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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Bible series presents a tale about a whale

Dr. John Holbert, professor of homiletics, speaks at the BIble Storytellers Series.
Christina Parrish
Dr. John Holbert, professor of homiletics, speaks at the BIble Storytellers Series.

Dr. John Holbert, professor of homiletics, speaks at the BIble Storytellers Series. (Christina Parrish)

Though the story of Jonah is thousands of years old, Dr. John Holbert, professor of homiletics, told his listeners on Wednesday during a noon discussion in the Hughes-Trigg Forum, the prophet is still alive and is present.

“The story of Jonah is about a prophet gone bad,” Holbert said. “He knows the truth but doesn’t know it all. He can quote and quote the word of God but he cannot know what it means.”

Holbert’s spin on the common biblical tale did not emphasize Jonah’s success as a prophet, but rather his failures to trust in God’s plans.

When first called upon by God to get up and go to Nineveh, the prophet headed west as fast as he could, Holbert said. Instead of sharing the word of God with the Ninevites like he was called upon to do, he headed as far away from God as he could on a ship going to Tarshish.

God then created a storm in the sea and Jonah revealed he was a Hebrew and fearful of the Lord and told the men to throw him in. However, Holbert still did not give the prophet credit for such a declaration.

“Some people like to imagine here that (Jonah) has been converted by a Billy Graham who came floating along in the sea,” Holbert said. “I don’t think so. With that wonderful statement of prayer, (the sailors) have all been converted out of the mouth of this trashy little prophet.”

Holbert continued with the sarcasm as he described Jonah’s prayer to the Lord after being in the stomach of the whale for three days and three nights.

“Jonah really knew the Bible well,” Holbert said. “He dropped scripture at the drop of a collection plate. It’s a fish-belly religion you might call it. And after that my friends, the big fish threw up Jonah. My sentiments go to the fish.”

Once in Nineveh, Jonah gave a five-word sermon that caused all to bow down to the cows, which caused the prophet to become angry, Holbert said.

“He quotes and quotes songs and passages, but all that comes out of him [is] not of love at all but of hatred,” Holbert said.

No longer joking, Holbert said that the important lesson from Jonah is to remember that in this world God loves everyone, even Ninevites. Holbert concluded by reminding his audience of Jonah’s presence among them.

“When things don’t get played out my way I am Jonah,” Holbert said. “Remember Jonah. He sits here and there and thanks God for his gift.”

Holbert’s story of Jonah was the first of three in part of the Bible Storytellers Series. The next story will be about Jeremiah on March 28 at noon in the Hughes-Trigg Forum with Dr. William J. Bryan.

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