Thursday, July 1, 2010

Talk Tuesday-In the Belly of The Whale

Much has been said of the story of Jonah in the belly of the whale. Yet, isn't the real story about God's compassion, mercy, grace and love? The word of the Lord came to Jonah. “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” Jonah 1:2

Jonah attempted to flee to Tarshish in disobedience. He boarded a ship in Joppa, then a violent storm began to rage, endangering the life of the crew. Jonah, knowing it was the Lord, advised the men to throw him overboard and Jonah began to drown. God prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. He remained in the belly of the whale for three days, where he acknowledged God's merciful, saving hand at work in his life. Transformed, Jonah goes to Nineveh in obedience. Jonah warns the Ninevites that in forty days their city will be overthrown due to their wickedness. The king and people believe, repent and are spared God's wrath.

Jonah became very angry and railed at God. Jonah wanted to die instead of witnessing the salvation of the wicked Ninevites. God reasons with Jonah, and questions his right to be angry. Jonah went and sat outside the city, making himself a shelter. “And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was grateful for the plant. But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered.” Jonah 4:6-7. Jonah became angry that the beautiful, shading plant died overnight.

“Then God said to Jonah, 'Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?' And he said, 'It is right for me to be angry, even to death!' But the LORD said, 'You have had pity on the plant for which you have not laboured, nor made it grow, which came up in a night an perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left-and much livestock?” Jonah 4:9-11

The Holy Spirit, in His infinite mercy, spoke to my heart about God's love. We are to love our neighbours with the love exemplified by our LORD Jesus Christ. Have you ever witnessed people not serving the LORD, seeming to flourish in their rebellion, while ridiculing you for your faith in Christ? And have you ever secretly thought, “Ha, you'll see!?” Has the Lord sent you to preach the good news to them and, you resisted? The amazing message about Jonah is the evidence of God's mercy, compassion and love. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Brothers and sisters, the message is this: Go out and preach the good news to all who the LORD sends you! And let us not faint, become selfish, judgmental or bitter but let us walk in obedience, understanding that the LORD cares for those who do not yet believe as much as He cares for us.

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Anonymous said...

When I came to know the Lord my so called friends rejected me. Part of me was bitter and part of me had compassion for them. I pray for them all the time but sometimes I feel that I should let them go their own way. We all know where that can lead. The story of Jonah reminds me that I must still reach out to them even if they don't want anything to do with me or the Lord.

Anonymous said...

May I deviate just a bit? It's for a good purpose I think and it's on topic! I just finished reading Jonah in my devotions recently. This may sound strange but reading through it this time (I must have read it 10 or 15 or more times since becoming a Christian) I saw something different and it really amazed me. It not only amazed me at the thrill of such discovery because the bible says that discovery of truths in scripture is 'like finding a hidden treasure', so this experience was like finding a gold mine! -- it also put a fresh new awe of God in me. Oh the great, great depth of God's wisdom and knowledge (as Paul said). Let me remind u today that u serve a God (TODAY!) that knows EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING. Now back on topic.

Have u ever noticed in the small little book of Jonah, how much really focuses on "Nineveh" itself or the Ninevites? Really? One chapter. Chapter 3. I'm not suggesting Jonah is not about God's love and evangelizing the Ninevites, but is that all? That would be enough, but is that all? I don't think so. There is so much more.

For example to illustrate this point, if u look at the 4 chapters visually, only 1 chapter is about what really happens in Nineveh. The rest seems to be about something else? Much else. But for time and space let me just say this from my own experience having read through Jonah this time: I found what happened to Jonah in the belly of the whale (please let us call it a whale, I know it doesn't say 'whale' specifically!!) to be very, very revealing and... I think validates my point. Let me explain...

Anonymous said...

In the belly, Jonah in essence has this life changing, character-altering experience. He admits he was wrong and God was right (u might too if u had seaweed wrapped around ur head and the digestive juices of such a beast was slowly eroding ur frame?!!!) He even explodes in praises and apparent 'change of heart'. It is sincere. I believe that. But how deep and how sincere, and hence my point. Now fast forward to chapter 4. When the fire is turned up in Jonah's life (again) and when he doesn't 'get' what he expected, he recants?!!! Have u ever noticed that?? That in itself blew me away. I never saw that before and this blog entry is Google free!!' He says in 4:2 in 'prayer', and I love that too -- he's pouring his heart out. I mean really out. So much so that he tells God he wants to die! Now that's honest. He's talking to God honestly. He says "is this not what I said when I was still at home". This statement (ie. "what I said when I was still home") shows that more dialoguing and wrestling had been going on between God and Jonah prior to the actual story recorded in Jonah? Another way of saying what Jonah said to God was this: "GOD!!! SEE. I TOLD YOU. YOU WEREN'T GETTING IT. I WAS RIGHT!!!! FORGET ABOUT THE WHALE CONFESSION. I WAS EMOTIONAL! etc etc." And the story goes on.

Oddly enough, it's like the story doesn't end at the end of chapter 4? Do you get that same feeling? For me, at this time of my life right now, the story of Jonah is a reminder to me that God knows all the deep, deep 'stuff' -- deep down inside me that I have verbally recanted to IN PRAYER but still may not be as it ought to be? Just like Jonah, I was sincere -- then. Maybe prejudices, maybe unforgiveness, maybe secret sins. I really did mean it -- then, but this is now and God knows it! Should the heat be turned up in my life (again), what will the whale bring up to the top with me inside as well? It may surprise me. I thought it was dealt with bu??... God knows!

The fish took Jonah deep, but obviously it wasn't deep enough -- and God knew it! God wanted and needed for Jonah's sake -- not Nineveh's and not for God's, to take Jonah deeper. Much deeper. We sing "Oh the Deep Deep Love of Jesus". His love is deep but that's not all that's deep about him! His wisdom on everything pertaining to you is also..... soooooo so deep too!

Like the ending (or 'un-ending' of the book of Jonah), God continues to take us -- deeper --just when we thought we made it to the top?!!