I’m teaching through Jonah on Sunday mornings, talking about “The God of the Second Chance.”
For years, as a church kid in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, etc., I thought the worst thing that ever could have possibly happened to Jonah was getting swallowed by that “big ol’ fish.” (No “whale” anywhere to be seen…it might have been a big ol’ honkin’ catfish or goldfish or rainbow trout or bream, who knows?) (Oh, which also reminds me of that great old “preacher story,” where the little girl answers the agnostic by saying, “Well then you’ll have to ask him.”)
Where was I?
Oh, yeah…Jonah’s fish story as punishment. The real story is that the fish is actually God’s rescue of Jonah, not His punishment! How cool is that? Jonah was sinking, sinking, sinking in the depths of the sea, and God picked him up. He used a fish to do it, but He did it nonetheless.
Preparing for this morning’s talk, I came across Max Lucado’s take on Jonah from He Still Moves Stones…
Look at Jonah in the fish belly – surrounded by gastric juices and sucked-in seaweed. For three days God has left him there. For three days Jonah has pondered his choices. And for three days he has come to the same conclusion: he ain’t got one. He blew it as a preacher. He was a flop as a fugitive. At best he’s a coward, at worse a traitor. And what he’s lacked all along he now has in abundance – guts. So Jonah does the only thing he can do: he prays. He says nothing about how good he is – but a lot about how good God is. He doesn’t even ask for help, but help is what he gets. Before he can say amen, the belly convulses, the fish belches, and Jonah lands face first on the beach.
How often do we think God’s out to get us, when in reality He’s only out to get our attention – and engineer our circumstances to get us where we’re supposed to be?