Lessons learned inside the belly of a fish

I’ll be upfront and honest with you. I generally avoid the book of Jonah like the plague.

Until today, I only saw Jonah as a rebellious man. God calls him. He runs away. He gets thrown off a boat. Swallowed by a fish. Vomited out of the fish’s mouth. Resentfully proclaims the word of the Lord. City gets saved. Jonah remains in a bad mood. The end.

Today, as I was researching faith in the Bible, I went to the book of Jonah. I know, I know. Hebrews 11. Hall of faith. Most of the New Testament. Faith. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Faith. Jonah is about the last person that I consider when I consider a teaching on faith.

Stick with me for a moment. (Or, if you are already ahead of me, chill for a moment and let me catch up.) Jonah is a Hebrew. He is secure in who God is, and who his people are in God…they are God’s chosen people. The people in Nineveh are Assyrians…a bad group of people. For fun, when they conquer a land, they skin people alive; they boil people in oil; they kill babies and kids in the most cruel, inhumane ways possible.

So, God tells Jonah, “You know the most evil, heinous people on the face of the earth? Go to them and proclaim the Good news.” Jonah becomes infuriated and heads in the opposite direction, to Tarshish. I would have too. God’s love for the Assyrians is so great that He causes a storm, gets Jonah thrown overboard, swallowed by a big fish and vomited onto the shore. Of Nineveh. God uses Jonah’s mouth, despite his bitterness, to save a city.

You see, I don’t think that Jonah’s main problem is his bitterness or his rebellion. I think that his problem is that he knows that God is going to move. Jonah has seen God move, and knows God’s compassion and love and grace. And God knows that Jonah knows that He will move.

Put yourself in Jonah’s place. God has called you to a place where you know that He wants to move. But you are afraid of the people; they have repeatedly tortured you and your people throughout the years. They are building a nuclear bomb that they would like to use to level your cities, to bring destruction to your land. Now, imagine God asking you to leave your land to go to their land to proclaim the Good News. Would you be willing?

How about this scenario. Think of a person who has hurt you deeply. Or a group of people who have hurt you deeply. A group of people who absolutely terrify you. Think of them, their friends, their relatives, sitting at a table in your local Starbucks. These people do not know God, but you know that He wants to speak words of healing and reconciliation with Him into their lives. Do you walk up with your skim caramel macchiato and tell them of the wonders of God? Or do you hop in your SUV and hope for the best for them?

So, today I learned some valuable heart lessons inside the belly of a whale. Some faith lessons. I believe that some of us, myself included, know that God wants to move…I’m talking about people who know God, know His grace, know His love and compassion for His people. The problem with God is that He wants to move in people we don’t like, who don’t fit our agenda. So, we pack our bags, hop in our ship, and “pray” for those people.

Are you going to be a Jonah a serve God begrudgingly? Or are you going to serve the Lord with gladness and allow Him to move in others’ lives and therefore move in your life?

This entry was posted in call to action, heart work, mission, sermon illustration. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Lessons learned inside the belly of a fish

  1. Chill Pastor says:

    WOW!!! That will preach all day long!!!….Once again, I never believe God can run out of ways to show me something new and fresh in a passsage that I will skip over because “I Know The Story.”…Thanks for sharing…This post applies to everyone that calls themselves a “Follower of Chirst.”….And you used my favorite word…”chill.”

  2. Thanks for this insight. Good stuff.

    I see you are reading some of the same things I read and blogs too. Keep on!

    MICHAEL

  3. deneenwhite says:

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  4. Phaedra says:

    How appropriate that I would come across this yesterday on the same day the minister of my church prepared this lesson for our Sunday service. Thanks!

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