It Is A Terrible Thing To Fall Into The Hands Of The Living God
Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah was faced with, in his mind, an impossible situation: Preach destruction to a people that he wanted God to destroy, knowing that God would show them mercy. Rather than proceeding with God’s plan, Jonah fled in the hopes that he would not be embarrassed should God relent of his stated position to destroy Nineveh, also greatly desiring the destruction of his enemies.
The sailors who drew lots to determine who was responsible for their difficulties determined it was Jonah. When confronted with his disobedience by the sailors, Jonah does something odd. Rather than repent, or tell them to take him to a port near Nineveh, he instructs them to throw him overboard! He would rather die, drowning in the water, than be responsible for the Ninevites repenting to the Lord.
God calmed the storm immediately after Jonah was thrown overboard. Not only did God relent against the ship and crew, they began to fear God and worship Him. God, rather than destroying Jonah, wanted to bring about some character refinement in him, and instead of letting him drown, sent a fish to swallow him.
God often wants to do more with us and through us that we would like. We sometime fight Him kicking and screaming, because our flesh interferes with our obedience. And, as in the case of Jonah, it was so much so that he forgot to take into account the lives that were with Him, to the point that he probably didn’t really care if the sailors died with him. But even in that, God provided for both the sailors’ safety, and for the safety of Jonah. We can be assured that God will provide for us in our time of need.
Imaging the stench of being in the belly of a fish for three days and nights. Jonah was so angry and distraught with what God was asking him to do, that it took him THREE DAYS AND NIGHTS before he could bring himself to repent. How much anger would that take? It must have been something very powerful to compel Jonah to wait so long in such a difficult situation.
Most likely, a root of bitterness had taken great hold in Jonah’s heart towards the Ninevites. God will often use a situation where we are called to be compassionate towards, and reach out to, our enemies to remove a root of bitterness that grown within us. Jonah’s root was very well entrenched. How many of us would have waited THREE DAYS AND NIGHTS to finally surrender to God? Most of us would probably, in that miserable condition, have surrendered in the first few minutes.
Regardless of the situation that we find ourselves in, God will use the perfect situation to humble us in our pride, anger, bitterness, or whatever situation that we have that causes us to act contrary to the will of the Living God. For it is only God who is able to get us to see ourselves for who we really are, and to provide opportunity for reflection and repentance. We can only hope it won’t take being in the belly of a fish to do it.
And out of these trials comes a greater understanding and acknowledgement of the character and nature of God. Jonah’s prayer to God shows that He yields to God’s sovereign rule in his life:
1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. 2 He said:
“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.
3 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.
4 I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
5 The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
6 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.
7 “When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
8 “Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
9 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.'”
When we come out of the other side of our humbling, we will praise, honor, and glorify God in Heaven for who He is and for our salvation through the difficulty.
A Qualifying Question
Let’s ask ourselves a question: What does it take from God to help us to change our minds and humble ourselves before Him?
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, You are able to humble the proud and bring low all who resist You. You are full of mercy and grace, patiently dealing with me in Your own way. Help me to not resist Your discipline, Lord, but rather to embrace it and be changed by it so that You would be glorified. Help me to remove all resistance to You in my heart, that You would have unfettered access to the deepest, darkest regions of my soul, places where even I dare not visit. Shed Your perfect light in all of the areas of darkness, and redeem what was lost by me through sin and pride. Show me what You desire of me that I may do it, and do it with a cheerful heart, knowing that it is Your will. This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?