Have you ever wondered why Jonah was so ready to offer his life to calm the storm for a few sailors (Jonah 1:5) when he was so angry that God saved the lives of more than 120,000 Ninevites (Jonah 4:11)? I think Jonah’s desire to offer up his life in the middle of the sea displayed his shame and guilt of trying to run from God (Jonah 1:3). He realized he was caught and considered life hopeless. What is even more ironic to me is his rational that suicide would fix everything but instead would immediately put him face to face with the Almighty. We tend to not think things through very well when in distress. One thing I’ve learned is you cannot run from God. He is the one who made the sea and the dry land (Jonah 1:9). Jeremiah recorded, “’Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.’” Proverbs 15:3 says, “the eyes of the Lord are in every place.” God is everywhere and running from Him is pointless. But did you know God runs after us?
God pursued Jonah. I’m thankful He pursues me. Knowing the storm was proof God was in control and had found him despite his best efforts to run and hide, Jonah gave up. He was willing to face his shame and judgment from God. But God had a different plan of finishing what He started in Jonah. Jonah knew he was guilty of disobeying God and believed he deserved death. People tend to run from God thinking the worst of Him because they really don’t know Him. Jonah remembered the true nature of the God he served. He knew God was, “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repenting of evil” (Jonah 4:2). God’s mercy and rescue came in an unexpected form of a great fish! When God saves us it’s always miraculous! While it may not be what we had in mind, it sure beats the alternative. Think about the miracle of the great fish swallowing Jonah. Wouldn’t you have thought it would have killed him? Now some would say, “That’s because it’s just a parable – it really didn’t happen.” I believe the account of Jonah isn’t a good parable but actual history. It really happened. Jesus even tells the story in Matthew 12:40 and said it was a miraculous sign of God’s grace and mercy. Just like Jesus’ miracles, this too was a miracle. Miracles are just that – hard to explain but greatly welcomed.
Jonah was in the sea long enough to realize the great fish was God’s provision and salvation. It was the vehicle God was using to get him back on track. You know you’re truly thankful of being rescued when a fish swallows you. Spending three days and three nights in the great fish (Jonah 1:17) gives you time to think about running from God, disobedience, guilt, and shame. Sometimes God slows us down to get us back into a right perspective and relationship with Him. God let him go to the brink of death. Jonah said, “The waters closed in over me, the deep was round me and weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever” (Jonah 2:5). He was drowning tangled up in seaweed at the bottom of the sea. Do you ever feel like that? Do your circumstances trouble you to the point you can’t see a way of escape? Have you prayed? Jonah prayed God would deliver him, “Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, ‘I called to the Lord, out of my distress, and He answered me’” (Jonah 2:1-2). Despite our guilt and impossible circumstance, God answers us just in time. A great fish may not seem like mercy, but it sure beats a raging, unforgiving, bottomless sea. God’s way of salvation is always better than the world’s way of destruction. Jonah got himself into the mess doing it his way and God got him out of it doing it His way. Cry out to God in your distress. Remember Psalm 118:5, “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free”. Stop running from the Lord, obey His call, and trust His plan.
Stephen and his wife Haley have called Arkansas home all of their lives. Stephen has served in several ministry roles over the last 25 years and as a lead pastor for the last 8 years. Stephen attended Williams Baptist College and earned a BA in Biblical Studies from Ouachita Baptist University, an MA, MDiv, and DMin in Christian Leadership and Pastoral Ministries from Liberty University. When not pastoring, Stephen enjoys running, cycling, reading, writing, camping, fishing, and spending time with his family.
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