“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me;" Jonah 2:2
Most folks are familiar with the Old Testament story of Jonah being gulped by a whale. Though he was in close relationship with God, when He gave him explicit instructions to go tell the Ninevites to shape up, Jonah rebelliously disobeyed. He boarded a boat and headed in the opposite direction. Have you ever done something like that? God tells you to do something and you refuse? Oh, you may not say it right out, "No God. I'm not gonna do that." You just don't do it. You sort of saunter away, like Jonah did, hoping God gets busy elsewhere and doesn't notice.
Why was Jonah so opposed to obeying God's command? 'Cus the Ninevites were detestable. They were notorious for brutal killings, raping women and taking slaves. Since Jonah lived in the northern kingdom of Israel, he likely had personal experience with their ruthlessness. It would be comparable to you walking up to the ISIS fighters in Syria, Iraq or Iran and sayin', "Hey guys. My God told me to tell you to knock it off and repent..." How do you think that would work out?
While Jonah was sailing south a big storm whipped up. A tempest. Now that's a great word, isn't it? Tempest. Why don’t we use it these days? Can't you imagine the local weatherman warning, "There's a billowing tempest heading our way..." Sounds ominous, doesn't it? Anyway, the storm was so bad that Jonah's seasoned sailing crew were afraid. "They hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them.” Now remember, that cargo represented their income, but they were so sure they were going to die they threw it all overboard. "Each cried out to his god," and when that didn't work they went looking for Jonah. When they found him in the lower deck snoozing they pulled him up by his jammies and shouted, "Get up! Call out to your God! Maybe He'll save us." Then they cast lots to see who had angered their god and put them in this predicament. Guess who was left without a chair when the music stopped? Yep, Jonah. He had some serious explaining to do. "Who is your God and what have you done to make him angry?" the seaman shouted. So Jonah had to come clean. He confessed he'd disobeyed God and was on the run. Even idol worshipers knew that wasn't going to work out well, so they asked him, "What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?" "Pick me up and hurl me into the sea," Jonah replied, "then the sea will quiet down for you. For I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you." Even though these men were pagans they weren't anxious to glibly murder a man. Remember, commercial transport was their livelihood, so intentional homicide might not be good P.R. But Jonah insisted so they prayed for forgiveness and sent him swimming.
Under normal circumstances that would be the end of the story, but when God isn't done with someone anything can happen. Instead of letting him drown, He arranged a divine appointment with a "big fish" that scientists now believe was a sperm whale, because do you know Jonah isn't the only case of human fish food? Have you heard the story of Mr. James Bartley finding himself in a sperm whale belly back in 1891? You can read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Bartley So if you have friends who use Jonah's journey to question the validity of God's word, please let them know science has caught up with Truth.
Let's stop here for a moment. Put yourself in Jonah's predicament. You disobeyed God and tried to run away. You were thrown into the sea by strangers and now you're up close and personal with whale guts. Can you imagine? Digestive juices dripping on your head like a leaky roof in a rain storm? Seems most folks would first confess their waywardness, then beg to be barfed up. But not Jonah. Consider his prayer:
“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. 3 For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. 4 Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ 5 The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. 7 When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. 8 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. 9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!”
Isn't that something!! He's praising God's presence despite his own willfulness. He's thanking Him for his intimate acquaintance with a hungry fish, and is absolutely confident God has a plan to save him! Believing before seeing he prays, "you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God."
If you're unfamiliar with the rest of the story, after Jonah gets puked up on the beach he goes to the Ninevites with God's message to repent, and they do!! "the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them." Now that's nothing but a miracle, folks. And the ISIS fighters believed God and repented from their brutal ways. Pray for it, saints!
Brother Jonah proffers us a handful of important points to ponder:
1. When God tells you to do something or go somewhere, you'd best obey.
2. If you don't, expect consequences and complications.
3. Even when we stray, God never abandons us. He truly is the God of second (and third, and fourth, and fifth...) chances.
4. When you're in a tough spot, even when it's your own darned fault, praise God! It's surely an opportunity for redirection.
So how does Jonah's story support you in your food and fitness endeavors. Let's start at the top:
1. What has God directed you to do or not do?
2. Are you doing or not doing what He instructed?
3. What kind of results are you getting?
4. NOW what's God telling you?
Don't get stuck in a fish gut. If God is calling you to do something difficult, He has good reason. His thoughts are much higher than yours, and surely more trustworthy than your fickle cravings and emotions. And when you finally walk forward in faith, expect miracles.