Meanwhile, the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah 1:17a (CEB)
The original Hebrew language says that Yahweh, The Lord; numbered or appointed or assigned or ordained; a great fish to swallow Jonah. This was a very unusual fish in that it could swallow and house a man, with enough air for three days. What is amazing and wonderful is that this was God's plan. God had a plan for Jonah, in Jonah's disobedience. God's plan defies human logic. A human plan might have had Jonah stay on the ship and repent there.
Maybe Jonah was not repentant on the ship. To me, repentance means to turn around and go the other way. To admit one's fault is only a step. Sometimes a person will admit fault, but not be willing to change their ways.
God selected a special vehicle to keep Jonah alive. God had an ordained plan for this large fish. The fish was numbered in that God had that fish's number, meaning that God always had this assignment on this fish's life. This fish would be born and grow to this huge size and end up crossing paths with Jonah at this very moment, swallow him, and save his life.
God knew beforehand that Jonah would be disobedient and planned for it. Isn't that good? Isn't that merciful? While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. All those Christians who are in Christ today: Christ died for them while they were being obstinate. God, who stands outside time, goes ahead of us and prepares things for us.
God's saving work is out of left field. God saves us in unexpected ways. God saves us in creative ways. God saves us in miraculous ways. His ways are not our ways. God has people or animals along our path that he will use to help us. I was in real trouble once in the ocean myself, due to a rip-tide. A life-guard named James rescued me. Many times in my life, when I was going through a disorienting time, a mentor would come into my life and help me. God placed someone in my life who interceded with tears when I needed prayers the most. I remember a day when I was in humiliation (which I needed), among a group of men who were rough, and the leader was a Jesus filled, gracious man, who God sent into that day to bless me and care for me.
Jonah's worst day, the day he thought he would die, and die a failure; ended up being the day God saved him. Prodigal followers of God will get disciplined, but they also get saved. When you are a prodigal and your life is going south and you feel the discipline of your being out of sync with God and out of sync with the world, you may think that either hiding or dying is your only hope; but God wants to save you. God wants to reveal himself to the prodigal and show that person mercy, so they can show the person who has no idea of God his mercy. God has a plan for his mercy to be revealed and given and to capture men and women from the devil. We're all a part of that plan and his-story is of that plan. God can use anything to help his chosen ones to see his mercy and to get in line with his mission of mercy.