Obviously this chapter is well known to many of you because you’ve heard the story of Jonah being swallowed by the fish before. I wonder though, do you think this is a bit too much? I mean, swallowed by a great fish and remaining in its stomach for three days? Some people respond and say, “You see, this is exactly why we must believe that the book of Jonah is a made up story, like a parable meant to teach us a great spiritual truth, it’s not real life history.” Jonah does sound like something that should be in a fantasy movie or something right? Well, it is my opinion (and I think it should be yours as well) that Jonah really did exist, and that he had a real mom and a real dad. Remember 1:1? “Jonah the son of Amittai?”, and not only 1:1, 2 Kings 16 gives more of Jonah’s background. We also should believe that a real fish, in real life, really did swallow Jonah because God told it to. Martin Luther, one of the key historical figures of our Church said this about the book of Jonah, “The story told here is almost incredible, sounding more strange than any poet’s fable. If it were not in the Bible I would take it for a lie.” Let’s jump into this story that is stranger than a fable and see what’s up with Jonah.
As soon as we get into the passage we’re met with one of the most astounding events in history, to say the least. 1:17 says, “And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”
God appointed this great fish (maybe a whale, but it just says “great fish”) to swallow up Jonah, which happened and led to Jonah spending 3 days and 3 nights in its belly. This leads us directly to a Truth so great we hardly have words to explain it. We find this Truth in Jonah 4:2, “God is gracious, merciful, abounding in steadfast love.” Think about this. It is grace that God called someone to preach to the wicked Ninevites…it grace that God saved pagan gentile sailors through Jonah’s disobedient running…and speaking of Jonah’s running it is grace that we actually hear of Jonah again in this book! God would have been completely right and just to kill Jonah when he was thrown into the water because of His disobedience! Yet 4:2 remains true, it is grace that God caused the crazy storm, it is grace that God caused Jonah to be thrown off the ship, and it is grace that God saved his life by providing a fish to swallow him rather than leaving him to drown. Everyone in this story would be dead because of their sin if God were not gracious. And the hard word here is that because of your sin, you would be dead right now if God were not gracious. The crazy fantastic Truth too great for words found in the book of Jonah is not that a whale swallowed a man, and that that man lived. The crazy fantastic Truth too great for words found in the book of Jonah that is a trillion times more shocking is that God is so gracious to sinners like us, that He chases us down when we rebel! God is chasing Nineveh through sending Jonah, God is chasing the pagan sailors through Jonah’s running away, and God is chasing Jonah through sending the fish to swallow him.
He is constant chasing us down as well, pursuing the praise of His name in the hearts of His people.