Lesson from the Belly of a Fish

fishing boat sunset

Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. [And Jonah said] In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” Jonah 1:17 & 2:1

Thank God for seaweed around your head.

Poor Jonah. God’s word had come to him saying he should go to Nineveh and “preach against them” because their wickedness had become offensive to God. It seems Jonah feared the people of Nineveh, because he headed instead to Tarshish.

Sometimes God disciplines us when we offend him, and so it was with Jonah. First hit by storm, then thrown overboard, and finally gobbled by a fish. The monster swam into dark waters, and Jonah felt threatened, banished, and cut-off. “The deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down” (Jonah 2:5-6).

For three days…

Only then did Jonah come to his senses. “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple” (Jonah 2:7). Jonah’s prayer is worth imitating because he recognized his wrongdoing, humbled himself, and rededicated himself to God’s ways.

Eventually much good came from Jonah’s obedience. The Ninevites repented, left evil habits, and enjoyed peace with God. And his story was told for generations as an example of what happens when you go against God’s plans, but then repent.

Jonah’s story even has an “Easter” twist. When Jesus foretold of his death and resurrection, he said, “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” (Matthew 12: 40).

Sometimes I feel buried, alone, and hopeless from God’s discipline. However, in those dark places God is still working His plan — His redeeming, reconciling, renewing plan. And, just as Jesus rose from the earth to bring salvation, God can raise me up — like he did Jonah — to be an instrument of his redeeming peace among people.

Father God, thank you for your gracious discipline of me. Help me see your purpose in hardship as I seek to become more like your son, Jesus, and an instrument of reconciliation on earth. Amen.

By Dr. Bill Strom

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