Jonah has now, at last, been tossed over. The Sea grows quiet, the sailors pray to God, He hears their pleas, pardons them and they offer up a sacrifice to Him. It took a little bit of time for these things to transpire, but when they did, God was glorified. Jonah had at last run out of places to run from his calling. There were no other options open for him.
Earlier, he told the sailors to cast him overboard and all would be fine. Evidently, he did not expect to live once he would be tossed into the Sea. I wonder if he was ready to meet God and take what was coming to him from the hand of the Devine. I wonder if Jonah was just as surprised as was everyone else when they saw the great fish (or as Jesus called it, “A whale“) swim along side the boat and swallow Jonah. I wonder if he was the one who was surprised the most. He went sailing over the side of the boat, heading for his death when he was met by some type of creature that had to be waiting on him. Meeting this creature convinced him that there was no other place to run and he could not escape the great fish by out swimming it to shore. He was helpless and when the great fish swallowed him, he knew that he was a trapped man. God had, at last, won the day and Jonah was now at the mercy of a great fish and not his fellow human beings. It was one thing to converse with men who could talk to him-it was now a different story to be lost inside of a great fish and deciding to talk to God.
It is peculiar how far man will go to get away from God’s call. Some just ignore the call and go their merry way. Others try to masquerade their feelings and pretend that all is okay. However, God will have the last word-He always does. And, when He decides to corner a person regarding one’s call to obedience-He arranges events and circumstances so that the rebellious person has to contemplate what he should do to obey God. For some, the time to obey God perishes quickly; for others, there seems to be ample opportunity to “redeem the time” and do something good for our Lord. Jonah was of that latter group.
As I study the last verse of chapter one, I see three things. I note the CREATURE itself. Then, I note the CLERGYMAN and what happened to him. I conclude the verse and my sermon, by studying some CORRELATIVES between Jonah and Jesus.
I. CREATURE: The debate over the water animal in the story of Jonah has raged for centuries. Some say it was a whale which was big enough to swallow a human being. To bolster their point, some have said that there has been found, in the belly of a whale, the remains of a whole human being which was swallowed by the whale. Others have said that a whale could not possibly have swallowed a human being due to the size of its throat being too restricted for such an event. The debate continues. Whether it was a whale or not, some type of marine life showed itself at the correct time and consumed Jonah. I do know that Jesus called it “a whale” and He believed it to be true-that is all I need.
What I do believe is that this animal was Created by God. I also am of the persuasion to think that this animal could have been divinely created at that time just for the purpose of taking care of God’s servant. I believe that God created the heavens and the earth and I also believe that He has the power to create anything He wants to create, whenever He wants to create something. For me to believe that God would no longer create anything else after He created the heavens and the Earth would be for me to place a limitation on Him in my heart and mind. I cannot do that. I believe that He can create and He could have created this “great fish/a whale” if He so chose to do so.
I also believe that this “great fish” was under the divine Control of God when it sailed up next to the ship. I note that this “great fish” did not eat Jonah, but swallowed him whole. This animal could have been hungry or full but what ever the situation was with this “great fish/whale” it never took one bite out of Jonah; it never tore him limb from limb, but swallowed him whole. This is indeed a miracle. What large animal would dare to swallow a man whole without first trying to masticate it? I believe that this “great fish/whale” was created just for the purpose of taking care of Jonah and I believe that this entity was under God’s control for not devouring Jonah.
Centuries later, Jesus would hang on the cross and die and be laid to rest in a dark grave with a whole body-not having one bone of Him broken or dislodged. He went from the land of the living to a darken tomb-just as Jonah did.
The third part of this CREATURE pertains to the fact that it was spoken of by Jesus-He Confirmed its existence and that is good enough for me. I do not see where any of the disciples questioned Jesus about this “great fish/whale.” On the contrary, it appears that they believed in the story of Jonah as well as did Jesus. He seem to have no problem with the idea that a “great fish/whale” had sailed up close enough to the ship, caught Jonah, swallowed him whole without harming him and later dislodging him on the shore. I think we need to take a page out of the Scriptures that Jesus used and believe in this story completely without trying to include our own ideas and concepts.
Likewise, Jesus came out of the darken tomb into the land of earthly light and earthly people before His entry into Heaven to present His offering unto His Father of Himself.
In summation of my first point, I go on record as saying that I believe this marine animal was specially Created by God for one purpose only and that was to take care of Jonah at that specific time. Furthermore, I believe that this “great fish/whale” was under God’s Control from start to finish. I also believe that this marine animal was accepted and Confirmed to be true by He who created it-Jesus.
II. CLERGYMAN: I move from the discussion of the “great fish/whale” to the “great procrastinator”-Jonah. He had finally got his way, whether he really wanted it to be this way or not: he was finally thrown overboard. In discussing this prophet, there are certain things which come to my mind. The first thing I note about him is his Compliance to leave the ship.
Not too many hours ago, he went down to Joppa; there he paid the fair; and, then he went down into the ship. He thought he was safe and he thought he could run from the presence of God. However, the chapter tells us the opposite and now he is going down again-over the sides of the ship. By the time this event happened to him, he was ready to leave all and possibly ready to drown in the angry sea. When he spoke up and told the sailors to cast him over, he was admitting that he had run his course and he was ready to face God with a disobedient heart. When the sailors finally came to their senses and threw him overboard-there was no more fight left in him. When they came at him with their strong arms and determination to end all of what they were experiencing, he did not run nor offer any resistance-he was ready to submit to their wishes. There were no more thoughts in him of trying to make a deal with God or the sailors-he was ready to meet his fate.
When the soldiers came for Jesus in the Garden-He did not resist nor disappear from them. Instead He offered Himself and complied fully with his captors. They laid hold of Him, chained Him, and took him away and he never resisted. His hour had arrived.
With his compliance fully displayed, he went tumbling over the side of the ship into the angry waves below. Somehow, I think he was just as surprised as any other person to realize that when he hit the water, he came face to face with a sea animal of which he probably did not know was there. It is amazing how our God works. Jonah went into the sea that day thinking all was lost only to find that suddenly he had company and to his surprise, he was the main course for that “great fish/whale” that day. I cannot comprehend how he must have felt or what he must have thought when he suddenly realized that he was not going to drown, but he was to be the main course for a sea animal that was big enough to take him in, swallow him and then to hide him from all else. His Concealment by this marine animal was God’s way of protecting him. Sharks, hungry killer whales, and other sea animals are able to dispatch of a human very quickly. When they do set upon a victim, they are not polite and kill or maim their victim quite badly. It is always the opposite-the victim is torn and bit into pieces and devoured rapidly. Jonah was spared this attack and God prepared the sea animal to take Jonah in and hide him while God could somehow deal with His man of the hour. In spite of how things looked-God was still in control and He did Jonah a favor.
One item about this prophet I wish to emphasize is that Jonah finally was in a place where he could think and study his sorry estate. On board the ship, I think he was able to comprehend in part the seriousness of his actions. However, it was not until he was in the belly of this “great fish” that God prepared just for him did he reach full Comprehension of his sad sate of affairs and what God really wanted from him. It was in the belly of this sea animal, that Jonah finally was able to look back over the last few days, the last few hours and to realize just what he had done and just what God wanted from him.
God has a way of reaching people. For some souls, the full impact of their lives and their living causes them to turn to God while for others this comprehension never reaches their mind. If it does, they either reject it or accept it. Jonah was the one who, when he thought on his ways, thought he had best talk to God.
With his Compliance already proven, he was safely Concealed away from all else and there, in the darkness of the sea animal’s stomach, he thought about God. May God never have to go to such great lengths to reach us in order for us to think about our lives and about serving Him. May serving Him be natural to all of us.
III. CORRELATIVES: I now turn to the last part of my sermon where I see that Jesus and Jonah had some things in common in spite of the disobedience of the prophet.
The first thing I note is that both of these men suffered Confinement. Both of these men were held in a narrow and strict place for three days. Jesus Himself said that Jonah served as a type of His coming burial and that proved to be true.
Jonah was held in the belly of this “great fish” for three days. He was held in utter darkness. He sunk to the beginning of the mountains or to the lowest depths in the seas. He was alone; he was not in company with other creatures except the seaweeds that warped themselves around him; and, he was not eaten before he was swallowed nor was he in the process of being digested as is customary to all creatures that have edible substances in their stomachs. Yet, in that blackness he was able to communicate with God. If Jonah’s conversation with God does not prove God’s omnipresence in His universe then nothing will. Likewise, while Jonah was in the belly of this sea creature, evidently he was transported many miles towards his original calling of Nineveh.
Jesus shares somewhat the same correlatives with Jonah in these instances. He was “swallowed whole” on the cross-not one of His bones was broken in His death. His body was held in a narrow and close abode in the grave. He was alone doing the work of His Father. He was wrapped-not in seaweeds, but in grave clothes. And, like Jonah, his wrappings were later discarded. He descended to the lowest place of the universe, and He was able to communicate with His Father even in the darkness and isolation of death. He was not transported close to Nineveh, but He was transported to the captives where He went to announce that He had paid the price for their sins and was able to lead captives to a higher plain. Yes, these two did suffer Confinement, but they came out victorious.
Besides the similarities of their internment these two are also alike in that they both show some interesting Contradictions while they were “dead” for three days. Although their bodies were ‘dead” yet they lived. Death tried to silence the both of them and for awhile it appeared that they were dead-yet they were alive. While Jonah was not dead, his being vomited on the shore is a type of a resurrection from the grave. Jesus, being the first fruits of the Resurrection was dead as was verified by the witness at the cross, yet His resurrection verified that death could not hold Him in its grip. Another Contradiction of these two men comes from the fact that they both entered their abode defeated-from all practical aspects-yet they came back victorious.
Finally, as I study this CONTRARY CLERGYMAN that he, like Jesus, was very different after his ordeal of being in the belly of this sea animal. When in the belly of this animal, he descended to the bottom of the sea, where he prayed. He was returned to land and took up his Commission to obey God. He struggled at first, but when he came out of the grave of that sea animal’s stomach, he was ready to obey God and go preach to the people of Nineveh. He readily accepted his assignment.
While Jesus did not rebel against His Father, yet when He came forth from the grave, He was doing His Father’s business and He commissioned others to carry on for Him until the end. Jonah was sent to one locale-Jesus was sent to the world. Now He sends His followers to the world. Both of these men had a lot in common and both teach us the value of obedience to God.
Irregardless of what swallowed Jonah, the fact is that a clergyman-a prophet was sealed from the ocean for his own protection and put in a place where God could finally talk to him. Along his journey in the belly of this “great fish/whale” he serves as some types of the coming Redeemer. Together, these two shared a great deal of commonality in their “deaths” to life. May we remember the Latter Prophet and emulate Him-He has the keys to life everlasting.