Monday, March 28, 2011

It’s Been a Whale

We’ve been bogged down with LIFE; in a good way. It’s full. This speech thing my kids are doing is sucking the life right out of me on one end and filling me up with a fire hose on the other end. It’s hard to ponder and wonder about things when you are just in the middle of the fun. It’s a great time to just go with the flow.

However, God has brought to my attention a guy in the Bible who didn’t go with the flow. Jonah.

I’ve nicknamed Jonah the Pitiful Prophet. He thought he could flee from the presence of God and had the arrogant audacity to sleep through the consequential mess he created. Shirker! Slacker! Slouch! Pitiful!

He was also angry. Really angry. At God. At the end of the itty bitty book, God says, “You moron. You don’t have the right to be mad. People matter to me.” (My Paraphrase)

Until recently, I had a narrow perception of Jonah as pitiful and angry and bitter. That’s how the Bible describes him. Lately, however, my perception of Jonah is broadening. First, I heard a sermon series by RC Sproul on the subject of Jonah then, my church did a series on Jonah. It’s a whale of a tale weighing the grace of God against the self-righteousness of man and I’m discovering stuff I didn’t know. LOVE how God’s Word does that!

Initially, I asked myself the usual questions, “How am I like Jonah? Am I angry at God? What do I need to do about that?”

Then, one of the pastors mentioned that something called the Tomb of Jonah exists in what was once Ninevah, in modern day, Iraq. The pastor suggests that if this is true, we can deduce that Jonah got God’s message loud and clear and that he perhaps stayed in Ninevah to guide all those who repented. Oh, the thought! Maybe the Pitiful Prophet wasn’t so pitiful, afterall. Maybe, though history doesn’t record it, Jonah’s redeemed.

Speaking of redemption, my favorite revelation into the book of Jonah is this - The Whale SAVES him. Read it yourself. Tossed to and fro by the waves leads to his being engulfed by the sea. Choking the thick salty water of the sea, what air he has left is stuck in his throat; Jonah has no where to turn. Tangled in webs of seaweed, growing more frantic every moment, the surface fades to black as Jonah begins to lose consciousness and HRUMPF! he is swallowed by a fish. The fish is his redemption. The fish saves him. The fish gives him life.

Have you ever had a “belly of the fish” kind of experience where you were covered my the mirk and mire of one’s circumstances, yet it was your salvation? We don’t often see the salvation until later, kind of like Jesus and the tomb ..... (duh - if you cross reference much of anything that’s an easy match). But because we don’t live in the “ever after” but in the “here and now” in the midst of our stinky, acidic, rotting circumstances we forget to be thankful. Sometimes it is good to remember that despite everything, God calls us to Himself. We can’t get away from His purposes. We can’t run away from His agenda. We can’t escape His love.

How pitiful we may be.
Because it is not about Us.

Just like the Book of Jonah isn’t about Jonah. And it’s not about a Fish. It’s about GOD and the great lengths he will go to because He cares for PEOPLE, even disobedient ones.