Is This for Real? – Part 3
“Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17 NIV)
The word of the Lord comes to a prophet called Jonah, and God tells him to go to the capital of the Assyrians—the people oppressing the Israelites. God tells him, “Go to Nineveh and preach against it, because their wickedness has come up before me.”
The problem is that Jonah is prejudiced against the Assyrians! You see, you can be a person who has faith in God, yet be racist and prejudiced. It’s unfortunate, and it gives God a bad name, and it is something with which God has to deal severely when his people show bias in favor of, or against, one group or another. Well, Jonah has this kind of prejudice. He thinks, “That bunch of Assyrians! They’re oppressing us. Who are they to do that to my people?” So he doesn’t go. Instead he gets on a ship and runs away in the opposite direction.
But it’s hard to run away from God, isn’t it? God sends a storm, and we know the rest of the story. The sailors on the boat take lots and the lot falls to Jonah. He admits that the storm is raging because of him and tells them to throw him overboard to calm the tempest; and that’s exactly what they do. Then God provides a great fish to swallow the prophet, because God has decreed, “You’re not going to run from me; I’m going to stop you in your tracks.”
By the way, that’s a good place to pray. If you’re inside a fish—or in some other dire situation— I would definitely recommend prayer. So Jonah says, “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.” And the Bible says that “the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” The fish is prepared to digest Jonah, but God orders the fish to spit him out. When? When Jonah prays.
How about that? This guy Jonah is in outright rebellion against God! He doesn’t even want to know what God wants him to do. He’s bigoted and doesn’t want to hear about the Assyrians. But when he’s brought low in the belly of a whale, he cries out to God. Immediately, God changes everything and orders the fish to spit him out. Why? Because God has heard his cry! We might say, “But God, how can you hear the prayer of a guy who’s running from you?” And God would reply, “No, he called; and the minute he called I had to answer, because I’m a prayer-answering God!"
By the way, Jonah does end up going to Nineveh to preach; and the people repent and are spared God’s judgment.
Are you a believer who’s discouraged today? Perhaps you’ve tried everything, but all the formulas that you have followed aren’t working. You followed this book and that book, but you didn’t look into The Book. The Bible says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will answer you.” When we call, everything changes. If we pray through and hold on to God and believe, he has sworn that he will answer us. The Psalmist David said, “You who answer prayer, to you all people will come.” (Psalm 65:2). Who else in the world can answer us when we’re in trouble but God?
Is this for real? Can God make one plan and then change it the moment someone prays? Yes, and he still answers prayer today.
To be continued…
Read Jonah chapter 2.