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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Day 12: Musings From a Sixth Reading of the Great Book

Chapter 9: Day 12: The Sermon

“But all the things that God would have us do are hard for us to do – remember that – and hence, he oftener commands us than endeavors to persuade. And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists.”



The words above are from Father Mapple’s sermon. Father Mapple is telling the parishioners about Jonah and how he came to be in the belly of the beast. Jonah, Father Mapple says, disobeyed God, but the Father also says, never mind how. We figure out that God wanted Jonah to do something and Jonah ran away from God in order to not do the thing. I mean, it’s oddly relatable, right?

Father Mapple then says how hard it is for humans to obey God. In fact, it is so difficult that God must command us rather than try to persuade us. And the logic makes sense. If we think we are right, but obey God’s commandment, then we are disobeying ourselves to obey God’s law. Again, relatable, but why the Jonah story? What are we supposed to get from this anecdote?

I see a correlation this time between Ahab and Jonah. Both are running from God; both men obeying themselves. A few paragraphs ahead we will see Jonah described “with slouched hat,” a description we will later see to describe Ahab.

Is this sermon a warning about the need for man to bow to the Lord’s commandments? Jonah went to the bottom of the sea, but was eventually redeemed. But what of the men who went to the bottom of the sea whose names decorate the walls of the chapel? Did they deserve a watery death?

The sermon goes on. I’m digging it this time around! No commentary from Ishmael. He’s just listening.

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