Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and Lord, you heard me! You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves. Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence. Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’ “I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me. Seaweed wrapped itself around my head. I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever. But you, O Lord my God, snatched me from the jaws of death! As my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple. Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies. But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.” Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach. Jonah 1:17 – 2:10 (NLT)
In the account of Jonah is the whole tale of humanity’s relationship with God.
· There is the call of God – Jonah is to do God’s will, go to Nineveh
· There is man’s disobedience – Jonah runs in the opposite direction
· There is God’s judgment – the big fish
· There is man’s repentance, God’s forgiveness, and man’s obedience.
Jonah’s was a “deathbed” confession and salvation; he prayed…as my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord. He got right with God just in the nick of time.
I wouldn’t recommend that; in fact the whole purpose of the story seems to be that you shouldn’t run from God’s loving hand in the first place, much less “play chicken” with God’s deadline.
But the whole drama of each of our lives is played out in this teachable moment with Jonah – disobedience, repentance, mercy and forgiveness. We have each played Jonah!
The “hinge” for the whole cycle is hung on two points – earnest repentance and genuine lived-out repentance. When Jonah prayed from the belly of the fish he said it was my earnest prayer; when God mercifully rescued the wayward prophet, he was going to live out that earnest prayer” …and I will fulfill all my vows.
All of Jonah’s genuine repentance was his recognition that his Creator had a valid and just claim on his life: For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.
The question of Jonah’s story is debated – sometimes hotly – by theologians, as to if it is an actual one man’s story or an allegory of humanity.
To that question I say YES; I believe it is both. And it is the greatest evangelistic opportunity you will find.
Every part of Jonah’s life story leads to the Gospel answers of why Jesus came to earth. Even the least religious of people know the basics of Jonah being swallowed by a gigantic fish.
And like Philip, the evangelist Acts 8 you can open a non-threatening conversation with anyone by a simple question: What’s your take on Jonah and the whale? From there, it is a short leap to understanding the loving mercy God extended to us by the cross.
For You, Today…
At Christmas there is a favorite song/theme most people receive well – as the shepherds who first heard the Gospel were instructed…Go tell….
Why not ask somebody today what they think about Jonah and the big fish?
Could be an interesting day!