MATTHEW 12:40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
What a most interesting statement of scripture, for Jonas (Jonah) was another of those saints of the Hebrew Bible who typified the coming Messiah. On more than one occasion we have this truth borne witness to by the Redeemer Himself (see LUKE 11:29-32). Yeshua's (Jesus') immediate situation in the Gospels wasn't all that much different than Jonas' had been eight centuries before, for as Israel in Jonah's age was soon to be destroyed because of her sins, so the Israel of Yeshua's age was soon to be destroyed because of her sins.
GOD's reason in having Jonas swallowed by the whale, was simply to return him to GOD's purpose. Let us go back in scripture to see not only GOD's purpose as wonderful as it is, but also HIS incredible ability to bring that purpose to pass.
JONAH 1:1-3 NIV The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
The word of the LORD to Jonah was simple and direct, "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it". So why did the prophet Jonah run away from the LORD and head in the opposite direction for Tarshish? Jonah was of the nation of Israel, but Nineveh was the chief city of its enemy, Assyria. This Assyria was to someday be GOD's rod of judgment against Israel because of her sins. At present, however, Assyria herself was in difficult times because of her own sins.
GOD decided to send Jonah to preach repentance to Nineveh so as to save them. But if they repented and were saved, that would no doubt be Israel's eventual doom. Instead, Jonah thought that if Nineveh would now demise, perhaps Israel would be saved from a future war with her. Therefore he boarded a ship and sailed in the opposite direction.
JONAH 1:4,10-12,15 NIV Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up... This terrified them and they asked, "What have you done?" (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)
The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, "What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?" "Pick me up and throw me into the sea," he replied, "and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you"... Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.
The LORD may bring to bear any force in the universe that HIS purpose might be fulfilled. It is absolute utter folly to try to run away from HIS will, especially considering it is "good and acceptable and perfect"!
Jonah's perspective was held captive by his personal feelings. The only thing that he was able to consider was the immediate plight of his nation. GOD however, sees all eternity and knows the end even before the beginning. That's why we can be assured HIS will is always good, and acceptable, and perfect. This is why we should never hesitate to pursue HIS purpose for our lives. But even if we fail in our pursuit, GOD will never fail in HIS.
JONAH 1:17 NIV But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.
When I was a small child, I remember seeing a picture of this incident in Sunday School. The poster showed a very young boy seated at a table on which was a candle giving him light, and yes, all inside of the whale's belly. Somehow I don't think that accurately represented the true scene. I don't think we can get around the reality that Jonah physically died in that whale's stomach. Just as Christ was dead three days and three nights, so was Jonah.
Both Jonah and Yeshua knew of their impending death. Both prayed to GOD to spare them. Both died and both were raised from the dead three days and three nights later. The difference between the two, was that Jonah died as a result of not obeying GOD while Yeshua died as a result of doing the will of GOD.
This prayer of Jonah evidently came just moments before he died, even as he was being swallowed by the fish.
JONAH 2:1-10 NIV From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said: "In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and brakers swept over me. I said, "I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple" [in resurrection].
The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God. "When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.
Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD." And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
We can be assured that Yeshua knew this passage. He no doubt had read it many times and could quote it verbatim. "In my distress I called to the LORD, and HE answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help and you listened to my cry." Hiding scriptures like these in His heart is no doubt how Christ endured to the end. "The deep surrounded me, to the roots of the mountains I sank down...but YOU brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my GOD."
What great words of comfort Yeshua surely gleaned from this story.
"Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs."
What an enlightening passage. "Worthless idols" are those things we cling to which eventually entangle us. Rather then giving up on our own pursuits and pursuing HIS purpose for our lives we are tempted to hold on to these temporal things. The result? We forfeit the grace that could be ours. Once we understand how vitally important GOD's grace is, the thought of forfeiting it is nothing short of madness.
Just an instant before death, Jonah had recognized his sin. GOD gave him another chance at life, which not many get. Not only had he been given a second chance at life, but even more, he was given a second chance at "the word of the LORD". A second time GOD sent HIS word unto Jonah.
JONAH 3:1-3a NIV Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you." Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh...
It appears that finally Jonah got the message. Finally he obeyed, or did he? A man's heart does not always change as quickly as his mind can. Jonah's feet were indeed carrying him along GOD's course, but his heart was still on his own course. As will become evident, he no more wanted Nineveh to repent than he ever did. Hence, I'm sure his efforts were half-hearted at best, yet look at the wonderful response of the Ninevites to his preaching;
JONAH 3:3b-l0 NIV Now Nineveh was a very important city - a visit required three days. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish."
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.
If only Jonah would have changed from his stubborn ways as fully as the Ninevites did from their evil ways. It's almost humorous how angry Jonah became at their repentance.
JONAH 4:1-4 NIV But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live." But the LORD replied, "Have you any right to be angry?"
How about us, have we any right to be angry? The LORD is gracious and compassionate, yet how often we are angry for what we have not or are not. Scripture teaches us that we have what we need and we will have what we will need? Just because we have not what we want, doesn't mean GOD has overlooked us. Is it not written that not even a sparrow shall "fall on the ground without your Father"? How much more shall HE care for us?!
GOD always provides what we need. The question is, How much do we need? The straightforward answer is, We need all that is required for us to pursue HIS purpose for our lives. One reason some seem to live without GOD supplying their needs, is because they are outside of HIS will for their life.
Yeshua needed to feed thousands with a few loaves and a few fish. GOD supplied Him so as to fulfill that need. We however, have not been called to the same purpose Christ was, so we have not the same needs. But as we continue to pursue HIS purpose for our lives we will see that we do need more than we personally need, for we need enough to do HIS will, which is always bigger then we are.
Even so, do we ourselves have any right to be angry? It doesn't matter who we are, from where we've come or where we think we are going, every good thing we have came from GOD. We have no right to be angry concerning the course GOD has called us to run. HIS will is good, and acceptable, and perfect. HE is gracious and compassionate. That is the lesson of the ages.
JONAH 4:5-11 NIV Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.
Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered.
When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, "It would be better for me to die then to live."
But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?" "I do", he said. "I am angry enough to die." But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left [in other words, young children] and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?"
It humors me to recall some of the reasons I have myself been angry with GOD over the course of my life. I was magnifying the discomfort of the moment as if it were the worst thing any man had ever endured. How easily it passed and I forgot it.
What blessings have we that the LORD didn't give us? What if HE had withheld air for just ten minutes? HE gave it, HE certainly has the right to withhold it. There is so much to be thankful for when life is viewed from the right perspective. I tell you, if you've got your health, you should be so thankful you can't sit still. And just understanding whom GOD is, that HE is loving and compassionate yet all knowing and all powerful is such a wonderful blessing that we almost explode when we realize it.
GOD is a very compassionate GOD. Our business is to realize that and pursue HIS purpose, not to get caught up in wondering if HE knows what HE is doing. Scripture assures us, HE does.