“Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.”
“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish.” Jonah 1:17-2:1 (NLT)
We all know the story of Jonah. He was a prophet who God told to go to Nineveh, which was not a nice place. They were brutal to God’s chosen people and Jonah didn’t want
them forgiven. God told him where to go and Jonah literally ran in the opposite direction. Jonah was swallowed by the fish due to his poor choice and hardened heart. God gave him a second chance, Jonah preached to Nineveh, they repented, and Jonah pouted about them not being destroyed. The book of Jonah points out that God loves ALL people, even our enemies (“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8), and He is a God of second chances.
But these two verses (Jonah 1:17-2:1) really resonate with me. At the end of Chapter 1, Jonah was swallowed by the fish and was inside for 3 days and nights. Chapter 2 starts with “THEN Jonah prayed” - Jonah wallowed in the belly of a fish for 3 days before he thought praying might have been a good idea. I want to call him a dummy, but I’ve been there too.
Have you ever been so distraught that you forgot to pray? …or realized that your own poor choices or sin got you into the mess you’re in so you think you need to get out of it yourself?
Jonah should have known that if God tells you to do something and you run in the opposite direction, God will prevail, and you learn a lesson the hard way. Too bad it took him 3 days to realize mercy and grace were only a prayerful conversation away. We are allowed to screw up and God is faithful to forgive us again and again when we repent. Joel 2:13b states: “Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.”
The book ends with Jonah still sulking that God did not wipe Nineveh off the map. He was ok with God extending him grace, but he didn’t want it offered to Nineveh:
Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at God, “God! I knew it—when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That’s why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness!"
“So, God, if you won’t kill them, kill me! I’m better off dead!” (Jonah 4:1-3 MES)
A wise person (Lynnette Buck: who learned it from Pastor Scott) has said “you can’t expect non-Christians to act like Christians. They don’t know any better.” Jonah was holding Nineveh to a higher standard than what they were capable of and then refused to forgive them after they changed their wicked ways.
Are you letting bitterness and strife rob you of the grace and mercy God is waiting to extend?
Are you holding people to a spiritual standard they are unable to uphold?
Don’t be a Jonah. Do what God asks of you, and extend grace to others as grace has been extended to you.