Then Jonah prayed to his God from the belly of the fish. He prayed: "In trouble, deep trouble, I prayed to God. He answered me.From the belly of the grave I cried, 'Help!' You heard my cry. Jonah 2: 1,2 The Message
Jonah had a tough assignment. This was no job for sissies. It wasn't just a tough sales presentation where every word and action will be judged, critiqued, and torn-apart.....or the boss telling you to fire an employee when you know they need the job desperately. This was God telling Jonah to go to a very strong and prosperous nation, also a nation that was notoriously cruel and bloodthirsty. This was a people that would put hooks in the noses of their captives and lead them off to slavery. They were also a huge threat to Israel.
Jonah responded immediate by running the other way, as fast as he could. So would I.
Just imagine if God asked you to go preach on a street corner in Iraq!
One of my favorite poets, Robert Frost said this about the book of Jonah: "After Jonah, you could never trust God not to be merciful again."
Jonah had an idea that the Ninevites would repent. He knew His was a God of mercy. But forgiveness is hard, and God knew that Jonah had some issues inside himself that he had to deal with. Jonah was actually not running from God but from himself. Ever run away, only to find that the issues you were running away from followed you?
God gave Jonah a timeout so He could really hear was God was trying to say. God had to take him to a place of desperation, darkness. All the way into the belly of a great fish. Sometimes God has to take us somewhere unpleasant, sometimes flat on our back, so that we can really hear what He is trying to say to us.
After three days Jonah came to a place of understanding:
"You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit." 3-6
Sometimes we need God to take us into the whale belly so we can remember who He is........"Then the word came to Jonah a second time", and this time he obeyed. After he preached to them the Ninevites believed God and the whole city declared a fast and called on the Lord. Here are the King's own words:
"Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
God spared that great city.....Read Chapter 4 and you will see a beautiful picture of the great compassion of God and how He desperately wants people to turn to Him so that they can receive His forgiveness and love........I love the discourse between God and Jonah after Jonah gets mad when the people repent.
Prayer: God, help me to learn from my "timeouts." To remember that you love me, but you also love others and wish to show your compassion and love to everyone. Help me to remember who You are, and learn obedience when you call on me to show Your compassion and love to others, remembering that it is not up to me to decide who is worthy and who is not. Amen