Remember Jonah and the Whale? It was the most unbelievable, spellbinding story leaving a multitude of unanswered questions in my childish mind. Was it true? What was it like inside that big belly? Could Jonah breathe? Was he scared? Why didn’t he obey God? Did it really happen?
Yes! I knew it really happened for it was recorded in God’s word. That was enough for me, and yet there has been a running controversy since Jonah’s time, for upward of 2800 years.
In all the discussion, it has been determined that it is possible that a sperm whale, for instance, could swallow a man. Sperm whales sometimes swallow squid whole, so it could definitely manage a human.
Perhaps it wasn’t a sperm whale. It could have been some now extinct marine reptile or a dog headed sea dragon that swallowed Jonah.
Admittedly, it’s possible he may have been swallowed by one of those sea creatures, but scientists are adamant in their declaration that he never could have survived any longer than if he were held underwater.
According to some, an alternative to this strange survival story may be that Jonah actually died—drowned in the sea—before he was swallowed. Then God resurrected him three days later when the fish reached the shores of Nineveh. Still, others ask, “How could he have prayed in that belly, if he were already dead? And—the argument continues.
Some now regard the Book of Jonah as a novel written with a theological purpose.
For me, miracles, rather than scientific theories, are the best explanation for Jonah. God “prepared” a great fish.” I don’t know if He refashioned one of His existing creatures or if He made something brand new equipped with an oxygen tank able to sustain a man for three day or if He just kept Jonah alive supernaturally. In any case, I still believe in miracles.
However, this story is not about whether or not a fish can swallow a man. It is about obedience to God’s will. God had said, “Go to Nineveh—that wicked city, and tell them, if they don’t repent, I’m going to destroy them.”
Jonah had other ideas. He wasn’t at all enthusiastic about God’s plan or His will. He hated the Ninevites and didn’t want God to be merciful to them. He wanted God to destroy them. He was convinced he was 100% right, so he ran away, and his disobedience resulted in a wild, dark, three-day ride from the depths of the billows and waves of the sea to the quiet shoreline, and a direct route to Nineveh.
Imagine what he must have looked like lying there on the beaches of Nineveh in a puddle of fish vomit. After three days in the belly of this great fish, he was one scary dude! Digestive acids had bleached him white. He was shriveled like a prune with seaweed tangled in his hair and wrapped around his neck, and barnacles growing on his head.
Jonah had no one to blame but himself. This whole calamity originated with his attitude toward God’s will.
I can safely assure you that Jonah’s attitude toward God’s plan took a 180 degree turn as he slide down the gullet of that terrifying being.
Jonah 2:1 says, “Then Jonah prayed…” He describes his helpless situation, and in 2:7, he cries, “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer went up to you, into your holy temple.”
Do you sometimes feel that you are in the belly of a big fish? I do! When I decide to do something on my own without asking God’s guidance or I knowingly disobey what I know to be His will, then the big fish shows up, and everything goes out of control.
I like the words to the song that says:
“Are you in the big fish?
Are you sitting in the belly of a world gone mad?
Have you turned your back on His wish, or His will for your life?
Have you made Him sad?
Do you want to get out of the big fish?
Listen to God and follow His plan,
And you won’t be part of the main dish.
He’ll spit you out on dry land.”
Jonah got the message. He still hated the Assyrians. He still wanted God to destroy them, but in spite of that, he did what God asked him to do. The Assyrians were saved, and Jonah learned some great lessons about compassion.
Whoever you are, God has a plan for your life, but you may not like His assignment. Like Ford, you have a better plan, and you are convinced that you are 100% right. Your plan is superior, more reasonable, more just. Besides, you are sure you cannot do what God asks. Let me tell you, “God intends to make you ideally suited to carry out His plan.
Will you follow His plan or will you turn your back?
Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!