A Closer Walk
The Old Testament prophet Jonah disobeyed God. He refused to do what God had specifically told him to do; go to the great city Nineveh and preach repentance to the Assyrians. But instead of going to Nineveh as instructed, he bought passage on a ship and went in a different direction. While on this ship God sent a storm that began to rage, and the sailors feared for their lives. Jonah revealed to them that he was the reason for the storm and if they would throw him into the sea they would be safe. The sailors prayed that God would save them from the storm; but they also prayed that He would not hold Jonah's death against them.
"So they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. Then the men feared the Lord greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish," Jonah 1:15-2:1 NASB. Jonah was thrown overboard in the midst of a storm, left alone and adrift in the sea, he was swallowed by a great fish, and was in the stomach of the great fish for three days and three nights. Then he started praying? Hmmm. Don't know about you, but some of us would have started praying somewhere between telling the sailors we were the reason for the storm, and them grabbing our wrists and ankles to throw us overboard.
But think about the provision our Lord provided Jonah during his time of distress. The great fish likely saved Jonah's life. To be thrown overboard in the midst of a storm, and to be left alone in the sea with no hope of rescue would likely have been his death warrant. But inside the fish he was safe. God also provided transportation for Jonah back to the shore while he was snuggled safely inside the fish. His ride in the stomach of this great fish for three days and three nights also provided Jonah the opportunity to reflect on his choices. Being inside of the fish helped him to come to the conclusion that maybe it would be better if he would obey God after all. Don't we sometimes do the same thing? Our instruction from the Lord may be clear or not so clear, but we still may think we have a better idea or a better plan. And like Jonah, we may set off in a different direction.
If, or when, we do that our Heavenly Father might choose to provide us with “encouragement” to reflect on our own choices (just as He did with Jonah). While we may not get to spend time in the stomach of a great fish, our Lord can bring us to the realization that we have made a mistake, or taken the wrong path. And then He can provide an opportunity for us to look at where we are, guide us as we try to figure out how we got there, and help us devise a plan to prevent the same thing from happening in the future. Nevertheless, we should still continue to move forward, hopefully a little wiser, and continue our journey down the path our Lord and our God has appointed for us.
By the way, after the great fish spat him out onto the shore, Jonah did go to Nineveh and preach repentance, as he was originally instructed. And the entire city repented and all its inhabitants were saved. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance,” 2 Peter 3:9 NASB.