Jonah, the reluctant prophet, runs from God. God had told him to go to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, to warn them of God’s coming judgement. Jonah hated Nineveh because of the atrocities that had been done against the Jewish people. So he responded to God’s command with anger and indifference. Instead, he boarded a ship headed in the opposite direction, toward the town of Tarshish.
The mariners set the boat out to sea and it wasn’t too long after that a huge storm blew up with high winds that were dangerous in their intensity. Eventually the sailors figured out that the storm was due to Jonah’s disobedience and went to find him. Where was he?
Sleeping in the bottom of the boat.
There is a time when God wants us to come out from the bottom of the boat, to face the storm. Not all of life’s storms are due to our own choices or actions but sometimes they might be. If so, we need to acknowledge our responsibility.
Jonah didn’t. He even admitted that he was fleeing from the presence of God and that THEY had to throw him overboard.
Why couldn’t he have just jumped out himself?
It would have been much easier as the sailors were not thrilled to have this responsibility on their shoulders. In fact, they tried to do everything as they attempted to row the boat back to shore, but the storm was too violent so over the side they tossed him, even as they prayed for forgiveness.
Yet, IN SPITE OF Jonah’s actions God had gone ahead and had “prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah" (Jon. 1:17).
This fish was not to destroy Jonah but it was a place of preservation. Not a punishment, but a shelter. A shelteraway from the waves of the sea but, more importantly, a place where God now had Jonah’s FULL ATTENTION.
This is where we pick up the story.
Do you feel like you have been stuck in the “belly of a whale”?
Do you find yourself in a place that involves intense soulsearching?
Does it seem that life has been unseasonably intense lately?
Are you, like Jonah, crying out from the belly of your whale?
Yet in this dark place Jonah was beginning to declare that God had ALREADY answered:
Jonah 2:1-3 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and youlistened to my cry. You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me.."
We all know that trials have a purpose in God’s economy to strengthen and to transform. BUT, there comes when we realize that God HAS heard and the end of this trial has been declared.
God’s answer will come when you are STILL in the belly of the whale. With faith, Jonah began to see himself OUTSIDE of the great fish, looking towards God he began to praise.
Jonah 1: 9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’”
The voice of thanksgiving can change the circumstances. His prayer turned from petition into thanksgiving.
THEN: verse 10: And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
IMAGINE if you will... Jonah covered with whale vomit. What comes to mind? A man covered in slime and smelling badly?
Maybe. But... whale vomit is also called “floating gold”. It is priceless. Whale vomit is also known as ambergris – that is a glorious fragrance often used as a base in the most expensive of perfumes.
Jonah came out from that whale covered in the glory of God.
How else could he then continue on to Nineveh and have thatwhole city respond to the word of God! There was a glory that went with him.
So it will be with you. When you come out from that belly of the “whale”, that dark, hard place, the glory of God will shineupon you in a way which you have never seen.
God knows your steps and He has gone to prepare a place of safety for you. A place where He has captured your full attention. And, in that place, you will find your petitions beginning to turn in to praise.
Get ready for the glory of God.
To read the whole Whale of a Tale story: Biblegateway