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Lessons from Jonah, part 3

Lessons from Jonah, part 3
Lessons from Jonah, part 3
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh
By the Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer

Background text: Jonah 2
Devotional text: Matthew 12:38-42

We’ve been reading from the book of Jonah in the Old Testament. Last week, we finished chapter one with these words, “But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the fish three days and three nights.”

Today, we begin chapter two by reading, “From inside the fish, Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.”

It is interesting to note that even though we know Jonah was inside that fish for three days and three nights, scripture only reveals to us one prayer of eight verses during that time.

As we study God’s word, we find that God doesn’t often fill in the all the details for us. In this instance, we ask ourselves, how did Jonah survive, had he been swimming in muck for days inside the fish’s belly or had he found a place of rest, perhaps a dry space to sit and contemplate his situation?

When we read scripture, we find that it is the important details that are most emphasized. In Jonah’s case, it is his prayer to God that shows us his thoughts after he was thrown into the sea followed by his subsequent obedience to God’s word.

From the words of Jonah 2:2-7, the prophet called to God for help after he was thrown into the sea. Jonah was a man of God. He trusted God, and at that point in his life he knew God could save him from death at sea.

Verse five tells us about Jonah’s situation: “The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.”

Here, we find Jonah sinking into the sea, but then he called out to the one who could truly save him: his God. Verse 6b tells us, “But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord, my God.”

How often do we, as God’s people, try to go through life on our own? One day everything seems fine and life is enjoyable. Then, a tragedy strikes our lives. Whether its sickness or an accident or loss of home and family, or something else, do we remember to call out to our God?

If we are the type of people who take for granted our God as we live a happy life, only calling out to him in times of distress, it makes, at best, for an inconsistent relationship with God. It is when we pray and thank and praise our God on a daily basis that we have a real and growing relationship with him.

Jonah had that kind of relationship with God. His prayer in chapter two was a prayer of thankfulness for God’s faithfulness to him.

Even though Jonah had tried to run away from God’s latest call for him to fulfill, we find that his relationship with God had not changed. The story of Jonah is a story of a man who needed to understand God’s love for other people, even those who are our enemies.

How often have we too discovered that running from God does not help us? How often, after calming down and finding a quiet time to think our situation through, have we, like Jonah, found that God is still with us ready to help as we turn to him?

Jonah 2:7-8 makes reference to “worthless idols,” like the gods the seamen had cried out to during the storm. Jonah knew by faith and experience that his God is always faithful, as he said, “my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.”

Throughout Jonah, we learn that God does not berate us when we fail. God is with us out of his unfailing love for us. He seeks to bring us back to him where we can live a life benefiting from God’s mercy and grace.

As Jonah sat inside the fish, when God had his full attention, Jonah knew he needed to go to Nineveh and preach God’s word to the people. Verse nine puts it altogether for Jonah as he offered to God his “song of thanksgiving.” Jonah was ready to hear the Lord’s call. The last verse of chapter 2 tells us, “And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.”

Before continuing on with Jonah, let’s take a look at Matthew 12:38-42. These verses of scripture were stated by Jesus at a time when he and his disciples were traveling through many of the local cities. Large crowds began to follow him and were witnesses to his miraculous healings. In verse 38, the religious leaders, who were constantly looking for ways to have Jesus arrested, had come to Jesus to ask him to perform a miracle for them.

We find Jesus’ answer in the next line: “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

He continued in verse 41, “The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.”

As Jesus referred to Jonah and the repentance of the Ninevites, he also mentioned Jonah’s time within the huge fish. After three days and three nights within the fish, Jonah’s life was saved when God commanded the fish to spit him out.

Unknowing to the people at the time, Jesus was also referring to his own coming resurrection after three days.

Next week, we will find out what Jonah had to say to the Ninevites and how the Ninevites reacted to his words.