Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Enter the most famous character of the book of Jonah. He has been called, ‘the most criticized fish that ever swam in the Mediterranean.’ Various stories have been offered in order to vindicate the events of the narrative, which while perhaps commendable, have sadly changed the focus of the story from a great God to a great fish story. Of course the narrative is not about a fish at all, or is it? In his time on stage, as it were, the fish really only has a walk-on part in this grand drama, but yet his role is indispensable. This great fish is God’s ordained instrument of judgment and mercy, in order to bring out Jonah’s repentance. Can you think of another great instrument of judgment and mercy that God ordained in order to bring about repentance?
As we consider the story of Jonah, there is the natural miracle to consider, in that Jonah survived in the belly of the fish for three days, but deeper still is the work of grace that God had done in Jonah’s heart during his time in the fish. Jonah, a hopeless man, asks to be thrown overboard into the raging waves – basically writing his own death sentence; he emerges after three days as a hopeful man of prayer. What happened? The despondent Jonah is hurled into the sea, despairing of his very life; after just three days, he is able to confess, “Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God.” (Jonah 2:6). What happened? A humiliated prophet, ashamed of his calling and devoid of any expectation of future usefulness in ministry, after just three days, is changed and finds his calling and mission is restored. What happened? In just three days, Jonah was a changed man. What on earth could bring about such enormous spiritual growth in such short a time? A big fish, that’s what! This fish – this ordained instrument of judgment and mercy, was exactly what was needed to bring Jonah to the place where he would call out to the Lord in his distress, recognize his own inability, repent, and ultimately fulfill his calling. Praise God for in just three days, the very world itself was turned upside down; what happened in three days to accomplish such a great universal transformation?
Rejoice in the grace of our God, who ordained a ‘fish’ … and a cross, and everything else in our lives, to bring about our repentance, faith, and our conformity to the image of Christ, for His glory! God will have your will and your way directed toward Him, whatever it takes!
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