We often feel that when we face extreme tragedy that that is the end of our life, use, purpose and ministry. Maybe it depends upon who we are in the sense … “are we like Jonah running away from what God wants us to do that has caused this crisis we find ourselves in?” Jonah was dumped into the sea and considering the size of the fish that was able to swallow a human being, the sea must have been very deep. This means that swimming to the coast would be near impossible. From a human perspective he only had one option and that was to drown. There are two important factors that we must never forget.
(1) God gives life and only God takes life.
Job 1:21 “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”
When the Bible says the LORD gave and the LORD takes, it does not include when man takes a human life. By this, abortion or some other means of murder is not included. Man’s sin by taking life created in the image of God is a special bracket that will be dealt with by God in a serious way. Applying Job’s words to Jonah implies that because God gave Jonah life only God could take his life … even though Jonah’s intent was to have his life ended. Closely attached to this thought is …
(2) When God sets you apart for a ministry and calls you to that ministry, you will fulfil that ministry. We shall see in Jonah how he does do what God wants him to do. It might have been against his will but he did it. This is the reason Jonah could not cause his own death to escape fulfilling his calling and ministry. These two points ought to be weighed heavily by the children of God. Now we arrive at a verse that man has made controversial.
Jnh 1:17 But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.
1) There is nothing controversial about this verse yet man has made it so. Some say Jonah is an allegory … a story, poem or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning. John Bunyan’s book, Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory. Others say Jonah is a parable … a secular parable would be a story teaching a moral lesson … a Biblical parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. However, Jonah is a real account of a real prophet who rebelled against a real God. It is part of the Bible … not as an allegory or story … it is real with a real meaning. Consider this:
Mt 12:38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.” 39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Although Jesus used the account of Jonah in the fish to reference His death, burial and resurrection as a miracle, He was stating that the Book of Jonah and the account of Jonah is real, Biblical and needs to be accepted as such by the people of God.
2) Another problem that people have raised is that of a whale swallowing Jonah. Jonah says
Jnh 1:17 But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah
and Jesus says … in the belly of a huge fish. Absolutely nothing is said of a whale. In my early Christian walk I found catchy songs for Kids Clubs that sang of a whale. This is one way error comes into “theology”. I found this story …
“Despite occasional reports of whales scooping people into their mouths, it’s incredibly rare—and for all but one species, swallowing a human is physically impossible. On Friday, a lobster diver, Michael Packard made headlines when he described miraculously surviving being “swallowed” by a humpback whale in 45 feet off Cape Cod, Massachusetts … he survived”.
Another reads like this … “One man, Marshall Jenkins, was swallowed alive by a sperm whale in 1771 and survived. Another incident concerns James Bartley. In 1891, Bartley was swallowed by a sperm whale that his whaling crew had harpooned. The whale slipped away, was found and killed a day or so later. Bartley was found alive, but unconscious, in the stomach of the whale. He was revived and in a few weeks regained his health.” (Ambrose James Wilson, Princeton Theological Revue, October, 1928).
Where these accounts refer to humpback and sperm whales … Jonah and Jesus refers to a great or huge fish. Was it a whale? We don’t know. What type of great or huge fish was it? We don’t know. Those details don’t make this miracle or the reality of Jonah real. Jesus’ comments about him do!
3) For how long was Jonah in the water before he was swallowed by the fish? It must have been for some time. As we read his prayer in chapter 2:5 and v7, we get the impression that Jonah must have swam or floated for a while before sinking to the bottom of the sea, amongst the seaweed, before a rescue happened.
4) How long was Jonah inside the fish? Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. Some try to explain this by saying the story is fiction. They say that many hundreds of years after the prophet Jonah lived, a story was made up about him to teach spiritual lessons. One commentator is very helpful here … he says these proponents of fiction say … “In the same way, as with the parables of Jesus, we must not ask, Did this really happen? But, What am I being taught?” That is Liberal Theology! Whatever one thinks of the examples above of men being swallowed by a hunchback or sperm whales … God’s intention is that we see the miraculous in Jonah being swallowed by the fish. As sighted above, Jesus believed in the historicity of Jonah … read this again:
Mt 12:40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Why would Jesus say Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish … and … so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth if it were not true? Jonah was punished for his sinful refusal to fulfil his God required prophetic ministry to the lost of Nineveh. Jesus was punished substitutionally for the sin of lost souls who believe, confess and repent. Never make the mistake of falling into the devil’s trap and ignore God’s supernatural miracles as the Sovereign God.
Father, thank You for reminding me that You alone are the God of the Miraculous for the salvation of lost souls who confess sin, believe and repent. Amen.