The Word for today:
Jonah 1, 2
Q. You can't be serious. No one could be in the belly of a whale for three days and live to tell about it…
A. It does sound like a fish story -- like the time (did I already tell you this one?) I caught a 62-inch musky just outside of Alexandria Bay in late October of '85…
Jonah might sound fishy, except for one thing: The most earnest man--the straightest shooter who ever lived-- faced down an audience who were not interested in hearing about sin, sacrifice and redemption, but were there to see a miracle. He told them the only miracle they'd get was the sign of the prophet Jonah:
“An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Matthew 12:39-41)
Jonah is a test-case for the believer. Like the virgin birth, if the story of Jonah can be explained away, spiritualized, allegorized, or dismissed, then the entirety of Scripture, including the trustworthiness of the Messiah, can be dismissed. If Scripture can be dismissed, then our faith is without foundation. (Cf. Rom 10:17.)
Therefore, Jonah is a target for the unbelieving world. Those who aim to cast aspersions on scripture cast towards Jonah first. But the big fish is still happily swimming, while his detractors keep getting caught in their own nets.
Q. How can a person stay alive inside a great big fish for three days?
A. Who said he stayed alive?
A miracle either way, but we'll go with Jesus' take on Jonah-- that Jonah died inside the fish and was resurrected; thus Jesus referred to the "sign of Jonah" as the miracle of resurrection. Most Biblical commentators teach that Jonah was alive inside the fish for three days. They are wrong, of course (!!), but it's a miracle any way you fillet it. (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)
Q. What's the big deal about Jonah? Isn't he one of the minor prophets?
A. "A minor prophet." Minor?? Jonah, given only two pages in your Bible to work with…
and using only a boat, a fish, a gourd, the east wind, and the Assyrian city of Nineveh, was able to put forth the great principles of the New Testament:
1. Jonah is one of the clearest proclamations in the Old Testament of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
2. The Book of Jonah teaches that salvation is not by works, but by faith which leads to repentance: Salvation is of the LORD. (2:9)
3. God will not cast us aside for faithlessness.
God told Jonah to go to Nineveh...and Jonah caught a boat going in the opposite direction!
4. God is gracious.
Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time (3:1).
He is the God of the 2nd chance, the 3rd chance, the 4th, the 443rd...
5. God's grace cannot be stopped.
Jonah knew that the Word of God which he was told to proclaim would save the Ninevites. Jonah didn't want them saved. But Jonah was going to be the witness for God in Nineveh, whether he liked it or not.
6. God is the God of the Gentiles. (See Romans 3:29.)
God never called any of his prophets minor. That is an artificial, man made designation that holds no water!