But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah,
and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:17 (NIV)
The Story of Jonah
When we were children, the story of Jonah and the whale was popular in our Sunday School classes. Then we grew up and learned it wasn’t a whale at all, but a really big fish. This isn’t hard to believe: God can do anything and if He wanted a fish big enough to swallow a man, He would have a fish big enough to swallow a man.
More important than the whale-or-fish debate is the reason why Jonah ended up in the belly of the fish. God had commanded him to go to Nineveh and prophesy to the people so that they would have the opportunity to repent of their evilness and turn to Him. Jonah loathed the Ninevites. He knew they were evil people and didn’t deserve God’s mercy. And he was angry with God for wanting to save them. So he refused to obey. He actually risked his own life to keep from going. He ran the other way.
It wasn’t long before Jonah was tossed overboard and ended up on the bottom of the sea. In his dying breath, he cried out to God and God sent a big fish to swallow him and regurgitate him upon the shore. When Jonah finally arrived in Nineveh and reluctantly prophesied, the entire city was saved.
New Time, Same Issues
We face much the same issue as Jonah. God has given us the great commission to go into all the world, sharing the story of Jesus Christ. “All the world” starts right here, at home, where we currently are. Yet we may be guilty of seeing our acquaintances the same as Jonah saw Nineveh—as enemies with different views from our own. We run just like Jonah did because deep down we think these people not worthy of God’s merciful grace.
God uses our lives as witnesses to give others a chance to come to know Him. We deliver the message, and some repent just as Nineveh did. It’s irrelevant to God what we think about what He’s doing with other people. The only thing God is concerned with is (1) saving people and (2) giving us a chance to obey and do the good works He’s prepared for us to do. He is a good and merciful God and we are His arms and legs.