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In one of the most captivating stories in the Bible, a prophet is held up, not as an example of the faithful messenger and mouthpiece of God, but as one who opposed the mercy of God to sinful rebels. In Jonah 4:1-4, the prophet explains why he ran from God when told to preach to Nineveh and call them to repentance. “I knew you were a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” Jonah was angry at God’s grace. He knew what the Ninevites had done, what they deserved. Jonah was only willing to be a preacher of condemnation. He wanted to hear justice fall on the Ninevites, but had no taste or desire for God’s mercy.

Here’s inviting you to join me in assessing and redressing a small but important slice of daily life: the words we speak to the people around us. But first some context to orient you. Two weeks ago, I preached from Proverbs 9. In the preceding chapters, we overhear a father counseling his young, soon-to-be-launched-into-the-world son by means of a series of ten fatherly talks: “Listen, my son . . .” (1:8-19; 2:1-22; 3:1-12; 3:21-25; 4:1-9; 4:10-19; 4:20-27; 5:1-23; 6:20-35; 7:1-27). Then, in chapter nine, we come to the climatic conclusion in which we hear two competing “counselors”—"Woman Wisdom” (vv. 1-6) and “Dame Folly” (vv. 13-18)—bidding for the allegiance of the son’s heart: “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” (vv. 4; 16). Now the kicker: You and I are the son who must decide between the two!

It was a great plan. As you know, I was scheduled to speak this past weekend, near Yosemite, for the Family Camp of the Presbytery of Northern California. I spoke there about 10 years ago and greatly enjoyed the people there and I was really looking forward to being with them again. The plan was to speak on the book of Job. It was hard work trying to capture the essence of the book in a weekend of lectures but I was pleased with what I had come up with.