The plan is simple.
- Read through the book of Jonah, ONE CHAPTER A DAY.
- Restate 5 things you learned (that you previously didn't know).
- Ask 5 questions about the chapter that you'll ponder all week.
- As the Holy Spirit gives you wisdom and insight, ACT ON IT.
INSIGHT 1: Due to the fantastical nature of Jonah’s account, many have chosen to re-imagine it as a fairy tale, or a cautionary tale to tell kids, BUT Jesus Himself, in Matthew 12:40-41, references it like it were an actual historical event. “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. ” We must approach this story for what it is, a miracle! Trying to explain the timely swallowing by the fish and Jonah’s 3-day preservation in its belly is tantamount to trying to explain how Moses was able to split the Red Sea in two, or how Jesus walked on water, or how Elijah called down fire from heaven. We can’t because it was an act of God where He stepped into time and space and bent the natural laws of nature for His purposes.
INSIGHT 2: Looking back on Jonah’s account some three thousand years later, we might say, “Oh, God graciously rescued him by sending the fish to swallow him!” Sure that’s true, but you can be certain that was NOT the first thought that occurred to Jonah when he saw this mammoth of a sea creature swimming towards him. If he thought he was dead when the seaweeds were choking the life out of him, imagine how much more dead he thought he was when that fish started to swallow him.
INSIGHT 3: People don’t come back from where Jonah was (“deep in the realm of the dead”), they die there! Jonah WAS NOT expecting to be rescued. Were it not for the compassion and grace of God, that would have been the end of his story! But remember who God said He is in Psalm 103:8-14, “compassionate, slow to anger, He doesn’t harbor anger forever..”
INSIGHT 4: If an act of disobedience in your life, (or the cumulative result of several foolish decisions) have ever landed you in an ugly situation where it literally feels like you’ve crossed the line of no return and have been cast away from God’s presence, remember this, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, MINE!” (Dutch Theologian, Abraham Kuyper). FACT: There is no depth of sin to which you can sink where God’s mercy does not reach.
INSIGHT 5: When we insist on our will over God’s (like Jonah did), He’ll lovingly intervene to rescue us, but His rescue operation might not be a convenient or comfortable experience. Jonah’s 3-day experience in the belly of the fish would have been a nasty experience! (Ever smelled bad fish? Imagine what it must smell like inside one).
INSIGHT 6: We should be careful about living in blatant rebellion to God’s will, and simply justify it by saying, “Well, God is love, and He loves everybody.” Yes that’s true, but God’s love also means that HE WILL discipline those He loves (Hebrews 12:6), and will do whatever it takes to save you from your own foolishness! [Sometimes, that discipline process will hurt!]. Take comfort though, when God is pruning/disciplining you, He’s actually delighting in you, bringing you back on track so you may be more fruitful in life!
INSIGHT 7: When your relationship with God feels “strained” as a result of sinful choices in your life, confess your sin to God (1 John 1:9). The light of the Holy Spirit that points out our sin also shines on the blood of Jesus Christ that covers our sins. After confession to God, confess your sin to one another (James 5:16). Practically speaking, for some of you, this means you have one or two brothers and sisters in Christ that you need to sit with and admit your failures. Then the scripture instructs them to pray for you and over you so you may be healed. For others, it means you need to track down the person you sinned against and confess your sin to them. Don’t justify it, don’t rationalize it, don’t spiritualize it, simply confess and ask for forgiveness…. And the scripture says you do this so you may be healed.
+ + +
QUESTION 1: How can you explain Jonah surviving 3 days and night in the belly of the fish? Three days is a long time to live in a smelly watery tomb. What do you suppose that nasty experience was like?
QUESTION 2: Have you ever had an experience where your “life flashed before your eyes”? What happened?
QUESTION 3: When have you felt farthest from God? What happened? How did you find your way out of the darkness?
QUESTION 4: What does God’s ability to hear Jonah’s prayer at such a low point (belly of a fish at the bottom of the Mediterranean sea) tell you about God’s “reach”?
QUESTION 5: Do you think Jonah is truly repentant at this point? Why? Why not? (Hint: Jonah 4:1-3)
QUESTION 6: Jonah clearly didn’t begin to pray till he was “inside the fish.” Perhaps on day 1 or day 2, more than likely on day. Why do you think Jonah waited so long to pray? Does it even make a difference?
QUESTION 7: Why do we tend to allow ourselves to sink low before we lift our voices and cry out to God?
QUESTION 8: Is there is a sin in your life you’re convinced is too “ugly” for God to forgive? Why might you be wrong? (Psalm 103:8-9, Hebrews 12:5-6 & Proverbs 3:11)
Husband. Dad. Pastor. Nigerian American. Storyteller. Aspiring Prayer Warrior. Steak Lover. Follower of Jesus Christ reminding you that God the Father still loves you.