Whale reading: Jonah 3:1-5
Jonah enters our story. Not as an ancestor of Jesus but a preview of a one of the prophecies Jesus will fulfill.
Jonah can never be held up as an example of living like Jesus did. His story is FAR from paralleling Jesus’ story. But there is still an area of symbolic similarity.
Our reading brings us to the point in Jonah’s story where he decides to obey God. But that is NOT where he started. The story of Jonah doesn’t cover his whole life. It begins with him being called on by God to bring a message of judgement to the people of Nineveh.
Jonah decided against going where God told him to for two reasons. First, he WANTED the people of Nineveh to be punished. He was pretty certain that if he brought God’s message to the people they would repent and God would relent. His second reason ties right into his first. He didn’t want to look like a fool for crying doom when God relented.
Jonah’s reasons were selfish. He wasn’t thinking about anyone but himself when he chose not to go. He had no compassion for the people. He didn’t care about God’s plan. He wanted them to be destroyed.
I’m CERTAIN that God knew Jonah was going to resist His calling. God had prepared a great fish in advance. He hadn’t prepared a troop of men to take him or a lion to trap him but a fish. God KNEW Jonah was going to seek refuge on the sea and He was ready.
While Jonah was running away by boat, God sent a great storm to throw his ship about. The men on the ship were not of God’s people but they recognized that something had angered ‘the spirits’. Something had to be done in the spiritual world because their efforts in the physical world were failing.
In the middle of the story the sailors began calling on their gods for help. No help was coming from those useless gods. They found Jonah sleeping in the lower quarters of the ship, not contributing to their survival. The captain told him to call out to his God but Jonah didn’t. He stayed quiet. He kept up his pretense until lots were cast and he was identified as the cause of their trouble.
Only when found out did Jonah admit he was the cause of their trouble and accept his punishment. Jonah wasn’t thinking about himself at this point. He was thinking about the crew of the ship he had boarded. He told them to throw him into the sea for their own safety. They resisted this at first but when the sea grew even more dangerous they relented. Overboard Jonah went.
Jonah expected to die when thrown overboard. He did NOT expect to be swallowed by a huge fish! God wasn’t done with him and he couldn’t get away from what God called him to do so easily.
Jonah didn’t call out for forgiveness while on the boat. He didn’t call out when the waves crashed over his head. He didn’t call out to God as he sunk beneath the sea. He didn’t even call out as he was being swallowed by the fish God had prepared. At each of these phases he expected and anticipated his death, alone.
After being in the belly of the fish for some time his attitude changed. He quit wishing for and expecting death. He recognized that God still had a purpose for him. He finally called out to God in repentance and recognition. And God heard his prayer.
God was waiting for Jonah to voice that very prayer. The one that recognized Him as Lord of ALL. The one that would spring from Jonah’s heart at just the right moment. The one that came on the same time schedule God would use for His Son’s confinement.
Three days and three nights. Jonah spent this much time in the belly of the whale before he was ready to turn from his sin. Jesus spent this much time in the grave where He dealt with ALL of mankind’s sins. Jonah sat and stewed while confined. Jesus worked during His confinement.
When Jonah was released from his prison he was once again called by God to act on His behalf. Jonah KNEW better that to run away this time. He went instead and did exactly as God had commanded of him.
When Jesus was released from His prison He had more work to do too. The first part, making a way for man to approach God, was finished but the work of sharing the good news about it was just beginning. As Jonah would proclaim to the people of Nineveh to repent from their sins, so would those who followed in Jesus’ footsteps. And just like those of Nineveh, ALL who do so will be saved.
God MADE A WAY for the people to be saved from His judgement; in Nineveh as well as everyone who would call upon His Son. The people of Nineveh listened. Will you? Or did you already?
Father God, I pray I don’t run from Your call. I know that if I refuse the opportunities You give me to share Your word that I’m the one who suffers. You are MORE than capable of bring me back around to the work You called me to or bringing someone else to reach out to the person(s) I was called to share with. You are also capable of translating my words into what YOU want conveyed. Thank You for being the God of the second chance!
No. Jonah didn’t keep a right attitude after warning the people but even then You didn’t leave him alone. You taught him another valuable lesson he would take with him in life.
Lord Jesus, thank You for being willing from the beginning of time to do the work God called You to. You didn’t need to be in the tomb to change Your heart. You were there to change mine. Thank You!