Summary: Here Jonah finds himself in a humble place where through prayer he gets back on track with God. His experience in the great fish shows us how sin sinks the soul; how hope is found in the depths and how grace lifts us up, resulting in a re-born compassion
JONAH CHAPTER TWO
In the late winter of 1891, the whale-ship ’Star of the East’ was in the area of the Falkland Islands when it sighted a whale. Two boats were sent out with harpoons to catch and kill the creature. But the whale’s lashing tail overturned one of the boats spilling the crew into the sea. All were finally hauled back on board ship except for one sailor, James Bartley.
The whale was eventually killed and its body drawn aboard the ship to begin the process of stripping its valuable resources. By the next day good progress had been made in removing the layers of blubber, so a tackle was attached to its stomach to hoist it onto the deck. The sailors were startled by what appeared to be signs of life inside the stomach lining. Cutting the whale open the sailors found the missing James Bartley!
Bartley was quite insane for two weeks, but when he recovered his senses he told what he remembered of being dragged under the water. Whilst struggling for his life he had been drawn into darkness and felt a terrible and oppressive heat. Reaching out his hand he felt slimy walls that gave slightly to his touch, but he couldn’t find any exit. When it finally dawned on him what most likely had happened he lost his senses and lapsed into a catatonic state.
During his time inside the whale Bartley’s face, neck and hands were bleached deathly white by gastric juices and the texture of his skin was like parchment. He never recovered from this effect. Bartley believed that he would have likely lived inside the whale until he starved to death, as he did not find breathing a problem.
Great story! But is it true? Reports do suggest that this whole story is nothing more than an early urban legend. But whether it’s true or not, we know that there has been at least one man in the world who has truly gone through such an amazing experience and lived – and that man is Jonah!
JONAH 1:17 “But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.”
Here we’re in the realm of the miraculous – an act of God that can’t be explained by natural laws. Now, we mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking that the world goes on its own way and every now and then God breaks through and does something. No, God keeps the whole universe in existence moment by moment, and He set the physical laws by which He governs the world. Miracles are His suspension of those laws to bring about super-natural acts.
A W Tozer declared, “If God said that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, then the whale swallowed Jonah, and we do not need a scientist to measure the gullet of the whale.”
It was a miracle that the creature – be it a whale or whatever – was in exactly the right place and time; that it actually swallowed Jonah and that he survived rather than died. But let’s move on from the creature! The purpose of the book of Jonah is to help us know the creature’s Maker and our God.
What Does Jonah Chapter 2 focus on? It’s a particular prayer that Jonah made. I’m sure we can all talk of unusual places in which we have called on God, but Jonah’s was a first, and I suspect a last – he was humbled in the belly of a sea-creature. But what significant things Jonah’s prayer teaches us: