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Fish and Storms

Shane Willard

Page 7 of 10
I think this might have been Jonah's last prayer, but it was hardly his first. I think when you're thrown out of a boat into an ocean, you get swallowed by a big fish, the first words out of your mouth aren't necessarily inspired of God. But when he knew he had to write it all down, he gave a compilation of his best effort; but nonetheless his prayer - think about prayers. We have all kinds of prayers. We have thanksgiving prayers. You could think about this in terms of giving grace for a meal. What is it, to say grace for a meal? There's a couple of aspects to it: 1) bless this food; in other words, if there's anything poisonous in it, let it go good in my body - which doesn't mean so much in New Zealand, but in Fiji it takes on a whole new connotation, right? In some places you go, it's like: wait a minute, hold on, let's get this out. The other connotation of blessing the food is what? We're eating Lord, may we always be aware that there are people who aren't, so thank you. There's a thank you, sort of.

There are also petitions, like asking God for things. This prayer - other kinds of prayers are screams for help, but think about this. This is how eloquent Jonah wrote this: Father, I've just been swallowed by a large marine mammal. I am smelling things that you can't imagine. I'm going to be passed through its bowel shortly, which is going to be quite unpleasant. Please, if it be Your will, rescue me Lord, save me from this hot, dark, smelly dungeon, oh great and powerful God. Do we pray like that? No. In the belly of a fish, we scream incoherent thoughts for help with God. Sometimes the belly of the fish is the very thing that helps us get real. We quit saying things like: oh bless you brother. Isn't God great? We quit doing things like that, because unexpected crisis forces us to get real. It forces us to say things like: you know what, I'm in so much pain last night, I didn't think I was going to make it - and it actually helps us deal with darkness.

Sometimes the fish is the very thing that helps us deal with those things. We tend to think that Jonah needs to be rescued from the fish. That's how it's taught: God rescued Jonah from the fish. Actually when you read the story, it was the fish that rescued him. The fish, the storm, the crisis, is what saved Jonah from himself. It made him deal with himself. It put things in perspective in his life. It changed the value of things. It changed his perspective. It drove him back to the word. Jonah did not need to be saved from the fish; the fish was prepared by God to save him. In Jonah's prayer, it's not a prayer of lamentation, or really help. By the end of it, it's a prayer of thanksgiving. It's a thank you for the salvation that God had brought him. In reality the fish brought him salvation.

See we tend to want to be rescued from storms and fish, but often times they're the very things that rescue us. They save us from ourselves, and they save others from themselves. In the Book of Jonah, it starts out with two wills: God's and Jonah's. By the middle of the Book of Jonah, you've got one will: God's. By the end of the Book of Jonah, you have two wills again. Essentially, the Book of Jonah ends with a question: should I not be nice to 120,000 people, Jonah? The Book of Jonah starts out with two wills, God's and Jonah's. In the middle it's just one will, God's. By the end it's back to two wills. Essentially the Book of Jonah ends with a cliff hanger: are we going to have part two? Do we need to go through something like this again, so that we can lose ourself, that He might increase?