JONAH WAS SWALLOWED BY A GREAT FISH. WHY?
God requested that Jonah go to Nineveh and deliver a special warning to the people, but Jonah had other ideas! So, Jonah boarded a ship going to Tarshish, the OPPOSITE direction, hoping to escape God and His request!
But, as the ship was sailing along, the Lord created a very powerful wind that flung the ship violently and threatened to sink it!.
All on board was terrified, and the men began shouting and praying to their gods.
(During all of this, Jonah was peacefully sleeping.)
"How can you sleep at a time like this?" (the captain shouting at Jonah). "Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will have mercy on us and spare our lives."
As the storm worsened, the crew decided to cast lots, to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. Jonah lost the toss!
"What have you done to bring this awful storm down on us?" they demanded. "Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?"
And Jonah answered, "I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, Who made the sea and the land." Then he told them that he was running away from the Lord!
This terrified the sailors even more. "Oh, why did you do it?" they groaned, as the storm worsened. "What should we do to you to stop this storm?"
Jonah suggested they throw him into the sea! "For I know that this terrible storm is all my fault."
The sailors tried harder to row the boat through the tumultuous waters, but the storm raged on, and became more violent.
They prayed to God, Jonah's God, for forgiveness for what they were about to do; that He would not hold them responsible for Jonah's death. "O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons." Then they tossed Jonah into the raging waters.
THE GREAT SALVATION OF JONAH BY THE FISH
"Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights."
Jonah prayed! (This is very important...) "I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the world 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. I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves. Then I said, 'O Lord, you have driven me from your presence. How will I ever again see your holy Temple?'
"I sank beneath the waves and death was very near. The waters closed in around me, and seaweed wrapped itself around my head. I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was locked out of life and imprisoned in the land of the dead. But you, O Lord my God, have snatched me from the yawning jaws of death!
"When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple. Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God's mercies. But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the Lord alone."
THE DELIVERANCE OF JONAH
"Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit up Jonah on the beach,
and it did."
Now, after all that Jonah has been through, he is back where he started!
"Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message of judgement I have given you."
This time, Jonah did as the Lord told him, and he went to Nineveh and delivered the Lord's warning. "Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!"
The people believed the message, and repented! Everyone - rich or poor - went without food and wore "sackcloth" in sorrow. Even the king left his throne, replaced his royal robes with "sackcloth", and sat in a heap of ashes. He decreed that "Everyone is required to wear sackcloth and pray earnestly to God. Everyone must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet, God will have pity on us and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us."
THE GREAT SALVATION OF NINEVEH BY GOD
"When God saw that they had put a stop to their evil ways, he had mercy on them and didn't carry out the destruction he had threatened." (Jonah 3:10)
Poor Jonah, he felt he looked like a fool, and complained to the Lord about it.
"Didn't I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? This is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you were a gracious and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. I knew how easily you could cancel your plans for destroying these people. Just kill me now, Lord! I'd rather be dead than alive because nothing I predicted is going to happen."
GOD REBUKES JONAH
"The Lord replied, 'Is it right for you to be angry about this?' "
Jonah, sulking, went and made himself a shelter to sit under as he waited to see if anything would happen to the city. God arranged for a nice, leafy plant to grow there, and spread it's leaves over Jonah's head, protecting him from the sun. Jonah felt a bit better, and he was very grateful for the plant.
Now, I've pictured this many times, and I can't help smiling. God also sent a worm to eat the plant! Of course, the plant died, and Jonah was left with no protection. To make things worse, God sent a "scorching east wind to blow on Jonah".
Again, as Jonah grew hotter and was feeling faint, he wished he would die. "Death is certainly better than this!"
God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?" and Jonah replied "Yes, even angry enough to die!"
The Lord's response was: "You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. And a plant is only, at best, short lived. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn't I feel sorry for such a great city?"