An old guy with a long white beard, an enormous whale, and a deep blue sea. The hard-to-believe yet well-known and frequently told story of “Jonah and the whale” seems to be regarded as more of a children’s tale today than actual scripture. I would have never guessed that I’d actually feel impacted and even encouraged as I was reading through it tonight.
As a child, I only knew the basics of the story. A man named Jonah was swallowed by a whale who then lived in its stomach for a few days before the whale spit him out, and everyone lived happily ever after. Right? Is that it?
I’m afraid I missed the entire point. Or perhaps I was never taught it in my 50 minute Sunday school class. We were probably too busy trying to finish coloring the whale or getting the blue yarn to stick to the paper and not our fingers or the glue bottle.
The story is one of redemption. One of the calling of God upon a man’s life, his running from it, followed by God’s mercy and man turning back to God. Oh, how this is so typical of humanity all throughout history. Yet typical or not, I still find myself repeating it. It is simply our fallen human nature. To run from God instead of to Him.
God tells Jonah to go to a huge city called Nineveh to tell them that they will be overthrown if they do not repent. For our purposes, think New York City. It’s quite an intimidating city and thus a very intimidating task.
So Jonah does what most of us would do… he runs. He jumps the next ship to another far away city in the opposite direction. This is when God sends a great storm. Long story short, Jonah ends up in the ocean, swallowed by a whale. In God’s great mercy, he keeps Jonah alive. Three days later, he’s vomited out and is given a second chance.
How many of us are wondering if we get a second chance? We all do, at some point or another. Many of us wonder if we’re disqualified. If Jonah were here, he’d tell us the answer to that.
More and more, I’m seeing God’s way of marking a man, or woman, or giving them their assignment, or whatever you’d like to call it, followed by the fallen nature of man in response to that, thus invoking the stripping of one’s self. We run until we have nothing left. We are brought down to our knees, knowing that we can do nothing without Christ. Shining with a new burst of God’s mercy and kindness to us. THAT is redemption. Whether He does it just once, or many times.
Therefore, no matter where I stand today, not matter how far I may feel I’m drifting, I trust that the Lord is working on my redemption story. Every step, even if I’m worrying that it’s in the wrong direction, is either one step closer to Him, or one closer to my knees.
Either way, God is good and God redeems.