This summer at Camp Barnabas was chock-full of GodStuff, but none more pronounced than what God taught me through our daily devotionals. Camp did 4 days of devos over Jonah– one day for each chapter. Multiply that times 9 weeks of terms and I got a whole ‘lotta Jonah. You’d think for such a short book that I would have run out of material, but God had other plans. Go here to read the first and second installments in my #JonahSeries.
So we’re into chapter 2 of Jonah by now, and I wanted to share something that hit me profoundly during one of our devos this last summer. Although I had always thought of the whale in the Jonah story as one that was sent as punishment for our wayward sailor… a dear friend of mine had always thought of this giant as something completely different…. a savior.
Let’s take a look…
Jonah has been thrown overboard, Though the physical storm on the seas immediately stops raging, Jonah’s storm is just now beginning. Though the sailor’s lives are now safe, Jonah’s is now very much in peril. His storm has just started- he’s in a pretty bad place. Out in the middle of nowhere, miles from land, sinking like a rock. Death closing in second by second.
Verse 5, “The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever…” Yes, Jonah is most certainly on a fast track to the bottom of the ocean. Certain death.
And then comes along a great beast of the sea, who swallows him whole. And suddenly, though his situation may have become significantly more odoriferous and dark (I mean, let’s face it, having personally never been INSIDE a whale before, I cannot speak to the living conditions, but I imagine them as less than ideal) Jonah is ALIVE. He is no longer actively dying. What an unusual turn of events!
Jonah is suddenly smack-dab in the middle of a salvation situation.
Verse 7, “When me life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple… . But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord.”
Jonah’s prayer in the belly of that big, ‘ol whale, which makes up the entirety of chapter 2, is nothing if not an obvious and immediate recognizing that this fish has saved him. Literally. Though I had not noticed it before, Jonah did immediately. He went from dying to living because of the whale. It wasn’t a punishment at all, it was his salvation. As he says in verse 6, “… yet you brought up my life from the pit.” I think it’s no stretch to think here that not only was God bringing his life out of the pit spiritually, He was very physically bringing a behemoth from the deep to save Jonah’s life.
Look back on the storms of death and chaos that have (or still are!) surrounding you. Where is the whale? What does your salvation situation look like? Do you need to reexamine those dark places in your past with a new outlook? Perhaps God sent a big, smelly, fishy, slimy whale to save you. Have you been looking (as I did) at the creature as a punishment or a savior?
Salvation Situations rarely look or feel like we think they will. More often than not there’s rot, decay, blood, bones, sweat, and tears involved. But if we look more closely, we see the meager beginnings of change, growth, strength, and renewal. We see life! God often uses unusual saviors for us, I regret that we probably see them in their obvious form instead of the spiritual work they’ve been sent to do.
Today, take a look back and spend some time thanking God for the whales in your life. Thank Him for the big, slimy, wild, smelly, wet creatures that He sent to save you- swimming miles and miles of treacherous ocean, braving wind and sea while you are stowed safely inside to bring you to a new land. “And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.”