So when God told Jonah to go to the city of Ninevah and try to get them to stop being so evil, Jonah was scared and decided he would just hop a ship to somewhere else and ignore God’s instructions. Well, we all know how that ended up, right? A big storm came and the boat was not doing so well. Jonah realized that it was because of him that the storm was raging so he convinced the sailors to throw him overboard in order to rid themselves of the object of God’s wrath. But the punishment didn’t stop there, did it? God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah, and he stayed in that fish’s belly for 3 days before he finally saw the error of his ways and repented - at which point the fish spit him out onto dry land. That is how it went, right?
The first part is right. Jonah did try to run away from God when he was trying to get out of going to Ninevah. And he was thrown overboard during the huge storm. But then, here’s where it is different - Jonah isn’t swallowed by the fish as a part of his punishment. God actually sends the fish to Jonah in order to save him from drowning in the sea. Read what Jonah prayed to God while he was in the belly of the fish:
“I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble,
and he answered me.
I called to you from the land of the dead,
and Lord, you heard me!
You threw me into the ocean depths,
and I sank down to the heart of the sea.
The mighty waters engulfed me;
I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.
Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence.
Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’
“I sank beneath the waves,
and the waters closed over me.
Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.
I was imprisoned in the earth,
whose gates lock shut forever.
But you, O Lord my God,
snatched me from the jaws of death!”
He was drowning. He sank to the bottom of the sea as the waters engulfed him. The seaweed wrapped around his head as the waters closed over him. But then, the Lord snatched him from the jaws of death. My whole life I viewed this big whale type thing as a villain but now I see that it was really one of the “good guys.”
Here’s what really stuck out to me about this today - I am continually surprised at how many things I just take as truth without studying it for myself. For 36 years I’ve thought that this was a story about God’s wrath and how we should fear him. Now I see that this is really a story about second chances and mercy. Jonah disobeyed God and because of it did have to endure being tossed off of a ship in the middle of a hurricane type storm, BUT God almost immediately sent a savior to him that ensured that not only did he not drown, but took him all the way back to shore where he was spit out onto dry land.
It’s the same today. We can disobey God and yes, bad things can come of it. But if we just try to seek God and agree to do what He asks us to, He will provide us with comfort and mercy every time.