From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. 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.
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.
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
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.
“When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
“Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
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.’”
And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
– Jonah 2:1-10
“’I wonder how it felt to wake up in the belly of a whale,’ say the lyrics of an old Bill and Gloria Gaither song about Jonah, a popular children’s Bible story and relatable character.
“Jonah walked with the Lord, but when the Creator asked Jonah to go to Nineveh, the prophet declined. He knew the Ninevites would repent and ask God for mercy, but Jonah didn’t think they deserved it. From the belly of a great fish who swallowed him, the pouting prophet changed his mind and agreed to bring the Lord’s message wherever God sent him.
“Ever have the same attitude about the lost in America—thinking they don’t deserve grace? But grace is just that: a gift no one deserves. ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God’ (Ephesians 2:8). Thank God for the lessons in Jonah’s story, and ask Him to open your heart to those who aren’t aware of Christ’s love.”
– Presidential Prayer Team Devotion
I wrote a few days ago about “Whose Side Are We On?” We, or the church we attend, or the ‘church’ in general, have this idea of who we would love to welcome into the Kingdom. Only problem with that is there are others that we might not be so welcoming toward. Think about the bully in the school yard. Think of the teacher that gave you an undeserved bad grade. Think of the newly elected senator that you did not vote for. These are easy people to forgive and welcome into the Kingdom compared to the child abuser or the mass murderer.
Nineveh was near present day Mosul in northern Iraq. It was a key city along the fertile crescent and one of the most vile and decadent cities in Assyria. The Assyrian empire ruled harshly over their captive people. Jonah had full right to not want to serve God on this mission, or did he?
There were Jews who survived the Holocaust who could forgive the Germans. There were many who could not. My mother-in-law suffered during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia. When Japanese automobiles became the reliable, inexpensive way to drive around town, she refused to own one. She wanted nothing to do with anything Japanese. Late in life, she softened her stance, but that was over fifty years beyond the end of Japanese occupation of her homeland. This sweet, loving woman had her Nineveh. “Lord, send me anywhere, but not there. Those from there need to rot in eternal torment.”
I have mentioned before that you can have an imprecatory prayer, just like some of the psalms, toward a group of people, like Nineveh, but once a face is applied and you see that they breathe just like you, and they grieve when they lose their loved ones just as you do, the anger subsides. Lord, the evil that is Nineveh needs to be destroyed, but save this one, then another and another.
It is hard, while sitting in the belly of the fish, to forgive a nation, to want that nation to repent. Jonah could see no faces, no eyes, no noses, nothing to show that Ninevites were human, just like Jonah. Was it mere self-preservation that led Jonah to pray the prayer in the Scripture above? Were they words with no meaning, just to get out of the fish? God would see through that. Was Jonah finally seeing things through God’s eyes? I can only assume that Jonah could see nothing through his own eyes. It was surely dark inside the fish. Maybe Jonah went along with God’s plan for a while, then he had second thoughts when Nineveh actually repented. Then in Jonah 4:6, Jonah pouts about Nineveh repenting under a leafy plant. God sends a worm to cause the plant to wither and Jonah gets angry at the plant. I have seen strong-willed children that could not hold onto a tantrum of pouting better than Jonah.
Okay, maybe our older son. My wife had to go do something, a few things, and the neighbor in the apartment two floors below said that our son could play with her girls. One of the girls got into a fight with him. She apologized, but our son wouldn’t. The neighbor put him in a chair in the corner. She had never seen a three-year-old who could sit still and be content while others played. A long time later, he asked if he could go to the bathroom. In his absence, one of the girls sat down in the chair to play. When he returned, he let her know that she was sitting in his place. She got down, taking her toys with her, and our son was still sitting in the chair in the corner upon my wife’s return from her errands. Jonah finally had a rival as to who could pout and hold a grudge longer.
Do you have that group of people that you feel have done you wrong? Would you feel cheated if they got away with their crime and got to go to Heaven on top of that? That doesn’t seem fair!
When we ask Jesus to come into our heart and be our Lord and Savior, He does not enter a virginal palace that does not even have a speck of dust in it. He enters our heart that just a second before was filled with nothing but selfishness. None of us have lived without sin. It is that sinner that Jesus had compassion on. It is that sinner that Jesus loved. Yes, He loved us while we were sinners. In Matthew 20, there is a parable about the workers who started working at the end of the day, but got a day’s wages. The workers that thought they should get more were angry, but the parable was not about them. They had made a verbal contract with the vineyard owner. They got fair wages. The parable was about that unlovable guy who might have easily been sneaking into a house to do mischief when the land owner came in the morning and at noon. Yet, without a promise of a set wage, the worker who started late worked on the basis of what the owner ‘thought was fair.’
There are few of us that were hired at the beginning of the day. We all had our problems. And for each of those problems that we caused ourselves, we have that much more reason to rejoice. Jesus loves me. There is no room for pouting.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.