Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly. And he said:
“I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction,
And He answered me.”
“Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
And You heard my voice.
For You cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the floods surrounded me;
All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.”
“Those who regard worthless idols
Forsake their own Mercy.
But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the Lord.”
So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Jonah 2:1-3, 8-10
The other evening a little girl, prodded by her mother and nana, asked me to tell her a Bible Story. I have never been adept at story- telling, so much so that my children were quick to say: “Mommy, YOU tell us a story or YOU read us a book.” It is not hard to interpret such requests.
I struggled with excuses, but I finally succumbed to the request and began relating the story of Jonah. He was a master preacher, told to go to Nineveh and preach. Jonah knew the heart of the Lord, but he hated the thought that these people who needed to be punished (in his estimation) might repent, and God in His love would forgive them and bless them. Unlike preachers who are looking for them to “repent and come forward”, Jonah hated them so much that he picked up his travel bag, went to Joppa, paid the fare, and took a ship headed for Tarshish.
We all know that a raging storm came up and the boat began to fall apart. Everybody on board started praying, except Jonah. He finally told them his story and said: “Throw me overboard and the storm will cease.” They did and the storm stopped as Jonah was swallowed by a “big fish” prepared by God. He was traveling in that fish for three days and nights, and he said he felt like the bars of Hell were about him. The “fish” spewed him out on dry land. What a trip for that preacher! Little did he know that God was in charge of this whole episode, but he had to go to Nineveh and preach, which he did.
Nineveh was a big city and so he spent three days preaching. The entire city repented and the people he despised so much committed their lives to God. That made him mad as ever because of the hatred he had for those people. Then he went outside the city, found a tree to sit under, and pouted. When the tree dried up and died he grumbled about that also. He just could not accept that God could love a people so much that He would forgive them… but God did just that when they repented.
Numerous lessons …
- Hatred is a devilish thing and God does not tolerate it.
- If you or I persist in hatred, watch out, God may let us experience a “ship-wreck”.
- Three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish would not be fun for anyone… more so you or me.
- If God gives you orders, do not try to do something differently. You may “pay the fare” and end up behind “bars”!
- Obedience to God brings blessing.
- Quit grumbling and thank the Lord.
- A ship-wreck in your life may be from God to get your attention.
You have a story to tell a little one… show them and tell them, and you, how you want to be obedient to God!