The one with the Big Fish
The book of Jonah tells the story of a prophet’s disobedience followed by Gods great mercy and Grace. It illustrates how a strong relationship with God can transcend circumstances. And that God’s word and forgiveness is for everyone.
In the beginning of the book of Jonah, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah, Go to the great city of Ninevah and preach against it, because it’s wickedness has come up before me.”(Jonah 1:1) Now, Nineveh was a city filled with dark sins, think evil plots against God, exploitation of the helpless, cruelty in war, idolatry, prostitution, and witchcraft. Simply put, Jonah didn’t want to go. Jonah had grown up fearing these people and their atrocious acts- why should they receive God’s great Mercy?
So he fled.
God’s Purpose above Our Own
As humans we filter all information through our own unique lens. Our lens has been shaped throughout our lifetime, and sometimes it can become very narrow. Having faith (a complete trust or confidence in someone or something) that God’s vision is right, can be difficult. Remembering that God is omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time) reassures us that his requests or calling for us was commissioned with a greater purpose in mind. My sisters have matching tattoos on their arms, from Esther 4:14 that says “Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created” It is their constant reminder, that every day and everything they do counts.
Disobedience & Hardship
As Jonah fled, he found himself on a ship going the opposite direction of God’s mission.
As we just were reminded God is omnipresent or all-knowing and all seeing-we can not flee from his purpose or plans. “The Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.” (Jonah 1:4) The men on the boat discovered that the storm was Jonah’s fault. So, they threw Jonah into the sea. And immediately the raging sea grew calm. God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah stayed in the belly of the fish for three days.
Commitment transcends Circumstance
In the dark depths of the fish’s belly Jonah prayed, “When my Life was ebbing away I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you to your holy temple”- In Jonah 2:7.
We can often get stuck in a similar routine. When everything is going well, we can take God for granted; but, when we find ourselves in a difficult circumstance and lose hope, we cry out to God for help or relief. This kind of relationship with God can result only in ups and downs.
But true Joy (that feeling of great pleasure, happiness, and contentment) transcends circumstance. Joy comes from a consistent relationship with Jesus Christ. This rings true for any relationship-marriages, parents, or friendships. Imagine having a child or a friend only come to you when they need help but exclude you when they find joy or success. How strong would that relationship be? How connected would you feel to them? A daily commitment to God will promote a solid relationship with him. If we look to God in not only the bad times but the good as well, we will find ourselves with a stronger more abundant spiritual life and a much deeper connection.
Grace & Mercy for All who ask
As Jonah sat in the belly of the big fish, he had time to reflect on his actions and current circumstance. He was certainly in no position to bargain with God, so he simply thanked Him for saving his life from the great storm and vowed to fulfill his responsibilities as a prophet if given the chance.
And with that the Lord “commanded the fish, and it spat Jonah onto dry land.” (Jonah 3:10)
Jonah then heard God’s command again, “Go to the great city of Ninevah and proclaim to it the message I give you.” (Jonah 3:2) Jonah went through the city preaching a message of doom and judgement and encouraging the people to repent so they could receive Mercy. The city surprisingly responded with great remorse and believed Jonah’s message and repented. When God saw them turn from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring destruction to them.
God forgave the people of Ninevah for their wicked ways just as he forgave Jonah for his disobedience. God’s judgement is for corrective purposes not for revenge. This story is an excellent illustration that God is always ready to show compassion to anyone seeking him.
Jonah’s story teaches us of purpose, dedication, faith, obedience, but above all God’s great mercy.