Meditate on God’s Mercy (Book Review)

Carter, Anthony J. Running from Mercy: Jonah and the Surprising Story of God’s Unstoppable Grace. B&H Books, Nashville, TN. 2018. 192 pages.

The story of Jonah is familiar to many. Ask Christian and non-Christian alike about the tale of Jonah and they are likely to talk to you about a man and a whale (biblically speaking “a great fish”). They may battle over the literalness of the story—non-Christians seeing it as a work of fiction and Christians believing it is non-fiction—but they generally highlight Jonah and the fish. The familiarity of the narrative highlights those facts. However, it is this familiarity to this that actually shines the wrong focus on the book of Jonah. While Jonah’s event with the great fish takes place at the center of the story, the central figure is not Jonah; the central figure in Jonah is God. It is when we see Jonah in relation to God, we see the book with a proper focus. It is with this proper focus Anthony J. Carter writes in his new book on the story of Jonah, Running from Mercy: Jonah and the Surprising Story of God’s Unstoppable Grace.

Devotional-Like Commentary on Responding to God’s Mercy

Walking the reader through the book of Jonah in a devotional-like commentary, Pastor Carter introduces the theme of each passage in Jonah, explaining briefly the text while also weaving other Scriptures in to illustrate and apply. He also shows what the book of Jonah looks like applied to today and how it speaks to each person’s life. The clear and constant characteristic of Anthony Carter’s teaching on Jonah is his focus on God throughout the book. As Jonah flees from the LORD, Brother Carter highlights the God who is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent (Carter 15–21). Again, in the concluding verses of the book of Jonah, Carter once again shines the light on the greatness and character of God.

The story is a narrative about Jonah in relation to God, as he is a prophet who rebelled, repented, and still needed to learn a lesson on his sinfulness. The point of Running from Mercy is even as Jonah ran from what God had called him to do in preaching to the Ninevites, the mercy of God was on display. It was on display as God showed mercy to Jonah, and it was on display as God showed mercy to Nineveh. Jonah’s problem was not of the mercy He received but the mercy the Lord extended to another. The story of Jonah is a true story of responding to the mercy of God.

A Forced and Faithful Application

With God’s heart for extending mercy to the nations a theme in the book, it is not a surprise to see an exhortation of application on the race relations we currently face in our culture. While I do believe the book of Jonah does help speak to this issue, the placement of one exhortation by Pastor Carter in Jonah 1. As Jonah flees to Tarshish, the connection as to how it relates to justice and being “woke” (Carter 26–27) felt like a slightly forced application.

What may be seen as a forced application does not deny the need for such justice. Nor does it discount the book of Jonah addressing the issue. The book does, and it does so faithfully in Jonah 4 (see chapter 6 of Running from Mercy) as Brother Carter takes a look at the sinfulness and insanity of racism (starting on page 125). Case in point, the application drawn from Jonah 4 flows more naturally from the text and can be seen more clearly as faithful application of the text than the passage of Jonah 1.

All things considered, Anthony J. Carter proves to be a wise and faithful guide on leading the reader to meditate on the mercy of God as they make their way through the book of Jonah. Running from Mercy is a devotional-like commentary that will comfort you with the mercy of God you can receive through Jesus Christ, and it is a resource that will challenge you to extend mercy to others just as God has done to all peoples and nations in Christ. If you are looking for the encouragement of God’s mercy as a rebel and learning to extend that same mercy as one redeemed, then grab your copy of Running from Mercy by Anthony J. Carter today!

I received this book from B&H/Lifeway Bloggers Program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

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