Because Jonah refused to do what the Lord was calling him to do, he was thrown into the sea and got swallowed by a fish. Last time, I asked if you’ve ever been inside a fish. You probably have, but didn’t know it. For Jonah, it was an actual, literal, physical experience. But for us, it’s a spiritual condition.
The only thing we can do inside the fish is think and pray and maybe feel sorry for ourselves and try to hang on to what little faith we have left; try not to become too bitter or too cynical about life. But it’s so dark inside the fish. It’s a very dark time in our lives. We can’t see out, so we start looking in. All our thoughts go inward. We think and pray about ourselves when we’re inside the fish.
Very little intercessory prayer, very little thought about the problems and needs of others goes on when we’re inside the fish. We’re pretty much focused on ourselves. Time would pass more quickly if we’d stop obsessing about our failures and our problems and begin to fix our eyes on Jesus; if we’d fix our eyes on things that are unseen, on things that are eternal. It seems to last much longer when we spend our time worrying about our circumstances instead of praising the Lord.
It was inside the fish that Jonah had a chance to think about all that had just happened to him and how close he came to completely destroying his life. He thought about what could have happened, what should have happened and what’s going to happen to him if he doesn’t start making some changes in his attitude and his behavior.
(10) Inside the fish is a place of survival, but it’s not a place of contentment. Jonah realized that the Lord’s mercy was the only reason he didn’t drown in that sea. God’s grace is the only reason he’s still alive. Calmness without peace, survival without contentment, but it gives us a chance to think about where we were, where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. How important is God and His will for our lives?
The Lord was creating a pure heart in Jonah, inside that fish. He was putting a new spirit, a correct spirit, a right attitude in Jonah. When we’re inside the fish, we’re slowly being transformed by the renewing of our minds. It may have seemed like nothing much was happening inside that fish, but while Jonah was thinking things over and, waiting on the Lord to renew his strength, the fish was bringing him back to where he was supposed to be.
Jonah 2:8 “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
People who have invented their own understanding of God, those who have designed a god that makes sense to them, a god they can control, a god who approves of what they’re doing and how they’re living, those who are following other religions or other forms of spirituality, those who are working to make themselves acceptable to their god, they forfeit, they miss out on the grace that is being offered to them by simply repenting and trusting completely in what Jesus has done for their sin when He shed His blood on Calvary’s cross and rose from the grave.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves (not from worthless idols), it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Jonah 2:9 “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you.”
Jonah decided to stop feeling sorry for himself and start praising the Lord. How long does it take for you to get to that place when you’re inside the fish? Once we’ve finally gotten to that place, it will soon be time for us to come out of the fish.
“What I have vowed, I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.”
“Salvation comes from the Lord.” The Lord causes all things, even our sins and our failures; the Lord causes all things to work together for His will to get done and His purpose to be accomplished in our lives. Everything Jonah went through was bringing him closer to where the Lord wanted him to be. When we’re inside the fish, we may not like it, we can’t change it, we can’t control it and we can’t stop it.
The only thing we can do when we’re inside the fish is sit back and enjoy the ride; just let the Lord accomplish His purpose. Let Him finish the work that needs to be done in us. How faithful, how obedient to God, how willing, how teachable am I going to be for the rest of my life? How many times do we have to go through something like this before we finally get it, before we finally learn our lesson?
I’ve been thrown into the sea at least three times during the course of my ministry. Jonah got to sit inside a fish for three days. For me, I always seem to end up working for Sears for at least three years. I think Jonah got the better deal. Things are about to go from bad to worse for Jonah before this is all over. Lord willing, we’ll get into that next week.