness and trust God as the only source of self-worth and salvation. Keller's theological interpretation of Jonah is clear and elegant, but his exploration of its social implications is hesitant. Many readers will be frustrated by his belief that the church should be intimately connected to the state. However, his examination of a question central to many religious and political systems what is the relationship between justice and mercy? makes the book valuable and provocative for a broad audience. Christian readers looking to engage in a deep scriptural dive into the book of Jonah will find much to ponder in the implications of Keller's reading.