Summary: God desires to help us in all situations, even when we blow it, if we will only draw near to Him.
First Baptist Church
July 14, 2002
Have you ever watched a season finale knowing the program is going to end on a cliffhanger? Do you remember all the hoopla over "Who shot J.R.?" If you were a Dallas fan, you remember the long wait to know what happened next. I remember watching Batman when I was younger, and every so often they would do a 2 part program. Part 1 would end with Batman and Robin in a predicament in which there was no way out. The Riddler or the Penguin had the dynamic duo stuck — when suddenly, the announcer would tell you to tune in next week to see if our caped crusaders can get out. And the next week that same announcer would say, "When we last left our heroes...." And of course, Batman and Robin would save the day.
Well, we are taking a look at the book of Jonah and last week we began to look at the prodigal prophet. The prophet who didn’t want to bring redemption to the people of Nineveh, so he ran, or sailed away, as far as possible. No sooner had the ship gotten out to open sea, God threw a storm its way, things were so bad that the ship itself thought it was going to sink. Jonah finally admitted to the sailors that he was the reason for this supernatural storm. At Jonah’s request the sailors of that ship reluctantly threw him overboard and the storm stopped and that is where OUR hero was when we last left him . . . sinking deeper and deeper into the cold, dark depths of the Mediterranean Sea. I’m sure you’ve been on the edge of your seat all week wondering how things were going to turn out!
Now comes one of the great miracles and most disbelieved stories in the Bible . . . God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah, thus saving his life. As I said last week, if God can create the heavens and the earth, create you and me, send Enoch and Elijah to heaven without dying, part the Red Sea, send Jesus from heaven, bring people back to life, heal the lepers, the blind, the lame, the deaf, resurrect Jesus, then is it that impossible for God to send a huge fish to swallow Jonah for a few days? I don’t think so.
Of course, if you were Jonah you were thrilled to be alive, but to live in a fish’s belly for 3 days, yuck!! Imagine the smell, imagine the . . . Oh, we won’t go in that direction. I take Jonah as a historical fact, nothing less.
In this 2nd chapter, Jonah describes the terror and intense anxiety of being helpless against the ocean currents swirling around him, the waves crashing upon him, pushing him deeper and deeper. Jonah tells us that the water was closing in on him and there was no way back to the surface. In verse 5 he speaks of the horror of having water enter his throat and seaweed tangle itself around his head. And then finally he actually hits the bottom. We don’t know how deep the sea was, but just imagine the fear of feeling your feet strike the bottom knowing there was no way back up as your lungs are about to explode.
Have you ever experienced something like that when you were swimming in a pool or in a lake? About 13 years ago, when I was a youth pastor, I took a trip with about 27 junior highers, ending up in the Florida Keys snorkeling. I saw some beautiful coral not far from where the group was swimming, and I went to investigate, the coral appeared very sharp and was close to the surface. I had to make sure I was on top of the water, and as I swam over the coral it became darker and it seemed that the coral reef was not going to end. I began to panic, I kicked harder and my breathing was shorter and I was gasping for air. Finally, I got out from the reef, but I was amazed at the panic that set in. And I was an experienced swimmer. I swam competitively in high school and college, I was a certified life guard.
So, I can only imagine what Jonah is thinking as he sinks deeper and deeper into the Mediterranean Sea.
Just as Jonah was about to hit the bottom of the sea, stubborn old Jonah finally prayed . . . He asked God for help. I’m sure his prayer was nothing fancy, probably just two words, "Lord, help!" And hear comes the beauty of the book of Jonah, God answered that prayer. God had a fish on standby, and when Jonah prayed, He ordered this creature to rescue him. The fish swallowed Jonah whole and ingested him into a place where there was a pocket of air.