And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.Jonah 1:17(NASB)
Israel had been called and chosen to be a light to the Gentiles and a voice to the wider world. They were to tell the nations about the great salvation of God, which is offered to all who trust His Word and live by faith in Him.
Both at the beginning and the end of their 40-year long trek through the wilderness, Israel promised, "all that the Lord has said we will do," and yet Israel, as a nation, strayed far from the Lord and became a rebellious and apostate people. This required the Lord to send holy men of God to call the nation back to Himself so that they would fulfil their covenanted promise to take the gospel to all nations.
Imagine, therefore, a prophet of Israel refusing to obey the Lord's instructions and trying to escape from the work that God had prepared for him to do! Yet this is the story of Jonah, who attempted to flee his God-appointed commission to be a light to the Gentiles in Nineveh.
In seeking to flee from God and avoid his divine call to tell forth the good news of salvation, Jonah boarded a foreign ship that was bound for Tarshish, and paid money for his passage - in order to escape from the Lord!
How funny and yet how sad that this prophet of God should desire to flee from the presence of the Lord and refused to carry out God's plans and purposes for his life.
But when God has a call on a life, He will move heaven and earth to ensure that His purposes are fulfilled. Indeed, He sent a great storm which caused Jonah to be flung into the sea and face inevitable death - BUT we discover, "the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."
God is sovereign over the winds and the waves. He rules over the fish of sea and has authority over all elements of His created universe. God is also omniscient, knowing the thoughts of our hearts before we put them into practice. God knew all about Jonah's rebellious plans. And God, in His grace, prepared a great fish to swallow up his fleeing prophet so that His plans and purposes would not be thwarted.
Jonah had been selected to carry out God's will... and it was by God's grace that He caused Jonah to be swallowed by a great fish and not digested as he remained for three days and three nights in its belly!! God could have carried out His gracious plans for Nineveh through a more responsive individual... but it was God's grace that permitted the reluctant Jonah to have a second chance to take the good news of salvation to the lost Gentiles in that great city of Nineveh. God, in His grace, gave Jonah a second opportunity to fulfil His plans and purposes in his life.
Some of God's servants are willing people who, like the great queen Esther, understand that they have been placed in a special position for such a time as this. Others, like Jonah, can be resistant to God's claim on their life and be unwilling to listen to His voice, heed His commands, and share the good news of the gospel of grace.
How grateful we should be, when God often uses the circumstances of life to cause us to fulfil His plans and purposes in our lives. How stupid we are when we foolishly kick against the pricks and become reluctant to do God's will. How careful we should be that our reluctance to carry out God's purpose for our lives, does not result in a missed opportunity - and a loss of blessing.
May we have ears that are open to His call and a heart that is ready to carry out His plans and purposes in our lives... for who knows what opportunities God has for each of us... if we are willing to faithfully obey the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit, in our daily lives.
Heavenly Father, what an example Jonah is to all of us. Thank You that even when we are faithless, You remain faithful. But I pray that I would be ready and willing to hear and obey Your call on my life, no matter how difficult or unusual it may be. Use me, I pray, to share the good news of salvation so that many who are dead in their sins may come to know Christ as Saviour and Lord - to Your greater praise and glory. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.