Jonah and the whale
“Arise, go to Nineveh” says the LORD. Jonah arises and runs in the opposite direction. There is much that is comic about the book of Jonah. Its protagonist is something of an anti-hero. Jonah does everything in his power to thwart God’s evangelistic mission to Nineveh. First he runs in the opposite direction. Then when he’s humbled and brought to the great city against his will he preaches a five word sermon of destruction. Finally, when the LORD saves the Ninevites, he becomes furious at the grace of God. If we’re looking for a hero in the book of Jonah, it’s not Jonah. But Jonah does picture his LORD in an incredible way.
You see as Jonah flees from the LORD he boards a ship heading to Spain (Tarshish). The LORD hurls a great wind onto the sea, stirring up “a mighty tempest.”
When we considered Psalm 107, we saw how storms are a sign of the chaos and darkness of this world. So in Jonah chapter 1 we have the LORD’s prophet on a boat in the midst of the tempest. And how will these sea-farers be saved?
Jonah said unto them, “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.” (Jonah 1:12)
The prophet of the LORD is hurled into the abyss. He is swallowed by a great monster of the deep (it’s not called a “whale” in the Bible, but that’s how we’ve come to remember the story). And through the judgement of the one, the many are saved.
And Jesus said:
40For 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. 41The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. (Matthew 12:39-41)
Jesus is One far greater than Jonah! We were the ones fleeing from the LORD, He was the one true Innocent. Yet He joined us in our predicament and willingly cast Himself into the abyss. He was swallowed by that greatest monster – death – so that we might be saved.
This is the LORD’s heart – He is not just for the Ninevites. At the cost of His own blood, He pursues a lost world to the pit of hell.
As we see God’s grace in the face of Christ, do we love His outgoing mission? Or do we flee it, like Jonah? More tomorrow…