I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a story or verse in the Bible for the nth time and thought, “How did I miss this before?” This is proof of the power of God’s Word. It is deep with wisdom and truth that we may never fully grasp in this life. It happens to me all the time, but I don’t think I expected it with this nostalgic story from my childhood.
I don’t think I’ve ever had so many people say, “I never realized…” as I have going through the book of Jonah. Here is a list of things that I or others found enlightening.
1. Jonah doesn’t just disobey. He doesn’t just run from what God told him to do. He runs from the presence of God. He needs to escape not only what God called him to do, but God’s voice altogether. This illustrates that we can’t willfully disobey God, sit in His presence, and think He’s going to let it be. The opposite of obedience isn’t disobedience, it is the attempt to escape God’s presence.
2. The “great fish” was not punishment, but salvation. Jonah told the sailors to throw him into the sea. It was a death sentence. Drowning is the distress that Jonah speaks of in chapter 2. He was pushed down by the waves, wrapped in seaweed, life slipping away, and there, he remembers God. That is when he was saved from certain death by the fish. We certainly see some changes happen in the fish, but Jonah expresses nothing but gratitude for being eaten. Do you ever find yourself wondering, “Why is God punishing me?” Maybe He’s not. Maybe He’s preparing you.
3. The big fish is not “The Miracle” of this story. While it is colorful, exciting, and demonstrative in its own right, this miracle is leading up to something much more amazing. Consider Nineveh, the capitol of the Assyrian Empire. It was the most evil city in the world. In chapter 1, God says, “Their evil has come up against me.” They were not just bad, they sought to overtake Israel, and to replace The LORD with their own gods. The real miracle happens when Jonah utters the words God told Him and the entire city fully repents. From the least to the greatest, they turned from their evil ways. God saved them and the people they sought to destroy. This was God’s plan from the beginning, when He first said, “Jonah…”. The fish is impressive, but God saved over 120,000 people in one fell swoop. In my opinion, that is “The Miracle” of the book of Jonah.
What do you think? Have you ever read something in the Bible and thought, “How did I miss that?”