Have you ever wondered what Jonah was doing for three days and nights in the belly of the fish before he finally spoke to God? Today we have many distractions to take our minds off God when we want to avoid Him. We can occupy our thoughts and time with endless hours of video games, texting or FaceTiming with friends, playing or watching ball games, streaming television shows, monitoring social media, or even just staring pointlessly at the home screens of our phones (with an iPhone, you can your see your app usage for the past week by going to “Settings,” then “Battery,” and then “Last 7 Days;” if you’ve never done this, it can be quite convicting!). None of these activities are necessarily bad in moderation (though the home screen staring thing is weird), but when we drown ourselves in busyness to the point that we can’t hear God’s voice, that’s a serious spiritual problem.
Jonah didn’t that have that option in today’s passage – God took ignoring Him off the menu. Instead, Jonah sat trapped in a fish’s gut, with stomach acid permanently bleaching his skin and hair. Imagine someone finishing an epic Color Run, then not being able to be blown off, then not being able to take a shower ever again – this is your new look for the rest of your natural life! God miraculously preserved His prophet’s life, but the process changed Jonah’s life forever. Jonah sat inside the fish for three days, nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. He was thinking about his disobedience and the horrible consequences it had brought. He was wondering why God had saved him from drowning, only to then stick him in some giant shark’s tummy (probably wasn’t a whale) to simmer. And then Jonah resolved to listen to God again. He decided that if ever God delivered him from this aquatic prison, Jonah would do what God said. Finally at the end of himself, Jonah found the grace of God again. And then Jonah was ready to pray, not to a strange Judge or Enemy, but to his good and kind Heavenly Father. He knew His God was ready to listen to him.
How about you? Are you ready to pray to the Lord Your God today? God is waiting for you in the quiet places. What will you do?
The Text (Jonah 1:17 – 2:2)
1:17 Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
2:1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly. 2 And he said:
“I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction,
And He answered me.
“Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
And You heard my voice.
Questions to Think About
- Do you struggle to maintain a quality prayer life? Do you need to reduce the distractions in your life to better hear God’s voice?
- Have you ever reached the end of yourself like Jonah did in today’s passage? What happened?
- Have you ever had great experiences with God at weekend retreats or week-long camps? Have you ever wanted to continue to enjoy that level of sweet fellowship with the Lord and other Christians in your everyday life? That could happen at NRCA if we all start to make more time for God in our lives!
- Most commentators today believe that it was a giant fish of some kind that swallowed Jonah, not a whale. The Hebrew word used here as well as the Greek word used by Jesus in Matthew 12 when He talks about Jonah’s experience both refer to a fish. The reason some scholars in the past wanted to see this creature as a whale was to make the event seem more scientifically possible. Whales are mammals and would have air inside them that Jonah might have been able to breathe. However, we must take God’s Word at what it says. This was a miracle. The Bible contains accounts of miracles, and we should believe them. If we believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, then we can believe that God supernaturally kept Jonah alive inside a giant fish’s stomach.
- Jonah felt like he was a total goner, dead and done. But he wasn’t. So he finally did what the faith inside him led him to do – he turned back to God. Jonah knew that he knew the Lord. He knew who God was, and he trusted that God would hear his prayer. If you are a Christian, pray and believe today that God hears your prayers. “Cast all your cares upon the Lord, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)!