This week at my church, the youth choir sang "Who Did Swallow Jonah?" Of course there was a verse about the whale swallowing Jonah. In the story of Jonah, most people stress the fact that the whale swallowed him and then three days later spit him back out. However there is soooooo much more to the story. On that surface level (the whale), shows the ultimate power of our God but on the deeper level shows God's relentless search for us.
In the 1st chapter of Jonah, God calls Jonah to go to a city deep in sin, Nineveh, and preach repentance. Jonah said "No way that's Impossible" and fled. Big Mistake: Jonah didn't believe that the Power of God and Trust that He would give him the words to turn these wicked people back to God. Can you relate? Has God called you to something that seems impossible and you keep putting it off? If so I encourage you to go to Him and ask for the help. The Holy Spirit will guide your words!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
Jonah found the first boat leaving the port and boarded. God followed him with a storm and rocked the boat severely. Jonah told the men that he was fleeing from the Lord; the men confronted him with terror because they were afraid of his God. Jonah finally realized that to stop the storm, the men must throw him into the sea. God stopped the storm immediately and commanded the whale to shallow Jonah. I don't know about you but I've never been swallowed by an actual whale but what about a metaphorical whale? Has God ever captured you so that you would have no other option then to turn to Him? When I think about it that way, I can certainly think of "whales" in my life: breakups, deaths, and illnesses. My whales happen to all be somewhat tragic but that's how God has driven me farther to Him. God is constantly pursuing us! It's awesome to think back on how He has used so many events in my life to show His love for me.
While Jonah was in the belly of the whale, he started to pray (Jonah 2:1-9). Let's take a look at this prayer:
"In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers swept over me.
I said, 'I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.'
The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit.
When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD,
and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.
Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God's love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, 'Salvation comes from the LORD.'"
Very similar to David's Petition in Psalm 38 (last week), Jonah cries out to God. The imagery of crying out from the "deep in the realm of the dead" can often describe my heart. When those "whales" swallowed me, that was my same reaction: crying out to God. However we don't have to wait until we are swallowed, we can go to God every day! I find that when I spend daily time with my Lord, then when a storm or issue hits, God doesn't need to use a whale to swallow me to bring me to Him because I'm usually close by. It has taken a few years to learn this lesson and sometimes I still stray a bit away but God wants us!! That is the Wonderful Love of God, He will continually search for us, even when we run away. (I encourage you to look up the Parable of the Wandering Sheep Matthew 18: 10-14 and Luke 15: 3-7)
After Jonah prayed and vowed to do good in God's sight, God got him to the point he wanted: Jonah admitted that only 'Salvation come from the LORD'! (Jonah 2:9) Then the whale spat him out (Jonah 2:10). God used those three days in the belly of the whale to shape Jonah and change his attitude. (Also it is a great foreshadow for Jesus' death and resurrection, see Matthew 12:38-41). Our storms, whales and trials may last shorter or longer than three days but the end result will be the same: God has used that time to change and shape us. From my personal experiences, I learned much more in the presence of God then I would've if I had tried to go through it alone. So where are you in your walk with God? Has God used a "whale" to swallow you so that you can draw closer to Him? Are you running from God? Well use Jonah's example and cry out to God.
After studying the first two books of Jonah closer, I have concluded that while the whale swallowing Jonah is a great feat that only our wondrous God could have willed, the more astonishing aspect is that God kept pursuing Jonah. He still pursues people today, is He looking for you?
p.s. If you have enjoyed these devotions, I encourage you to check out #SheReadsTruth!