Q&A with Anthony J. Carter
Author of “Running from Mercy”
What prompted you to write on Jonah and write this book? Who did you write it for?
Jonah has long been a favorite of mine. Since the days of my youth, the story of Jonah was exciting and fun. In my latter days it is still exciting but also sobering. I see myself in Jonah and so many ways see God’s hand in my life as it was in Jonah’s. I like to think of Jonah as the everyman’s prophet. That is, each of us can relate to Jonah’s rejection of God’s will, as well as God’s relentless pursuit of us until we realize that God’s mercy is for our good.
I wrote the book for anyone who desires to understand how God works in our lives to use us for His glory and the good of others. Anyone, whether a believer or not, could read this book and find something of God’s message of mercy and love for them.
Is Jonah just a big fish story . . . or is there something else there?
Unquestionably there is a big fish in the account of Jonah. Jonah couldn’t avoid the fish, and neither than those of us who read about it. While the great fish is a memorable part of the story, it is not the only great thing in the story. There is also a great city, a great wind, a great storm, and a great revival. However, the greatest aspect to the account is a great God, who is great in mercy and grace. The greatness of the fish should serve to point us to the greatness of God.
You speak so highly in this book of God’s grace. What is the grace of God, and how does having a big view of God and His grace change us?
God’s grace is His unearned goodness and kindness toward sinners. It is motivated by nothing outside of God. It is the manifestation of His inherent disposition, which is eternally loving, good and kind. Jonah, as much as any book of the Bible, puts God’s grace center stage. Grace becomes great when we realize the greatness of our sin. Jonah sinned greatly. The Ninevites sinned greatly. Yet, God’s grace was greater. This is what we learn from Rom. 5:20 that the only thing greater than our sin is God’s grace. You can’t out-sin God’s grace and forgiveness. When a person realizes that, it’s a game changer.
You mention that the story of Jonah points toward the gospel of Jesus. How so?
The book of Jonah paints for us a picture of what God is willing to do to forgive sinners, even those who rebel against Him. He is relentless in His pursuit of those who have sinned against Him. The coming of Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of God’s relentless mercy toward sinners. The gospel is the message of God saving sinners. The book of Jonah is the message of God saving sinners. Whether it was Jonah or the people of Ninevah, or you and I today, God’s gospel message has always been the same: There is mercy and grace for sinners through the coming of Jesus Christ.
How do you hope readers use this book?
I pray the book is used as a tool for furthering the reader’s understanding and hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I pray people use it for personal enrichment and encouragement. Also, I pray it would be a tool for discipleship, whether in a group setting or one-on-one study.
How do you hope readers grow from reading it?
Jonah is a relatable prophet. Most of us have been there in one way or another. Yet, as with Jonah, God never gave up on us. He doesn’t give up on His will for sinners to be saved and rebels to come home. I hope the readers are encouraged in knowing that God loves them and hasn’t given up on them. He pursues them for good. I hope they learn they can trust God. I hope the readers are reminded of what Jonah always reminds me: God is great and greatly to be praised.