Jonah and the whale. This story is odd, and reads like a story from a children’s book. A cautionary tale, warning us of the consequences of disobeying and running from God.
Some people find comfort in telling themselves that it’s a parable, or that certain aspects are written hyperbole and not to be taken as true. Folklore.
I’m comfortable believing every word. It does not undo anything in my faith to believe that God is sovereign over every living thing, controls the crashing waves of the ocean and that he makes big gestures to teach us something. Honestly, the hardest part of this story for me to believe is that God forgives the unforgivable.
Wherever you land on this whale of a tale (couldn’t resist), there are great things to learn about God. Here are a few I noticed:
-God uses our sin for good. After admitting that he was running away from the Lord, and offering himself to go overboard, the seas calm. “The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.” 1:16 Even when we are impacting other people with our sin, God is capable of using it for his glory.
-Read 2:5-7 for an accurate description of how it feels when you give yourself over to disobeying God. Let’s learn from this.
–God is greatly merciful to our repentance. Nothing about Nineveh seems redeemable. Yet because of the drastic, earnest repentance they showed (even the animals joined in!), God forgave them.
–God is as equally merciful to our enemies. Recently, my favorite preaching pastor taught through this book. At the end of it, he posed the question who is your Nineveh? Who do you not want God to forgive? Two people come to my mind waaaay too easily. (You can hear the sermon on Jonah here, it’s great.)
Bitterness and withholding forgiveness is not the gospel. God’s forgiveness and mercy are extended to everyone. We are not to make our own selections on who is deserving of this, because absolutely no one is.
Has God tried to send you somewhere?
More likely, maybe he’s telling you to stay put. You desire to be sent out somewhere, find another people group to share the gospel with, but he has you right where he wants you. Don’t run from where he has you.