In the Form of a Whale

I think it's safe to assume that everyone reading this post is familiar with the story of Jonah. If not, here's a brief summary. Jonah was a servant of God. God commanded him to go to the city of Ninevah and preach to the people there. Jonah didn't want to, so instead, he hitched a ride on a boat going in the opposite direction. While on the boat, a huge storm arose. Jonah, knowing he was the cause of the storm, informed the ship's crew of his sin against God. In response, the crew threw Jonah overboard where he was immediately swallowed by a whale. He remained in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, having plenty of time to re-evaluate his decision. After that, the whale vomited him up, and Jonah hightailed it to Ninevah, where the entire city repented of their sins.

No matter how many times I hear or read the tale, I'm still amazed. First off, I believe God sent the whale for Jonah's protection, not for punishment (although I'm sure three days and nights in the belly of the whale was less than pleasant). But if the whale hadn't swallowed Jonah, he would have drowned. He was in the middle of the ocean in the midst of the storm. The whale was his salvation, gross though it may have been.

But what I really think about is what Jonah must have thought about during that time in the whale's stomach. I would love to read a journal of his thoughts during that time. The smell of decaying fish surrounding him. Water sloshing around. His body being bleached by the stomach acids. I don't know about Jonah, but my first thought would be, "Boy, I really messed up this time. How am I going to get out of this one?" (Of course, that thought would quickly be followed by "I hate fish!")

I wonder if he made deals with God. If You get me out of this, I promise I'll obey You from now on. Oh, to have been able to hear his thoughts!

What we do know is that God got Jonah's attention. First, He got his attention with the storm. Once He had his attention, He sent the whale to keep Jonah safe while He straightened out his attitude. When that was done, He caused the whale to spit Jonah out and gave Jonah the strength to run all the way to Ninevah. I mean he made record time!

Unfortunately, Jonah's story ends badly. Ninevah gets right, and Jonah gets mad. He thinks God should destroy Ninevah. After all, they've been bad. Duh! How quickly he forgot how God had spared him. Still, he doesn't think Ninevah deserves mercy, and he grows angry with God for showing it. God tries to reason with Jonah, but the prophet is determined to have his own way. And that is the last we hear of Jonah. How sad!

What about you? Is God trying to get your attention? Is He calling you to a certain task? How will you respond? Will you obey the first time, or will it take a whale of persuasion to get you on the right path?