Like any good story teller, you have to leave the listener wanting more. TV shows have their cliff hangers to get you to come back for the next season. Movies have their little scenes at the end to get you to come to the sequel. Books have their hooks that, while completing a story, lets you know that there is more to the story. Jonah chapter 1 ends with verse 17 saying…
17 Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.
No one, and I mean no one expected that ending! You expect Jonah to drown, or a helicopter to swoop him up. You expect, maybe, a battle with a shark. No one expected that to happen! If this were bound as a book unto itself, you are saying to yourself, wait a minute! It is so matter of fact, that you have to turn the page to get an explanation at the very least, or a “gotcha…. Made you look!!!”
It is not a miracle if you can determine the fate. We call a surgical event a miracle, yet the doctor would not have attempted if he or she did not have a high degree of confidence in a successful outcome. We call it a miracle when we turn the key in the ignition of the car, and the battery ekes out a couple of revolutions and the car engine starts. A miracle is something that we usually do not attempt or done unexpectedly. It is God sized, out of the ordinary, and supernatural… like breaking bread, and more appearing, or walking on water, or speaking to a hurricane and it stops, or having birds swoop down into a field when you are starving and allow themselves to be caught by hand and eaten. That is a miracle!
So let’s turn the page and see what we can learn from Jonah 2
You can never run from God
The sailors’ gods were territorial in nature. They worshiped the sun, or the moon. They worshiped the stars and land. They worshiped the top of the sea and the depths of the oceans. Each was a different god, and they worshiped them all because if one became angry, there were consequences. In fact, Jonah told the sailors that he is running from the almighty God. His God was over all the gods. His God was the only God, but he was running from his God.
Please, do not ever forget this. Wherever you go, God has his eyes upon you. I spent a lot of time this morning on this very point, but I wanted to mention it again because it sets the stage for what we are going to see next.
No matter where you are, God is there
When the sailors where fighting for their lives, God was there with them in the boat. In fact a revival took place there on that boat, and the sailors, Pagans themselves were saved. When Jonah was thrown overboard, God was there as well, because He provided the great fish. When Jonah was in the belly of the fish, God was there.
Let me read Psalm 139. See if you can find a place where God is not.
There is no place where you can hide from God, because is omnipresent – He is everywhere.
Let me tell you something, when you are in the belly of a fish, it is not a happy place.
Ever heard this phrase? “Something smells fishy” – is that a good smell? Jonah was in that kind of place. The fish’s Stomach acids and enzymes working over time, like an acid irritating your skin. I imagine that due to the smell, and the acid attacking him, breathing was difficult, and it was dark. When I was a kid, my family took a vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains. As we drove through Tennessee, there were signs painted on barn roofs that said, “See Ruby Falls”. We went there, and took the tour to see this beautiful rarity of nature. We went down into a cave with a tour guide and walked along this trail, with colorful lighting playing off the rock formations, but then we heard the big sound, and we walked into an area that had no light, as we stepped into the chamber, our guide told us to stand perfectly still. Hold our hand up in front of our face. Could not see anything, but the roar of water was deafening. Then they turned on a red light, and there were the falls, dumping into a giant hole of which you could not see the bottom. But I will never forget how dark that was. I learned that darkness once more when I used to do my own dark room photography. Being in the dark is unsettling. You have to use your other senses to make up for the loss of sight. So as he felt around, he felt fish guts. As he smelled, he smelled fish guts. If he opened his mouth, he tasted fish guts. He is surrounded by fish guts. He was trapped in a very bad place. It was escape proof
The place you find yourself, right now, it may be a place where you think there is no escape. You may find yourself in a place that seems hopeless. You may be in a place where everything you touch, see, smell, and experience is misery. It may not be a literal fish belly, but it is uncomfortable, and even painful. But listen, do not for forget, God is there.
a]Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish.
God cannot hear that prayer if He is not there. This brings me to my next point.
When you find yourself in a fish belly – Pray
People say to me often, I don’t know how to pray. And I respond that if you know how to talk to me, you know how to pray, because prayer is talking to God. First start praising and thanking God. You have a lot to praise God about. You have a lot to thank God for. The Bible talks about praying a lot. Pray without ceasing – never stop. Pray repeatedly. Pray fervently. And, When you find yourself in the stink of life, you need to pray
When you find yourself in a fish belly – turn to Scripture
Jonah prayed, but his prayer was recitation of Psalms. Psalm 119:11 says, Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I may not sin against God. Jonah did not have a Bible with him. In fact, there were no mass produced, printed Bibles. There were scrolls that were kept in the temple and in the synagogues, but they did not have Bibles like we do today. He memorized God’s word. He recalled
vs. 2 – Psalm 18: 46
vs. 3 – Psalm 42:7
vs. 4 – Psalm 31:22
I could do this with each of these verses in chapter 2. If you have a study Bible, they even have references in the margins – that’s where I got this! Jonah recited them because he memorized them.
Again, people complain to me, I can’t memorize anything. So here is a little test.
What’s your address?
What kind of car do you drive? (and what color is it, and how many tires are on it?)
What’s your father, mother, sister, brother, children names?
You are probably thinking to yourself, that the reason you can readily answer these questions is because these are things you live with everyday. It represents your life.
So, why does not the Bible mean the same to you as your car, your house, and your family? You love the Lord by memorizing God’s word. We remember movie and TV lines, but we don’t remember God’s word.
How many of you remember the line “Where’s the beef?” What a great series of tv commercials those were. Did you know that came out in 1984? That makes that ad campaign 30 years ago. Who said you cannot memorize the Bible? There is a great play entitled, Fiddler on the Roof – Teviev when he is frustrated, he uses a catch phrase, “you know the good book says”, and his family member would say …. “But that’s not in there!”, to which Teviev would reply, “well, it ought to be!”
You do not need to put words into God’s mouth, because he is not silent. He speaks his Word, the Bible, and we need to memorize it.
Pray the Psalms – most are written as songs and prayers, so pray them. Pray the scripture, thereby burning it into your heart.
Pray because God is good, even when we are not.
Pray because God is powerful enough to pull us out of anything
Pray because prayer will change you for the better.
Remember, God will be with you
10 Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.
Please note the first three words of verse 10. Jonah was rescued. Chapter 1 was about Jonah running away from God. Chapter 2 is about Jonah running back to God, and when he ran back to God, God delivered him. He was released from the belly of the fish, released from darkness, released from captivity, free.
I want to make one final observation. Jonah was spit out. The better translation of this from the Hebrew is that instead of spit, the literal translation was that he was vomited out. So Jonah sat there on the beach covered in, and sitting in the middle of vomit.
Even though you come out of the storm you will carry the scars of the storm. Jonah still smelled like the belly of the fish. And you will carry scars as well. They may be physical scars, emotional scars, financial scars, relational scars. Sin tattoos our lives with the permanent ink of scars. Even Jesus, his perfect life, carried the scars of our sins when his resurrected body bore the holes in his hands and feet from the cross.
However, instead of focusing on the scars… Instead of focusing on the storm… Instead of focusing on the pain… Turn the page!
The last verse of the last chapter states that “The Lord arranged”. Likewise, the last verse of this chapter says, “The Lord ordered.” So you know there is more to this story. Just because you have scars from your days of running away from the Lord, the Lord is not finished with you. He still has a great plan for your life. Turn the pages of Jonah, and see how God ran this AWOL prophet. If God can use a prophet who hates people, God can use you.
I do not know where you are right now. If you find yourself in the belly of a fish…
Repent – Pray – Turn to Scripture – Have Faith