Jonah and the Whale A Story Of Hope
The prophet Jonah being swallowed by a whale and restored again to dry ground. What a story! Is it a true story or an allegory? What can we learn from this magnificent story as Christians?
If you consider an endorsement by our Savior when he referred to the sign of Jonah (referencing the three days and nights) then yes, the story of Jonah is indeed true. First of all the Old Testament talks about Jonah as a prophet in II Kings 14:25. Then in the New Testament, Matthew 12:39-41 The Savior talks about the life of the prophet Jonah. There are a few more references in the Gospels about Jonah.
That’s good enough for me.
If you are not familiar with the details of Jonah, read Jonah 1-4, a very short book in the Old Testament, but worth every verse. It is a powerful story, just one of the many that must have been a part of Jonah’s life, but the only one we know about.
The Lord command’s Jonah to go preach the gospel to Nineveh so that it wont be destroyed. Jonah refuses to do what the Lord told him to do and runs away, or at least tries to run away from the Lord toward Tarshish.
Jonah hops on a boat bound for Tarshish. Shortly after boarding Jonah goes to sleep and the tempest starts to rage. The people on the boat fear for their life. After a while Jonah confesses that The Lord is after him and tell the people to throw him over board and they will be spared. They don’t want to but eventually they throw ‘ into what seems to be a watery grave.
The Lord had prepared a big fish to swallow Jonah. For three days he was in the belly of a giant fish or whale. Near death, Jonah finally comes around to repenting of his rebellion. The Lord forgives him and has the fish deposit him on dry ground.
The Lord calls him to preach at Nineveh again. This time Jonah agrees to follow the direction of The Lord. Ninevah is the Capitol city of the wicked Assyrians. It is a huge city by the standards of the day. It was so big geographically that it took three days journey to pass through.
Keep in mind the Nineveh is a very wicked city (Nahum 3:1-5) and Jonah has to walk a day’s journey before he preaches the gospel to them. He preaches to them and they believe and repent. This includes their wicked King. They cover themselves in sack cloth and ashes which is a deliberate sign of repentance. The Lord forgives them.
Jonah leaves the city and climbs a hill over looking the now righteous city of Nineveh and builds himself a simple shelter to sit in while he watches to see if the Lord will destroy the newly repented city. He is very hot and dry. He see’s that The Lord spared the city as He said He would if they repented. The Lord provides a plant over night the grows to provide shade and comfort to Jonah. Jonah is grateful to the plant for its shade. The next day the Lord kills the plant and Jonah grieves for the loss of the plant.
The Lord explains to him that just as Jonah loves the plant, The Lord loves those thousands of people in Nineveh and spared them from destruction because they repented. He teaches Jonah a very important lesson. God loves all his children all over the world.
This is a fantastic story. Full of lessons one can apply to ones self for profit and learning. It teaches the principles of faith, hope, mercy of The Lord, repentance, forgiveness, God’s love for
His children and the power of one person with Gods help.
More than anything else, the virtues of Hope and Repentance stand out. When Jonah was in the belly of the whale he had faith and prayed to God for forgiveness of his sins in running away and rebelling against God. God forgave Jonah. In His mercy, God is willing to forgive those who repent. It requires faith to pray and ask for forgiveness from God. It requires faith to repent when you have been wicked all your life; Jonah was an inspired teacher. Jonah was one man in the midst of his mortal enemy but with Gods help, the power of one is the power of God.
God loved Jonah and tried to rescue Him from his sins. God loved the people of Nineveh and did not want to destroy Nineveh but God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. He gave the people a chance to repent through Jonah. Thankfully these thousands of people did repent and they were forgiven.
Strangely, Jonah still struggled and didn’t really want the people of Nineveh spared. That’s why he built a hut on top of the hill to see if they would be spared. As the days wore on Jonah was very hot with the sun beating down on him. God made a vine or plant to cover his hut and provide shade, a welcome relief from the heat of the sun. Then the Lord killed the plant and the protection from the heat was gone. The Lord provided a strong East wind and combined the elements to go against Jonah to drive the point home. Jonah mourned for the lost of the plant. The Lord explained to Jonah that as he grieved for the lost of a simple plant, God would feel bad for the loss of his people in Nineveh. The lesson was on love and that God loves all his people.
Whether the people are our enemies or criminals or otherwise bad people. God loves all His children. This was the last lesson we have record of, in which Jonah was taught a lesson. From this great story we see that God loves all His children. He doesn’t always love what they do or what the have become, He loves them and wants them back to live with Him someday. But they must change their ways, repent and live righteously.
This story is a message of hope. This story teaches us of Gods mercy and forgiveness provided we repent. This message shows us that even prophets are human and need to repent. If they being so righteous need to repent then so must we. But that is a part of that great hope we can have. It is a story of faith. It’s a great teaching tool teaching us that there are consequences to sin and unless we repent then we will reap the consequences of sin.