Summary: Part 3 of a 5 part series. Jonah’s plea for help.
July 26, 2009
Have you ever been involved in what I’ll call a situation? You know, it’s when life is getting pretty messy and you are trying your best to resolve that mess. You work at it and work at it, until finally, you realize there is no way out, and as a last resort you call on God. That is where we are this week as we continue our look at Jonah.
Jonah is the prophet who didn’t want to bring redemption to the people of Nineveh, so he sailed as far away as possible. When the ship was out at sea, God threw a storm its way, things were so bad that the ship itself thought it was going to sink. Jonah admitted to the sailors he was the reason for this supernatural storm. At Jonah’s request, the sailors 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. If God can create the heavens and the earth; create & 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 into the sea. Jonah tells us 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, ocean or lake? About 20 years ago, I was snorkeling in the Florida Keys. I had been a competitive swimmer and a certified life guard, so I had no concerns about my safety. I saw beautiful coral not far from where the group was swimming. I knew coral was beautiful, but very sharp, so I went to investigate. As I was swimming over the coral, I could tell the coral was very close to the surface. I had to be careful and 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.
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.
I read a story about 3 ministers who were talking about effective positions for prayer. As they were talking, a telephone repairman was working on the phone system. One minister said, the key was in the hands. He always held his hands together and pointed them upward as a form of worship. The 2nd suggested real prayer was conducted on your knees. The 3rd explained they both had it wrong, the only worthy position was to pray while stretched out flat on your face. By this time the phone man couldn’t stay out of the conversation. He said, "I found the most powerful prayer I ever made was while I was dangling upside down by my heels from a power pole, 40 feet above the ground."