Summary: This devotion is about how God rescued Jonah by sending a great fish to swallow him. This is the 19th of 31 devotions from a series called 'The Church Called Jonah.' In these devotions, which are based on the book of Jonah a comparison is made between Jonah and The Church-at-large.
# 19 – The Fishy Rescue
Jonah 1:16 – “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”
Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah
We just saw how the sailors made a tough, never-before-done decision – to throw a man overboard. We also saw how, when Jonah was thrown overboard, the sea calmed down and they, in response made sacrifices to the Lord and took vows. Just when the story seems to take a terrible turn and hints at the end of Jonah’s life, something amazing happens, and this time again, it’s the Lord who’s responsible for what happens.
We don’t know how deep Jonah sank into the waters before the Lord intervened, but it could not have been too deep, lest he would have run out of breath. The Lord intervened at the perfect time and did what seems scientifically impossible – it can still not be explained. In fact, it’s the unexplainable that we call miracles, don’t we? The verse says, “The Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah.” Did the Lord create a special fish just for this purpose? Was there a fish that could swallow a human whole back then, that got extinct or was the swallowing a miracle? We don’t know for sure, but one thing is clear – the Lord was behind it. The same Lord who was responsible for bringing the storm on the Mediterranean Sea was now responsible for Jonah being rescued. What justice and love of God at play in one story and in so short a span of time.
At first reading or hearing of this story, it doesn’t sound like this was a good act of God to prepare a fish to swallow Jonah, because there’s nothing positive-sounding about a man being swallowed by a fish – it sounds like it’s the end of him for good. And that perhaps would have been how the story would have been understood, but let’s read on.
And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights
These words paint an unbelievable picture that the life of Jonah is not over yet – it’s continuing, for at least another three days and three nights, though in a very strange place – in the belly of a big fish. We’ve never heard of anyone else, apart from Jonah, spending three days and three nights in the belly of a fish. One would imagine that one’s life would end right in the mouth of a fish, not continue on in the belly, and by no means for three days and three nights. Just imagine that for a moment if it’s at all possible to do so. Jonah rolling around in the belly of the fish, with other ingested food matter, floating in stomach juices and yet staying alive for so long. I’m sure the fish wasn’t stationary, it was moving constantly, as is wont of fish to do. This is a case of a man being in a living submarine as it were.
Despite what Jonah thought about his life’s mission, purpose, and duration, despite what the sailors thought would happen to Jonah when they threw him into the sea, it does not seem like the Lord thought Jonah’s life’s mission and purpose was over yet – he had a lot to become and a lot do as well.
Isn’t it the same with us at times? We might feel like we are the end of the road like we’ve fulfilled our life’s purpose and we are ready to go home, but then the Lord does something to let us know that He’s not done with us yet – He still has plans for us – to become and to accomplish in His service, and until that’s done, we’re going to be around, and He’ll do anything to keep us around – even if He has to do a miracle on our behalf. In fact, that’s the story of my life when I was walking in the pouring rain on a highway when I was 23. Just when I thought it was all over and I said to the Lord, “Please take my life or change my life, as I can’t change it,” and He changed my life instead of taking it.
What about us The Church? Have we become all that the Lord intended for us to become when He established The Church 2000 years ago? Have we accomplished all that He intended for us to? Though the answer is obviously a resounding, “Not yet,” let’s remember that the Lord is not done with us yet? Absolutely not. God does not give up on people – people give up on people; and sadly, people give up on God, but God never gives up on people. Thank God He does not give up on people, because I wouldn’t be around to write this devotion today, had He given up on me.