Listen to the commentary
You don’t really believe all of those unscientific myths in the Bible, do you?
Put me down with a “yes” in response to that question. Skepticism – which has been rampant since it was first proposed by the Evil One, posing as a serpent to Eve – always reacts to God’s account of Truth with the same revulsion: “Really? He really said that? You really believe that?
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: “Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17)
No mention of “whales” in the biblical account; it’s a “huge fish.” A known species, or a one-of-a-kind creation – by the Creator – to accomplish His purposes? “The Lord provided;” ‘nuff said.
In Jonah’s four-chapter book, one is devoted to recounting Jonah’s prayers while on “hold” in his living submarine. By the way, for validation, listen to Jesus’ answer to Jewish skeptics and their demands for a miracle to validate His claims to be God: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40). Jesus knew Jonah’s story to be bona fide.
Here’s an intriguing discovery from the script of Jonah’s prayer from inside the fish. His prayer was recounting to God what he had prayed between the time he was pitched overboard to the time he was picked up by the piscine rescuer. Tune in: “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.” (2:1-6)
Jonah had to come to his senses. Discovering God’s purpose for his life placed him at a decision point: would he be obedient and act on what seemed – humanly – to be a dangerous path that would put him in hostile environments, doing things that would run counter to culture? Or, would he adopt the safer alternative and chart a course for a future that would take him 180° off the compass setting of his God-given assignment?
Jonah was a blessed man, enjoying the aftermath of the promise made by God to Abraham over 1200 years earlier. He was in a position to take an extended time-out from his career; he was able to afford international travel with a walk-up ticket purchase. The promise to Abraham’s family – into the future – was that they would be blessed by God, so that “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3). But, wait: those Ninevites didn’t deserve a warning about God’s coming judgment. The last thing Jonah wanted was to run the risk of confronting Nineveh’s evil with the news of God’s impending consequences. What if God intended for Jonah’s mission to extend God’s blessing beyond His provision to the family of Abraham, to the nations that were in rebellion against Him?
Jonah came to his senses, in the fish: “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.’” (2:8-9)
God’s reputation precedes Him; He is known to many as “the God of the Second Chance.” He did that for Jonah: “And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” (2:10). Would he do it for the Ninevites?
Next week, the action moves from deep in the Mediterranean to Nineveh, on the plain of the Tigris River near modern-day Mosul, Iraq. What do you do when your calling takes you to a place you do not want to be, with people who disgust you, with a message that makes you unpopular?
You can’t miss the next installment!