The Story of Jonah
The story of Jonah is well known among Jews and Christians—Jonah, the man who disobeyed God and got swallowed by a large fish. As a child, I thought that the moral of the story was don’t disobey God. However, I know for a fact that we have all disobeyed God, and last time I checked most of us haven’t been swallowed by a large animal.
Let’s look at the story of Jonah a little deeper. Jonah was told to go to the city of Nineveh, and proclaim that they would be judged by the Lord. Nineveh was an Assyrian country that had a history of idolatry and violence—in short, Jonah didn’t like them. Jonah chose to disobey God, and took a ship in the opposite direction (to Tarnish); during that trip, a great storm almost sank the ship. Despite the sailor’s reluctance, Jonah told them to throw him overboard since the storm was his fault. Sure enough, once he was thrown overboard the sea calmed down. Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and spend three days inside its stomach praying; God was merciful and had the big fish vomit him out.
After his fishy encounter, Jonah decided to obey God and went to Nineveh. Thanks to his proclamations the people of Nineveh repented and were spared; even though Jonah was not happy about it
There are different lessons that can be grasped from Jonah: the consequences of disobeying God, God’s Judgement, God’s Mercy, God’s Patience, etc. However, what touched me the most was Jonah’s Prayer to God (Please read it: Jonah 2: 2-9).
Reading the prayer reminded me of a traumatizing experience I had when I was 14 or 15. My family and I were on a Mexican beach, I was swimming with my 5-year-old sister. My dad was nearby but not too close; suddenly we got caught in this whirlpool of waves. The trick to waves is to get underwater and try to go under the wave so it doesn’t crash on top of you. I was a decent swimmer so I might have been okay by myself; however, my sister was not and she had floaties. What happened next was a disaster; I couldn’t go under the wave and leave my sister and I dare not to take her floaties off (she couldn’t swim well)—I was forced to take the direct hit of the wave as I try to push or throw my sister above it.
Like Jonah, I was swirled and swept under water by the waves. Sometime my sister would be under with me, in which case my priority was to push her up—she was kicking my face so that didn’t help. I was up, down, and struggling to breathe; getting tired really fast. I could see my dad trying to get to us, but the waves made it really hard; he did finally get to us after 5 minutes or 15 minutes (honestly, my sense of time was off).
Figuratively, that is what sin does. Billy Graham said that sin is:
“A sin is any thought or action that falls short of God’s will. God is perfect, and anything we do that falls short of His perfection is sin.”
God spoke to Jonah directly; Jonah literally started going the opposite direction. The consequence of his sin caused him to be swirled and swept by the ocean—drowning, desperate, growing weak. He was then shallow by a fish and staying there for three days—lonely, cold, and not sure what will happen next. However, he did know that only God could take him away from this, and that “Salvation comes from the Lord”.
It is really remarkable that Jesus mentioned this particular moment in His ministry.
“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
Just like Jonah was 3 days, facing his sin (and death); Jesus was dead for 3 days facing everyone else’s sin. However, after 3 days Salvation came. We choose to sin; however, sin bears consequences—it will crash over us like waves. However, the only hope we have at that moment is God—Salvation comes from the Lord.