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Fish and Storms

Shane Willard

Page 2 of 10
From inside the fish. Now at the end of Chapter 1, it says that God prepared a fish. The word prepared in Hebrew there is Manah, which means this: what comes from something as one kind, continues from the same kind. What comes from something is one kind, and continues in the same kind. Let me make it a little more living bible-ish.

Well before Jonah was prepared for God, God was prepared for Jonah. In other words, in order to maintain our sanity, one of our God concepts has to be that God is smarter than us - that He's always out-fought our rebellion; that whatever plans A, B, C, D, E, F and G, whatever we can come up with, God always has the answer. He always has a way back. He always has a fork in the road we can take. He always a plan to rescue us; so God prepared.

The tone of the Book of Jonah is humour - it's meant to be a joke. Jonah thought he could flee from God... (Laughter). Jonah ran from the presence of the Lord, and so the writer here, whether it's Jonah or whether it's a narrator, says: but God was prepared all along. So from inside the fish, Jonah prayed to the Lord his God, and 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 He listened to my cry. You hurled me into the sea, into the deep, into the very heart of the seas. 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.

See the pattern: I've been banished, yet there's going to come a time where I can come back again. 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. There's the concept - the earth beneath barred me in forever.

Was he in the belly of the fish forever? No, he was in the belly of the fish for three days. The concept of forever in the ancient Hebrew world did not exist, and this is what I mean by that. The concept of forever meaning: hour after hour after hour after hour after hour. The word translated forever is the word Olam, which is an intensity of an experience. It's to the vanishing point. I got to play golf at Cape Kidnappers Friday and that was really cool. When I was playing Cape Kidnappers the time flew by - that's the word olam, like it's an intensity of experience, where it just seemed like you got lost in time.

It's also true negatively, like have you ever been sitting in class, and it was so boring that the second hand just seemed to never move? So essentially Jonah's saying this intensity of experience was huge. It buried me forever. But you brought my life up from the pit oh Lord my God. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered You, 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 was sacrificed to You. What I have vowed I will make good, for salvation comes from the Lord. And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Now there's a lot going here. Just a couple of initial application points and observations...

1) we all want others to live God's way. There's something inside of us, that we all want other people to live God's way. When we someone backing away from God's way, there's something in us that goes: no, no, no, no, no, that's not right. We all want other people to live God's way - compassionate, merciful, honest, have integrity, be nice to people, generosity. We all want to see people act that way, and although we want others to live that way towards us, there are times when we live outside of God towards them. Sometimes our heart is to have everyone else within God, when we ourselves are not doing that as well. So an initial application point is to ask ourselves: where do we want other people to treat us differently than we're actually acting? That's number one.