Often when we hear someone mention the big fish story, the one about Jonah getting swallowed whole by a whale, or, whatever kind of sea creature it was. Most people think Jonah was cast into that fishy prison cell to teach him a lesson. That’s not at all the truth of the story, though – not even close.
When the sailors tossed him overboard, I doubt he was given a life jacket and I’m quite certain Jonah wasn’t expecting to have a seaweed salad with Patrick and Sponge Bob somewhere at the bottom of the sea. Jonah was shark bait and he knew it; a man breathing his last breaths, soon to perish and be buried in a watery grave. Instead, God had appointed (prepared – KJV) a really big fish with some unique qualities.
First, it was a fish large enough to swallow Jonah whole and in the right place at just the right time. What are the odds? Second, it was a fish with a large enough belly to house a man and not secrete the normal digestive enzymes that alone would kill him. Again, what are the odds? In fact, does such a fish exist? In God’s economy – all things are possible.
As we look carefully at the big picture being developed, the one we sometimes miss (I hope you will look), the only really big thing in it is God, and as the film advances, he keeps getting bigger with each frame. You may notice in Jonah’s prayer (Jonah 2), he recounts the events pointing out first that he should have drowned. The flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me” (2:2b); “The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me” (2:5a), Jonah recalls. His life was over, he was a dead man, or at least should have been a dead man. God had other plans, though. Plans not only to send Jonah to the people of Nineveh but to spare Jonah’s life in his mutinous state and he did both in miraculous form.
Yes, Jonah had rebelled against God – who hasn’t? And yes, through your eyes and mine, Jonah putting an entire ship, it’s passengers and crew in harms way should have invoked a harsh response from God and it did. The Big Fish swims into our story, opens his mouth wide and Jonah becomes the first person to glide on a Slip ‘N’ Slide – right down the fishes throat, down its esophagus and into its belly. What we want to see however is this; The big fish wasn’t sent to punish Jonah, he enters the scene to rescue him. He should have drowned and would have, were it not for that fish.
Always remember, God saves for a reason. How many times has he rescued you from a mess you made? There’s a reason. How many times have you rebelled against God being disobedient to his word? How many fixes has he bailed you out of when you should have been left to suffer through it yet the Lord showed mercy? There is a reason.
Hopefully you will never find yourself in a predicament like Jonah was in, but should you ever feel the heavy hand of God pressing in on your life in an uncomfortable manner, might I suggest you do what Jonah did – pray. In Jonah’s prayer, you’ll find repentance, an acknowledging of God’s sovereignty and an appeal to his mercy. Because of it, Jonah got a second chance, a free pass, a do-over – he got grace. No, it’s not what he deserved but it is what God gives. There’s a reason.
Indeed, Jonah isn’t a big fish story – it’s a Big GOD Story.
NOTE: This week’s devotional was inspired by co-pastor, Paul McDill’s sermon preached at the Community Life Church (c|Life) of Forney, Texas, November 8, 2015. It is the second message in the sermon series titled, “A Big GOD Story” and will be available for viewing later in the week at www.clifc.com