“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before Me.”
We meet God directing yet another great man, with the command, “Arise, go…”
God always calls us to get up from where we are (often out of our comfort zones) and take purposeful steps forward to where He demands us to go.
This time, the command is given to Jonah to deliver a message of warning to the people of Nineveh.
For reasons known to him, Jonah ignored God’s command and ran in an opposite direction to escape the perceived difficult task given to him. His desperate escape plan from God led him to board a ship of which he eventually was overthrown and swallowed whole by a large fish.
When we disobey what the Lord has commanded us to do, a series of events and consequences occur that throw us deeper and deeper into the sea of sin; eventually leading us to look at life from the inside of the belly of a large fish.
Belly of a large fish – it is murky and messy and it is where we find ourselves when we turn aside from duty and run toward an opposite the will of God. Belly of the fish – it is as low as you can go and things could not get worse once you are there. It’s a place where you have lost everything and in the moment have nothing else to lose. The landing is painful, embarrassing, confusing and jarring and things are out of control and unmanageable.
Belly of the fish…
It is where you find yourself when God tells you to end a relationship and you end up in an emotional tangle that leaves you heartbroken and bitter. (Sigh!)
It is where you find yourself when God tells you not to pursue a particular course of study but you decide to pursue it, anyway because it “seems right” according to your understanding, only to be kicked out of the program months before your graduation. (Hmm!)
It is where you find yourself when you don’t know where to turn because your decision to accept a job has left you in a sandwich situation that tests your faith in God and loyalty to your employer. (Yikes!)
It is where you find yourself when you don’t have anyone to turn to during your time of difficulty because you have antagonized every “Nathan” sent by God to advise you spiritually. (Oh no!)
Belly of the fish – it where God in mercy will place us to get our attention to secure our eternal safety rather than meet our early comfort.
Belly of the fish – we have all been there – discouraged, distressed, disappointed, debased and even depressed and these negative emotions can serve as a motivation to change and start a new beginning with God. That is what Jonah did anyway! While sitting in the belly of the fish, Jonah took advantage of his moment of uncomfortable solitude and contemplated where his escape plan had landed him. The prophet questioned his wisdom call and eventually gained a new sense of purpose to fully commit himself to what the Lord had tasked him to do.
Jonah’s secret to finding his way and gaining his senses while in the belly of the fish was that his three days experience gave him an opportunity to die to self, only to be raised in Christ, to do as the Lord pleased.
What did Jonah really do?
He prayed, praised and proceeded.
It is in this predicament that Jonah prayed his great(est) prayer. It often takes hopeless situations to lead us to pray seriously and earnestly.
“In trouble, deep trouble, I prayed to God.
He answered me.
From the belly of the grave I cried, ‘Help!’
You heard my cry.
You threw me into ocean’s depths,
into a watery grave,
With ocean waves, ocean breakers
crashing over me.
I said, ‘I’ve been thrown away,
thrown out, out of your sight.
I’ll never again lay eyes
on your Holy Temple.’
Ocean gripped me by the throat.
The ancient Abyss grabbed me and held tight.
My head was all tangled in seaweed
at the bottom of the sea where the mountains take root.
I was as far down as a body can go,
and the gates were slamming shut behind me forever—
Yet you pulled me up from that grave alive,
O God, my God!
When my life was slipping away,
I remembered God,
And my prayer got through to you,
made it all the way to your Holy Temple.”
(Jonah 2, The Message)
Notice that Jonah recounted the ordeal in prayer using unflattering descriptions. This should be our approach when we are at our lowest – we should be honest and open with God. Jonah was not politically correct nor shy when he opened his heart to God – he was frank and honest…but he was reverent and respectful.
Jonah’s prayer not only recounted his emotional distress but acknowledged his surrendered will to God. His heart shifted while in the belly of the fish and his prayer became a psalm of praise!
“Those who worship hollow gods, god-frauds,
walk away from their only true love.
But I’m worshiping you, God,
calling out in thanksgiving!
And I’ll do what I promised I’d do!
Salvation belongs to God!”
(Jonah 2, The Message)
God heard Jonah’s prayer. We know this because the fish regurgitated Jonah up on the beach. Plus, God gave Jonah a second chance for obedience. God once more commissioned him to warn Nineveh: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” This time Jonah proceeded and went forth without doubt, fear or discouragement. He finally cooperated with God. Maybe it is only in the belly of the fish, that we fully surrender ourselves to God’s will and cooperate with him.
Last week, I have found myself in the belly of the fish and Jonah’s approach proved useful.
Maybe this is where you are as we enter this new week…hold tight and let me remind you that:
- Your fish or circumstance has been divinely sent to “swallow you whole” to deliver you.
- It will take supernatural intervention for you to be removed from the belly of the fish. As such, you need to take a spiritual approach to what may seem like a simple physical or emotional problem.
- If you fast and pray for three days and three nights, your circumstances or your attitude toward the circumstances will shift. Consider the Daniel Fast.
- God will keep you alive in the belly of the fish so that you can complete the great task or work He has especially for you to do.
- God often chooses to save us in ways of which we will not choose for ourselves.
- God’s love for you has not changed, even though you may feel at your lowest.
- God will give you a second chance at obedience and doing things His way.
- Prayer is your greatest weapon. Praise is a mighty tool and moving forward (proceeding) guided by God’s spirit is the most sensible thing to do.
I wish for every pillar of our plans that crumbles and every foundation to which we find a crack or find in a rubble, there is an easy answer or quick fix. But there are no quick fixes for consequences that come from our disobedience of God’s word and there are no easy answers to address the happenings in our lives, when sin has its way with us. But there is a proven way to slowly find our way again: we can pray, praise and proceed toward a more God-approved path.
Love, joy and peace,
© 2016, Dentrecia Blanchette