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By James Vasquez
That awesome voice first came to me,
As I securely dwelt,
Within my home content, at peace,
And every comfort felt,
"Now Jonah rise and heed my call,
To Nineveh you’re sent,
Where one and all to gods of stone,
Their faithless hearts have lent,
"And thus declare their sin at last,
My judgment has revealed,
And lest repenting of their ways,
Their end is surely sealed."
And straightway to the coast I fled,
Some outbound ship to find,
That westward I might journey far,
And leave the voice behind.
I paid the fare – a monstrous sum,
But worth it all the same,
I had no heart for Nineveh,
Nor wished its sins to tame.
To Tarshish, then, we sailed at once,
‘Cross warm and placid sea,
I thought thereby to put an end,
To what God asked of me.
But presently a storm arose,
And beat against us hard,
The men cried out, each to his god,
Who showed us scant regard.
And lots they cast to see just who,
Might be the reason for,
This fearful storm about to end,
Our lives so far from shore.
And when on me the lot then fell,
They questioned whence I came,
Demanding that I give account,
Of country, clan and name.
And if the storm had frightened them,
More fearful yet they were,
When I explained just how it all,
For my sake did occur.
For I was fleeing him who reigns,
Above all lands and seas,
Who dwells in heav’n above all gods,
Whose wrath none can appease.
"And what," they asked, as with each wave,
Our ship rocked dangerously,
"Does now your God require of us,
That he might calm this sea?"
"My sin alone has brought this storm,"
I sorrowf’ly confessed,
"And if you throw me overboard,
The sea will be at rest."
But hesitant, they quickly found,
The waves more violent grew,
So with a prayer they grasped me well,
And o’er the side I flew.
And to their great amazement then,
The storm, the waves, the wind,
In but a moment did subside,
As if I’d never sinned.
I sank and then I sank no more,
For God appointed there,
A fish to take me in its mouth,
And then I raised my prayer.
From depths that only Sheol knows,
My life entwined with kelp,
To God in my distress I looked,
And cried aloud for help.
The currents swirled about me then,
The waves swept over me,
And plunged me to the sea’s own heart,
And thence he heard my plea.
"Though banished from your sight yet I,
Your holy temple will,
Once more behold with lucid eye,
Upon its sacred hill.
"My life was ebbing in the depths,
But you remembered me,
And lifted me from deep within,
The roiling, untamed sea.
"Now those who to their idols cling,
Shall ne’er your goodness know,
For worthless will they find their prayers,
And all your grace forgo.
"Salvation, Lord, alone with you,
Is found in plenitude,
And thanks I’ll give in sacrifice,
With every vow renewed."
I found myself quite suddenly,
Upon dry ground at last,
For God commanded that the fish,
Continue on its fast,
Expelling me upon the shore,
Where I once more did hear,
The message that I first received,
Which caused me all my fear.
But I had learned through recent trials,
And knew for sure that day,
That naught there was in life to fear,
Except to disobey.
And so to Nineveh I trudged,
And from the first day preached,
A message of repentance that,
From king to begger reached.
A fast they then declared in hopes,
The people, one and all,
Their evil, violent ways would leave,
And each on God might call.
"Who knows?" the king himself declared,
"God may his wrath forsake,
And all that Jonah says may not,
Our city overtake."
And merciful, God kindly heard,
And saw all that they did,
He turned aside the end he vowed,
And all his anger hid.
By this I was most highly irked,
And angered through and through,
I thought the town’s inhabitants,
Would surely get their due.
"Did I not know, O Lord, that you,
A God of mercy are?
And thus I thought no harm would come,
By my sojourn afar.
"And while you punished me for that,
Their sin you did forgive,
Now take my life for better ‘tis,
That I expire than live."
And kindly, still, the Lord inquired,
If I had right to ire,
I answered not, but from a hill,
Observed what would transpire.
Now stranger yet than all I’ve told,
Was what I then did learn,
About my God, his mercy and,
For people his concern.
A plant, you see, rose quickly and,
Good shade provided me,
I welcomed it for from the sun,
I found no way to flee.
But God did then a worm provide,
That killed it just as quick,
And when the heat became too much,
I found myself quite sick.
And when God asked me, as before,
If such a right I had,
To show this care for just a plant,
That I should be so mad,
I answered that I did and more,
My anger now was such,
It scarcely any limits knew,
Nor death would be too much,
And in a moment’s time I learned,
Just why God spoke this way,
"Should I such penitence o’erlook,
And Nineveh betray?
"And if for plants you are concerned,
Should not my love abound,
For this great city’s people and,
Its livestock all around?"
And silenced, then, I thought a while, -
For this he’d brought me here,
That henceforth in my preaching I,
Might all his love make clear.
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