Thursday, April 1, 2010
Why did God send a fish to swallow Jonah?
Last night I was at church and heard an amazing sermon on John 21 about how the Lord didn’t let Peter go and brought him back to Him. During the sermon the pastor said the Lord didn’t let Jonah go either. I started thinking, Why did God send a fish to swallow Jonah? First impulse is to say because Jonah was in disobedience and he deserved it. While this is true, and initially what I think everyone is taught, it is not the root of “why bother with Jonah.” If he wanted Nineveh saved, he could have sent anyone, or anything for that matter, to tell them to repent. The answer to “why God sent a fish to swallow Jonah?” is because God loved Jonah. Jonah rebelled and God didn’t give up on him. The Lord disciplines those he loves (Proverbs 3:11-12). I don’t think we thank the Lord enough for His discipline, to right us when we are in error. But the story of Jonah doesn’t end here. He goes to Nineveh and God brings about the greatest revival in all biblical history (an entire wicked city in repentance!). But Jonah himself is still in rebellion in his heart and the book ends with Jonah angry and the Lord still showing compassion on him. God sent a fish to swallow Jonah, allowed him to be a part of a great miracle for God’s glory and this man of God was still rebellious and angry. How like Jonah we are. God shows us compassion continually and we don’t recognize it. God gave us the law and we could not keep it. How just would God be to say, “OK everybody I created, can just go to hell.” This would truly be justice. But instead God shows another side to his personality....mercy. It is as though he said, “I put you in the belly of a fish for three days to discipline you and you still rebel, so I’ll go in the belly of the grave for three days, I’ll pay the price you deserve, I’ll trade my righteousness for your condemnation.” And he does this lovingly....he went to the cross in LOVE. Knowing that we could not keep His law, he died in our stead and rose victorious. It has been said, “What death did to Jesus is nothing compared to what Jesus did to death.” This is the gospel. This is the news that is almost too good to be true. This is what we should keep at the forefront of our mind every moment. Jonah foreshadowed this event. The Bible is such an elaborately and finely woven tapestry of truth and yet you can lose yourself in a single strand, but the uniting tie is always the gospel of Christ. We deserve hell. We get Christ. Some people complain life is not fair. But like a pardoned prisoner, who is guilty, we should thank God it is not fair. Glory forever be to Christ.