A Post I Wrote from Inside the Belly of a Large Fish

I’ve been studying the book of Jonah.

I used to see it primarily as a story about a man who ran from God. That’s not me. So, I enjoyed studying Jonah because it was a safe foray into someone else’s follies. Slim chance of personal conviction.

A prophet with issues. A follower who doesn’t like his assignment. A cautionary tale for a problem I would likely never have. No fish in my future.

But, I’m starting to see Jonah from inside the belly of Leviathan and I’m feeling a queasy kinship with the fleeing man of God.

 

Jonah had God in a tidy box. Yahweh was the God of Jonah’s people. He loved Jonah’s people – provided, protected, and prepared a future for them. Jonah was cozy with God and for Jonah, that was enough.

God’s heart was greater, and this part didn’t quite square with Jonah.

God’s mercy extended beyond Jonah’s carefully charted boundaries.

He sent Jonah to warn a vicious, warring nation to repent. He told him to speak out against the evil of Nineveh. Essentially, God pointed at an evil city, one that Jonah agreed was evil, and told Jonah to go there and pronounce them evil. He didn’t ask Jonah to do any great works – just open his mouth and let words come out. Speak aloud words Jonah already spoke in his heart and with those who believed the way he believed. Speak truth aloud.

Jonah wasn’t up for the job.

He didn’t share God’s vision for everyone. His heart – his loyalty – his faithfulness extended only to those Jonah deemed worthy, but he wasn’t interested in watching God extend mercy to those unworthy of redemption.

See the distinction Jonah made? He considered himself somewhat worthy of God’s grace. That probably snuck up on him over the years. He hadn’t even noticed when the self-righteousness meter ticked up on his soul.

We learn in chapter 4 that Jonah predicted exactly what occurred. The Ninevites repented, God forgave them, and Jonah pouted.

So, here’s how I ended up in the fish.

I feel pretty cozy with God. I like our relationship, the grace of which I’m a grateful recipient, and the eternal security.

There are others in my world who don’t know Jesus. I see their behavior and choices for what they are – choices to disobey and to defy God. I say it in my heart, but my mouth reserved tickets on a ship sailing in the opposite direction.

Why?

Do I think somehow my salvation was less of a miracle than theirs would be? Do I imagine by hoarding God’s mercy, I somehow receive a greater portion of that which is boundless and free? Have I secretly set up a seat in the shade with a great view of their judgment with some thought that I need the satisfaction of seeing their comeuppance? As if eternity in God’s presence isn’t enough for me?

Now I know the fish wasn’t the only stench in this story. Self-righteousness is putrid and hangs in the air like low-tide.

And still, I argue with God that the Ninevites in my world may not embrace the truth, they may not share the wisdom of the ancients.

And God, endlessly patient even with this folly, reminds me that my job is not to predict their response.

My job is to speak truth. The same truth He used to bring me to repentance. A repentance that was no small miracle and no credit to me.

Jonah’s story is my story and yours, too, if you remain silent in the face of evil and disobedience, if you imagine that another is less bent toward salvation than you were at one time, if your heart has boarded a ship bound for silence when you know the time of God’s return is near.

When was the last time you spoke the gospel aloud to another? When was the last time you gave voice to the disobedience you name in your heart when you see it in others? When was the last time you ventured beyond the boundaries you’ve charted for God?

Is it getting tight up here inside this fish, or is it just Jonah and me?

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6 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Rob McCullough says:

    Truly you have plenty of company Lori – me included. We attribute His righteousness to us like somehow we have arrived. Thanks for helping us to see more clearly! Be Blessed!!!

  2. Sue Nayudu says:

    Oh Lori, such an insightful woman you are — thank you for allowing me and others to see ourselves in you — and Jonah 🙂

    May God continue to bless your ministry and your personal life!

    With love, Sue Nayudu

  3. Richard Mabry says:

    Lori, even though this blog is aimed at women, please allow a man to comment. Well done. This is a post we all need to see–and heed–as we go from day to day. It’s easy to enjoy the scenery from dry land, but when we ignore God ‘s commands and end up inside a large fish, it sort of gets our attention. It did mine. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Cheri Hardaway says:

    Awesome (and convicting) words, Lori. Thank you!!

    Got your book just the other day and foresee some hard conversations in my future. Definitely feeling a lot like Jonah down here in Louisiana!

  5. Lori L says:

    Lori After Jonah spoke to the Ninivites they repented. When I’m prompted to speak the truth it is up to God to change their hearts. God is patient with us. He used a huge fish that saved Jonah to get his total attention. You brought out we too can be like Joah by thinking those we depise don’t deserve God’s mercy. To all who believe in his son, God saves. Good job!