Tag: Ninevah repents

The belly of the whale!

Scripture reading for September 18th: Jonah 1-4

Have you ever consciously tried to avoid obedience to God?  Have you run from a calling or mission that you know God has directed you to?  Jonah was a prophet of the Lord who was given orders by God to go and preach to the city of Nineveh.  Now Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, the super-power of Jonah’s time; its inhabitants were known for their wickedness and cruelty.  They routinely killed, tortured and mutilated those they conquered!  It is said that they impaled people on stakes and piled up heads in great pillars to spread fear and boast of their power.

Our prayers move the hand of God but so does wickedness and cruelty towards the poor and oppressed! (Jonah 1:2)  God’s heart is for righteousness and He has promised retribution for sin.  His wrath is ongoing towards sin and is being revealed daily in the earth.  (Romans 1:18) It will be revealed eternally in the lake of fire.  (Revelation 20:14-15)  But God does not judge or pour out wrath without first giving warning and an opportunity to escape.  He takes no pleasure in the death of anyone!  (Ezekiel 33:11)

Jonah was sent on a mission of mercy to a wicked people.  He chose not to obey and, to escape God’s command,  boarded a ship going in the opposite direction.  During the course of the journey, God sent a  great wind to buffet the ship.  The wind obeyed the Lord when Jonah wouldn’t!  The sailors cast lots to find out the one causing the trouble and the lot fell to Jonah!  The “lot” obeyed and Jonah was exposed!  Jonah told the men he was running from the Lord.  He also told them to throw him overboard and the sea would calm down.  They obeyed and the sea was calm!

Next, as Jonah sank down into the sea, God appointed a great fish to swallow him up!  The fish obeyed and Jonah found himself in the belly of this great fish, wrapped in seaweed and darkness!  I can only imagine the smell and cramped quarters!  What a feeling of helplessness must have gripped Jonah!  For three days and three nights he wrestled with his own heart and finally decided to pray and give himself to obey the Lord!  What a beautiful prayer of repentance from this belly of the whale! (Jonah 2:2-9)  The Lord spoke to the fish and Jonah was vomited up on the shore of Nineveh!

The ironic part of all of this is that the Ninevites worshiped Dagon, the fish god!  When Jonah came out of the fish, they thought that their ‘god’ had sent him!  As he preached repentance, all of them turned to the Lord and humbled themselves!  God even takes our rebellion and makes it work for His purposes!

There are many lessons in this short book!  Jesus used the sign of Jonah to tell people that he would be buried for three days before His resurrection!  (Matthew 12:38-41) We learn that God is sovereign and that  creation obeys His commands!  How much more should we, who are made in His image, obey Him!  If you are called by God to follow Him, why not avoid the belly of the whale?

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