Today, we’re going to hear from a man who prayed from inside the belly of a whale. What would that be like? And we’re going to talk about a city that turned around, away from their evil deeds, and turned back to God. That’s what repentance is. It’s turning away from the stuff that hurts us, and toward the one who heals us. So, join me now in the Book of Jonah.
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God is the God of the Second chance, and third chance, and the fourth chance… And I could go on. There’s a reason somebody sat down and wrote one of the greatest songs in history, Amazing Grace, because grace really is amazing. It’s real and it’s for you. I don’t think it’s an accident or a coincidence that you’re tuned in to the Bible for Busy People today. By the way, I’m Erica, your host. I believe this message is just for you. Today, we’re going to hear from a man who prayed from inside the belly of a whale. What would that be like? And we’re going to talk about a city that turned around, away from their evil deeds, and turned back to God. That’s what repentance is. It’s turning around away from the stuff that hurts us and toward the one who heals us. So, join me now in the Book of Jonah. This is in the Old Testament. We’re going to begin in chapter one, verse one.
The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” 3 But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.
Alright, I want to pitch a small tent here because we’re not going to actually focus on Jonah today. We’re going to be focusing on the people of Nineveh and how they turned back to God. But Jonah is a part of this story, and I think there’s something that you and I can absolutely learn from how Jonah reacted in this situation. Who was Jonah? Well, he was a prophet, a person who was tapped to deliver God’s messages to whoever God sent him to. And he was basically saying, yep, thanks Lord. I’m not going to take this one. And it’s interesting, how many times in your life have you said, “God, that’s a good idea, but actually I’m going to do this over here.” And then how did it work out for you? I have definitely been in this situation where I have sailed away from what God asked me to do, and it did not turn out. And let me just tell you, it doesn’t turn out right for Jonah. This is probably the part of the story that you’re most familiar with, right? Jonah gets on that ship bound for Tarshish, away from Nineveh, the destination the Lord asked him to go to. And so, not so surprisingly a storm so fearful, the sailors are afraid for their lives. So they’re all trying to figure out, what’s going on? And finally Jonah puts his hand up in the air and says, it’s me. It’s me. God is not exactly thrilled about the decision I made. These are Erica’s cliff notes, by the way, because it’s the Bible for Busy People and we don’t have time to read the whole biblical account. And so Jonah’s like, throw me into the sea. The storm will subside, and the sailors feel really bad. They try other sailory things to see if they can save the ship, but in the end they’re like, we’re all going to die if we don’t try this. They toss Jonah into the sea and the sea is calm. Not exactly calm for Jonah though, who is inside the belly of a whale, and that is where he turns away from his stubbornness, and away from saying, no, God, I’m not going to follow you where you’ve called me to go. And he turns back to God. And now we pick up the story in Jonah chapter two, verse one.
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish.
Can you imagine what that was like? The only thing that comes to my mind is in Pinocchio. Remember when Monstro swallows Geppetto and Pinocchio and maybe little Cleo (Actually, the cat is Figaro), the cat, and what was the fish’s name? I can’t remember. It’ll come to me , I’m sure (Cleo is actually the fish!). But anyway, remember what it was like in that movie inside Monstro? Now we have that picture in our minds, right? Okay, chapter 2, verse two now.
He said,“I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and Lord, you heard me!
You got to believe there had to be a come to Jesus meeting inside the belly of that whale. There had to be a moment where Jonah had his head in his hand and he was going, what have I done? But God in his mercy met Jonah there and he was about to show Jonah that he had mercy for other people too, for the Ninevites, who Jonah was just basically disgusted by. He knew that if he went and brought this message to the people of Nineveh, that they would turn and repent and something in his heart didn’t want that to happen. Sometimes, we just want mercy for us and not for others. But I believe with all my heart that God has mercy and grace and love for all who turn to him and just ask. All right. After three days in the belly of that will, Jonah is spit out. And now we’re going to pick up the story in Jonah chapter three in verse one.
Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”
Now, it doesn’t say this in the Bible, but I’m hoping with you that Jonah took a shower before he went. Can you imagine living in a whale for a few days? Okay, verse three.
This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. 4 On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” 5 The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow. 6 When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. 7 Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city: “No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. 8 People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. 9 Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.” 10 When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.
That is how merciful our God is. The Ninevites turned away from evil and turned back to God, and God extended his mercy, and he is the same God. His name is Jesus and his arms are open. His hands are open for whatever you need today, forgiveness, mercy, grace, love, all you need to do is ask. Alright, before I close out our times together, let me just pause here and look up the name of the fish in Pinocchio. Okay. Okay. It turns out okay. The cat was Figaro and the fish was Cleo. I feel better now. Till next time, you are so loved.
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