Jonah and the giant fish
God’s blessing is with those who obey, but His punishment is meted out to those who don’t. This was shown in the extraordinary events that happened in the life of God’s servant, Jonah.
Nineveh was the capital of he Assyrian Empire. The Bible describes it as a city guilty of evil plots against God (Nah. 1:9), cruelty in war (Nah. 2:12, 13), idolatry, prostitution, and witchcraft (Nah. 3:4).
To warn the people of Nineveh of the judgment that would befall them, God sent the prophet Jonah to persuade them to repent.
THE WORD OF THE LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.”
Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.
So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)
The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”
Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried to the LORD, “O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.
But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said:
“In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.
From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God.
“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.
“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”
And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
(Quoted from Jonah1:1-17; 2:1-10 New International Version)
Illustration by Nestor G. Malgapo Sr.