Here's another gross story of the Bible for you! It involves guts, and big, stinky fish. We’re going to talk about Jonah and the big fish.
First we’ll talk about how Jonah ended up getting swallowed by a great fish to begin with, and then we’ll explore what it may have been like. After that, we’ll talk about what Jonah ended up doing about it. Check out Jonah 1 and 2:1-10
So, here we have Jonah. He was a prophet. God called Jonah to be a missionary to another nation to deliver the message God had for them. First of all, it wasn’t a pleasant message … and Nineveh wasn’t a good place. It was a huge city that was very powerful, probably the largest city in the world at that time. It was known for how evil it was, and how cruel the people could be. Imagine how afraid Jonah felt being told to go to Nineveh. He obviously underestimated God and His mighty plan. So, instead, he found a ship heading the complete opposite way to Tarshish, which was actually a very wealthy city during that time. Apparently, Jonah thought he could run away from God.
Is it possible for us to run away from God? No. We can certainly try to run away, but God is always with us. Always. He’ll never leave us, even if we try to run from Him.
Well, God caused a huge storm. Not just any storm. God “hurled” a great wind upon the sea, which indicates its severity. If God can create entire galaxies with just words, imagine the kind of storm produced when God hurls something in your direction! These experienced sailors, who had been through many storms, were so afraid of this one, they began praying throwing things overboard to lighten the load, and they began praying to their gods for deliverance.
Did their gods help them? No. Because they weren’t the True God. Here’s another thing … if the captain of the ship comes looking for you, it must be pretty serious. Well, the captain of this ship came looking for Jonah, and found him deep in the ship, asleep! The captain told him to pray to his god, whatever god it was, hoping that maybe his god would rescue them. Oh, the captain had no idea who he was dealing with.
Desperate for answers, the sailors decided to cast lots, which is like rolling a type of dice, to get direction for what to do. God controlled the lots indicate Jonah. That’s when he confessed to them what he had done. As the storm worsened, Jonah told them to throw him overboard to save themselves.
Listen to this – the heathen sailors were more concerned for Jonah than Jonah was for the thousands and thousands of people in Nineveh. The sailors tried everything BUT throwing Jonah overboard. In the end, that’s exactly what they did, but not before praying to God, and respectfully, humbly asking God to spare his life. The moment Jonah was thrown overboard, the storm went away.
God sent a big fish to swallow him up! He sat in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. Now, let’s take a minute to think about what that would be like.
Imagine how bad it smelled! Imagine how dark it was! Imagine how slimy it was! Jonah also didn’t have any water to drink … so how did he get water? I don’t even want to think about it.
Jonah started praying from inside the fish. He praised God for His mighty power, he acknowledged God’s sovereignty, and finally submitted to God’s commands.
What happened after that? Probably the grossest part of all …
God spoke to the fish, and the fish vomited! Out came a soggy Jonah, right onto dry land. GROSS!
So, Jonah went on to deliver God’s unpleasant message to the city of Nineveh, which was that they would all be destroyed in a great disaster if they didn’t turn away from their sin and turn to God. The people of Nineveh repented … including the King!