Monday, September 17, 2007

Wearing Jonah's Sandals

Try to put yourself in Jonah’s sandals. Due to your own acts of disobedience, you have been thrown overboard into a raging storm in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Just before you drowned, a large fish, perhaps a 100 foot long Sulphur Bottom whale has swallowed you up and you are now curled up in the belly of this mammoth mammal. Now, what can you see when you open your eyes? As you put out your arms, what do you feel? As you sit in the stillness and darkness, what can you hear? As you breathe in, what can you smell? Worse yet, what can you taste whenever you open your mouth?
As the second chapter of Jonah opens up, Jonah finds himself in the belly of this large fish. I can’t even begin to really imagine what this would have been like. Some have argued that Jonah actually died in the stomach due to Jonah 2:2 describing his crying out from “sheol”, a word referring to death. However, David used this same description in Psalm 18:5 and 30:3 referring to being near death which would have been true of Jonah. Though the phrases in Jonah chapter two can seem to describe death, they better describe Jonah’s circumstances in the fish. The best argument against seeing Jonah as dying in the fish is in the fact that the very purpose of the whale was to preserve Jonah (1:17).

As Jonah comes to his senses in the stomach of the fish the Bibles say that he finally calls out to God. I find it amazing how long Jonah went before he finally calls on God. There is no indication that he prayed during the storm while on the boat. There is no indication that he prayed as the lot fell on him identifying him as the cause of this supernatural storm. There is no indication that he prays as the sailors pick him up to throw him overboard and there is no indication that he cried out to God as he fought the currents and waves after finding himself in the raging sea. It wasn’t until Jonah winds up in the stomach of the fish that he finally calls out to God. That appears to be a common characteristic of those who are running from God. They wait until their life hits rock bottom before they finally seek out the Lord.

As Jonah prays he recognizes that his predicament is from God. Though it was actually the sailors who threw him overboard, he clearly states that it was God who had cast him into the deep. Jonah finally recognizes that all of the circumstances that he has faced…the storm, the lot, the sea and now the whale…were all a result of a God who loved His prophet so much that He wasn’t about to let him run without a fight. He finally acknowledges that God is trying to get his attention.

Jonah now describes his condition. In verse three we see a description of being in the raging sea. While some see the whole passage as speaking of Jonah’s time in the sea, I think verses four through seven are more a description of being inside the fish. Verse 4 speaks of the hopeless situation he finds himself in. Verse 5 speaks of the salt water, darkness and seaweed inside the fish’s belly. Verse 6 speaks of the constant diving of the fish as well as the claustrophobic conditions and the lack of oxygen. Apart from God’s grace, this situation appeared to be fatal.

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