I have known the story of Jonah for quite some time. Yes, I do watch the Veggie Tales version quite often, and yes, I do sing the song (Johan was a profit, ooo, ooo).
I have always understood this story as it was taught in Sunday School. How it was about a man who ran from God, who was shown mercy, who couldn’t see past his prejudice to see how God wanted to save everyone, etc, etc. I have to be honest here, I don’t think I had actually read the book before now. It was one of those stories that I knew so well that it didn’t really have a draw for me to actually read. In all honest, I still didn’t have a draw to it, but the Lord is walking me through the minor prophets and Jonah happens to be one of them.
Firstly, I was struck by how short the book is and how fast it moves. Jonah rebels, enters the storm, and is thrown overboard in the first chapter (Bible chapter that is, so not a lot of words). I focused on the sailors. They departed pagans and returned to port fearing the Lord. The first sign of Jonah was God’s power over nature. God brought the storm and God calmed the storm. The impact that obedience to God had over the natural world brought these sailors to the realization that the Lord is God.
Then there was the second sign, the one we all know. Jonah was swallowed by a whale and remained in the pit of death for 3 days and 3 nights and then was returned to the land of the living to fulfill the will of God. In chapter 2, Jonah prays and compares the belly to Sheol, which is the land of the dead (not like Heaven or Hell). In that pit, he praises God for the waters engulfed him, but God brought his life up from the pit. In the last stanza of his prayer, Jonah confesses that he will praise God and sacrifice to him, and all that he vowed to do would be done.
I was like, holy crap! The Sign of Jonah that Christ spoke about!!
Yes, there is the surface reference of 3 days down and then back up again, but there are so many more layers. There is reference to sacrifice, to completing in fullness what he vowed to do, and the exclamation that, “salvation comes from the Lord.” There are demonstrations of power over nature, of conversions, and the ever faithful grace of God.
God has been hinting at and guiding us gently to the place we needed to be to receive Christ. Jesus was not a one and done epiphany. He was at work with us before he walked the earth and is continuing his work now. When we celebrate this Easter, remember that this is not just something in the past that happened once. This is a story that is continuing to unfold. The Author of our faith started a good work and will continue it unto completion.
Working for my life’s vision of writing stories in a beverage shop that I own.