Ring ring. Ring ring. This was before personalized ring tones. Jonah tripped over the cat on the way to the phone.
“Hello Jonah, this is God. I have a character I want you to play in a movie. Your character will go to Ninavah and preach repentance to the people there. When the movie is finished, I will get in touch with you again. I’m counting on you to do a great job in this role. These people really need you.” Click. The phone line goes silent.
Jonah sputters, “But, but, are you kidding? No way am I going to play that character! Those people are evil. They deserve punishment. Never mind God I have a better plan for the ending of the movie!” Jonah rummaged thru his desk finally pulling out pen and parchment. The future as Jonah saw it flowed from sparking brain cells to the parchment beneath his pen. He sat back, scanned his work and nodded in approval.
Jonah gave one last glance to his script, folded it and tucked it in his pocket. He went out to the garage and picked his biggest suitcase….turns out it was a steamer trunk, afterall running from God could take awhile. Jonah packed up and set his GPS for Tarshish. He would be a world traveller, so many things to see and do. He would read about how God took care of those Ninevite’s later in the paper. Thanks to his trusty GPS he soon arrived in Tarshish. He hadn’t called ahead to make reservations, but lucky for him a boat with space available was ready to leave for his destination. Jonah boarded, stowed away his trunk and decided to take a nap. He would enjoy the sites of the trip after they had set sail. So far Jonah was pretty pleased with his script writing abilities.
But, sometimes God really wants you to do something and that’s how it was this time. Once he got the idea in his head that Jonah should go to Nineveh, he just couldn’t see any other way of doing it so…… Jonah was going to Nineveh. Not Tarshish. Why? God had people He wanted to save! Does He want to save you? YES. Did He go to great lengths to do it! He sure did.
God was not subtle. He sent a gigantic storm. An enormous and scary storm. Have you ever done something wrong and things got pretty stormy in your life? It seems to work that way alot of the time. It’s because God cares about you and wants you back on the right path. While Jonah slept the storm raged about him. Everyone else on the boat was afraid, they prayed to their gods. Then they found Jonah asleep! Apparently running from God is exhausting. They told him to pray to his God. Jonah may have prayed something like……God, if you get us safely to Tarshish I will go straight to Nineveh. It makes sense doesn’t it? After all how else is he going to get there?
So Jonah prayed, but the storm didn’t let up. Finally the sailors decided to draw lots and the lot fell to Jonah. They questioned him and found out what he had done and they said, “Do you realise what you have done? Why did you try to run from your God?
The storm got worse–which is what usually happens when we run from God; the storms of our lives get worse. They tried to row for land, but the wind was so strong they just couldn’t do it. So finally they asked Jonah what they should do….after all it was his fault. He said, throw me overboard, its not your fault I ran from God. You ever notice how your sin affects others lives and how others can suffer because of your wrong doing?
Jonah was thrown into the raging sea. I’m sure he thought that was the end for him. After all there isn’t much hope when you are out in a storm like that with no life vest or life boat….and even those aren’t a guarantee of safety in a bad storm.
I used to live on Kodiak Island, Alaska. There were two ways to get off the island. Fly or take the ferry boat. It is a 10 to 12 hour trip by ferry each way across the Aleutians to get to the mainland and the first few trips I made the weather was miserable. Generally I would get sea sick and throw up at the beginning of the trip. After that if I sat very still thru the rest of the trip I would be ok. “Ok” being defined as I wouldn’t throw up again. Unfortunately not everyone else on the boat had the same experience. Every time the boat hit a really big wave…..auuuckgh splat…several people would throw up. After one especially rough trip back to the island I started to pray for good weather when we would take the ferry. Seriously, I started praying months in advance and God was kind enough to answer my prayers for good weather. As a matter of fact, every time after that we had beautiful weather for the trip. Even when a storm would be predicted it would hold off until we arrived back to land!
Back to Jonah. He has just been thrown overboard. I wonder if he was thinking maybe he wasn’t such a a great script writer after all at that point in time. Did he even bother holding his breath? Can you imagine his terror when he was swallowed by a big fish? Really once he was in the stomach of the whale I bet he wished he had drowned rather than spend days being digested by a fish. Yuck. I wonder what else was in the stomach of the fish. Maybe some leftover octopus and other no longer recognisable fishy things. By that point in time they all smelled the same anyway. I’m sure Jonah could easily imagine what he would look like in the near future.
The Bible says that Jonah prayed to God in his distress. I can imagine he did alot of praying in the stomach of that big fish. Where do you go to pray? The stomach of a big fish probably wouldn’t be your first choice. I’m sure it wasn’t Jonahs either, in his script he had included a nice cruise to Tarshish. Some nice fresh fried fish, maybe a good book and little time tanning on the deck. His script didn’t not include ending up in the belly of a whale. So Jonah called up God and the Bible records a prayer that ends like this, “With a song of thanksgiving and praise I renew my oath of loyalty and obedience. Salvation can only come from the Lord.” I like that…Salvation can only come from the Lord. And salvation did come from the Lord.
The Lord spoke to the fish and it vomited Jonah up on the beach. Apparently right where he needed to be to get to Nineveh and not on some small deserted island. Jonah trekked to Nineveh and proclaimed the message God had given him for the people there. “Forty days and Nineveh will be destroyed.” The people repented and God relented. He would no longer destroy the city.
God was, is, and always will be the Master Script Writer. Say yes when He calls you.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope.