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Jonah 2 – 3:2
In Jonah’s story we see that he was defiant and somehow, though he knew God well, got the crazy idea to run away from the Omnipresent One. We all have stupid ideas sometimes. It’s just that usually they aren’t recorded for people to read about for thousands of years to come. Jonah ran from God’s will for his life and landed himself in a situation that could have meant his death.
In Chapter 2 the Lord provided a ‘huge fish’ (most people call it a whale) to swallow Jonah. That word provided, usually describes a situation where something wanted or needed is given. Usually it’s used in a positive light! We can all agree that Jonah needed to be saved from death, but by a giant fish?! Really God?! Sometimes God uses the strangest ways to rescue us from our own foolish mistakes. In His love and mercy and inexplicable wisdom, He does provide…exactly what we need, though maybe not what we would want in our limited understanding of what’s best for us.
Jonah stayed inside the fish for three days and three nights. Anyone who’s ever cleaned and gutted a fish knows it couldn’t have been pleasant to be in Jonah’s shoes! I expected Jonah to complain about his uncomfortable accommodations after about a day. After the desperation of an awful circumstance and the novelty of rescue had worn off. Instead, Jonah praised God for the entire time he was inside the fish. How did Jonah know he’d get out? After day two wouldn’t you start to wonder if there’s an exit strategy? But Jonah thanked God for hearing his cry and providing a fish to swallow him. There comes a time when we realize that the very situation we were resisting is the very thing we needed. That God used it to guide us back to where we belong.
After Jonah praised the Lord, he freed him from the fish. The fish actually vomited him onto dry land. Why didn’t God cause the waves that were tossing Jonah about to just carry him gently to the shores of Nineveh? Or why didn’t God translate him to Nineveh like Enoch? Because Jonah had forgotten who God was. To not only defy but try to run from the Creator of the Universe, he must have had a lapse in memory and a surge of pride. Jonah thought he knew what Nineveh needed better than God did. So when his rebellion landed him in the middle of the ocean and at the end of his own strength, God knew Jonah needed some time ‘alone’ to think about what he’d done and regain the proper perspective of who was really Lord.
You see, praise brings life into proper perspective. Just as perspective in art helps us to realistically gauge size and position subjects on a canvas, praise helps to remind us of our size and position in relation to the God of All. It helps us to see how small we are and how big God is! As we praise Him, we begin to marvel at how awesome He is. We begin to revel in amazement at the fact that He would even be mindful of us. Then it helps us to properly position our hearts to yield to and receive from this infinite God. Praise also helps us to see that our problems can never outweigh God’s glory. As we praise, proportions become spiritually realistic. Problems shrink in comparison to Almighty God’s ability to solve them.
Jonah was right when he said, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the mercy that could be theirs”. Many times we hold on to our pride, wealth, dreams – whatever it is we’ve exalted to a higher position than God in our lives. And He is waiting to show us mercy and bring us out of our self-induced prisons. In the end, Jonah sacrificed his pride and sense of entitlement and sang praises to God instead. The next time God gave the instruction, Jonah obeyed, realizing that he had also received great mercy and love.
Let’s stop running and hiding out in our own lives. Let’s stop shying away from what we know God wants us to do. Whatever the reason, it isn’t good enough to warrant defying your loving Father. He knows best. Yield… Surrender… and allow yourself to be a recipient and a channel of God’s grace.