Optional musical accompaniment from FFH
Perhaps there’s never been a whale of a story quite like this one. Now, there are those that ridicule and reduce this story to nothing more than a myth; a short story; fantasy; an analogy. Perhaps. But perhaps not.
For those not familiar with Jonah and the “whale,” here’s the abridged version.
Jonah is a prophet from the Creator of the Universe and lives around the 8th century BC. Usually prophets are sent to keep Israel and Judah in line, but not Jonah. Much to Jonah’s disappointment, God tells him to go to Nineveh to deliver a message from Him. Jonah hates Nineveh and everything Assyrian.
So Jonah decides he’s just going to ignore that little request, and heads out of town in the opposite direction. He steals away on a ship headed for Tarshish. When a strange and violent storm suddenly pops up, the superstitious sailors run around on deck screaming and praying to all sorts of pagan gods. Everyone except Jonah, who evidently took some Dramamine and was asleep below deck during the rocking and rolling. The captain confronts him and Jonah owns up to disobeying a direct order from his boss. He tells the sailors it’s him God is after, and if they’ll throw him overboard the sea will calm.
The sailors throw everything else they can overboard and try and head for shore. No luck. Finally, they dump Jonah and the seas become quiet. This next part is where people begin to part company.
Jonah is sinking quickly into the dark depths of the water, probably thinking he has finally escaped that nasty request to go to Nineveh. Death might be better than facing those wretched Assyrians. But when he regains his wits, he’s in the belly of a large fish. Stuck with no where to go, he decides he better make peace with God. So he begins praying.
You can read Jonah’s prayer HERE.
After spending some time in Time Out, God commanded the fish to vomit him onto a beach….just outside Nineveh. And just in case you doubt whether these events could ever happen, here’s an interesting article about a whale shark that can swallow a man). So, it’s possible that 3,000 years ago there could have been a great big fish that was capable of swallowing a man, whole.
So, did you notice anything odd in Jonah’s prayer?
He does thank God for saving him (as much as being in the belly of a fish can be considered saved), BUT nowhere in his prayer does he say he was wrong. Nowhere does he admit fault in his situation. Nowhere does he repent and say he’s sorry for his actions.
And isn’t that the way it usually goes?
God calls us; telling us what He wants us to do…and we rebel. We have all sorts of reasons for not going the way He wants us to go. It’s an inconvenient time; I don’t like the circumstances; it’s not what I had planned to do; I’m not ready…and on and on and on and on…..all very justifiable to us so there’s no need to admit the fallout is, in any way, our fault.
So we run. We run in the opposite direction as fast as we can, hoping to out-pace the God of the Universe. Or, at least we can hide until he forgets what he’s asked us to do. Our compass goes rogue.
And then we find ourselves in the belly of a fish….in the belly of a world gone wrong. If our lives feel like we’re sinking into dark depths, perhaps it’s because we insist on being master of our own destinies. It’s only when we come to a point where we’re so bad off we finally realize a truly blessed life begins and ends only when we walk with God, and not ahead or behind him.
Are you in the belly of a big fish right now, resisting something you know God wants you to do?
Are you humble enough to admit you’ve walked away from God to be master of your own destiny?
Do you “own” the mess you’ve made and seriously want God to set your compass in the right direction?
Submitted for ABC Wednesday