Slightly Obsessed #077 "In the Belly of the Whale" (Wednesday Devo) by Pamela Thorson on 2014-08-06 11:42:14
I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me. - Jonah 2:2
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
- Psalm 139:7
He had received a big assignment in a big city. The Bible tells us that the ancient city of Nineveh took three days to walk through and is thought to have been the home of over 600,000 people. It was the capital of Assyria and well-known for both its cruelty and its pagan worship.
It was to this city that God called the prophet Jonah to preach repentance. He wasn’t happy about the assignment and tried to run from it by boarding a ship to Tarshish. According to the Bible account, a terrific storm arose that threatened to sink the ship. Jonah correctly perceived that the storm was a result of his disobedience, and he convinced the sailors to throw him overboard. That stilled the storm.
The sailors turned to God in awe and thanksgiving.
Jonah was swallowed by a whale before he drowned, and in the whale’s belly he had time to reflect and pray for three days before he was vomited out onto dry land. God reminded him once again of his calling. This time he went to Nineveh and gave God’s message to the city: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” *
The people of Nineveh were cut to the heart by the edict. The king of the city commanded that every person and animal be covered in sackcloth, a symbol of mourning. No creature was allowed to eat or drink. Every person was ordered to cry out to God in repentance for his sins.
God saw this. He changed His mind. An entire city was saved.
This made Jonah mad. He went outside the city just in case and built himself a shelter to sit under while he waited for destruction to hit. He was happy when a plant grew up to provide him some shade from the sun.
To his dismay, the plant was destroyed the next day by a worm. Not only had his prophecy proved wrong, but now he sat in misery in the heat. He begged God to take his life. Instead, God rebuked him for his hard heart.
And so the story leaves us with a man who grumbled and stumbled in his calling and left a string of saved souls in his wake.
People love to argue whether or not Jonah was really swallowed by a whale and lived to tell about it. But what was the real miracle? That Jonah survived three days in the whale’s belly, that an entire city repented at the preaching of one man, or that God could use someone so very human, so much like me, to bring salvation to others?
It gives me hope as I grumble and stumble my way through life. When I run from God, He will pursue me, discipline me, deliver me, and repeat the process until I obey. He will send me into the belly of the whale if that’s what it takes to get my attention. He will expose my hard heart and teach me His compassion for a world poised at the edge of destruction.
I may struggle. I may fall. I may thrash against God and get swallowed up by my rebellion. But God’s plans will always triumph. His Spirit will always find me and bring with it His salvation.
*Jonah 3:4 NLT
About Pamela Thorson:
Pamela Thorson is a licensed practical nurse, author, and full-time caregiver. She pioneered in the homeschooling movement from 1982-2006 and authored her first book, Song in the Night, in 2008. She resides in the Northwest with her family.