Preaching God’s Overwhelming Freedom - A Homiletical Practice of Reading on the Book of Jonah (4:4-11) -


Choi, Jin Bong

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This study is motivated by re-thinking of what the primary task of preaching is. One of preacher’s pitfalls is to think that preaching ministry can go without biblical readings or reading the text is one thing; designing the sermon is another. However, Preaching, in its nature, is the church’s practice on the biblical text. Before going to sermonic notes, preaching gets into the text in order to bring out the message of gospel for the church today. Thus, in order to re-establish preaching task in right place and integrate biblical readings and sermonic designs, homiletic methods need to be developed. This paper is originated as one of case-studies for the integration of the two. In order to do so, this study reads scene seven (4:4-11) of the book of Jonah and finds out a homiletical outlet for preaching God’s overwhelming freedom. The first course of reading is textual studies on Jonah 4:4-11. They are made up of three assignments: one is intentions of Jonah, another is structure of 4:4-11, and the other is the problem of 4:5. Through the textual reading, the reader gets to know, as Jacques Ellul points out, that Jonah story is a revelation to open up human’s relation with God and God’s way of dealing with the human world. The second course of reading is rhetorical one which includes four tasks. Rhetorical reading helps the reader sense what the text discloses through its rhetorical and literary compositions. Specially, its symmetrical structures and rhetorical questions play key roles to open up the conflicts and ironies of the story and God of overwhelming free will to compassion as a resolution. The third course of reading is theological one. The previous textual and rhetorical readings give some ideas to theological reading. Walter Brueggemann’s reading on God’s free governance of compassion supports Rodolf Stertenbrink’s description of Yahweh in Jonah story. Last task for the paper is to present a homiletical outlet based on the previous readings. The biblical, rhetorical, and theological readings help the preacher create the sermon subject of “God’s freedom for compassion.” The thesis for the sermon is that God’s freedom for compassion irresistibly overwhelms our freedom for hostility. And, the preacher suggests the four-page plot designed by Paul Scott Wilson for the message.


I. Introduction
 II. Textual Readings
  1. Intentions of Jonah
  2. Structure of 4:4-11
  3. Matter of 4:5
 III. Rhetorical Readings
  1. Rhetorical Symmetries of 4:4-11
  2. Rhetorical Question
  3. Hyperbole
  4. Irony
 IV. Theological Readings
  1. Salvific Hope as Canonical Theme
  2. God of Overwhelming Free Will
 V. Homiletical Outlet: Preaching God’s Overwhelming Freedom for Compassion
  1. Preaching as A Theological Task
  2. Sermonic Subject and Thesis
  3. Sermonic Form
 VI. Conclusion


  • Choi, Jin Bong Assistant Professor of Presbyterian University & Theological Seminary


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