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God saves Jonah

Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.
-Jonah 1:17b

Jonah's story looked like it was coming to an end with his drowning at sea and then something unusual and unexpected happened. A great fish swallowed him and he was kept alive. He was saved by an USV, an unidentified swimming vehicle. Why three days and three nights? Three is one of the Bible's most often used numbers.
Scholars have surmised that three means divine completion. Jewish sages, in their Talmud and Midrash literature, concluded that this scriptural phenomenon (of the third day motif) reveals a divine principle: God will rescue Israel, or a righteous person, on the third day of some great crisis. Also, Jonah's experience points to Christ and Jesus points back to Jonah.

Jesus talked about "the sign of Jonah" in Matthew 12:39-40 and in Luke 11:29-30:
But he replied, “An evil and unfaithful generation searches for a sign, but it won’t receive any sign except Jonah’s sign. Just as Jonah was in the whale’s belly for three days and three nights, so the Human One (Son of Man) will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. ”
When the crowds grew, Jesus said, “This generation is an evil generation. It looks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except Jonah’s sign. Just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Human One (Son of Man) will be a sign to this generation.”

Jesus authenticates Jonah's story. Jonah's assignment was to preach to Nineveh. Jonah's peculiar experience of being cast into the sea and swallowed by a great fish and kept alive or brought back to life after drowning was a sign, says Jesus. It was a miraculous sign, as Jesus’ resurrection from death would be.

It is ironic that a person's disobedience resulted in a sign from God that Jesus would later cite as an illustration of the sign to be given through his own life. Jonah may have had a prophetic ministry before the events in the book of Jonah, but in the events of the book he gains a testimony.

Jonah thought he was through, but God wasn't done with him. Jonah gave up, but God had a plan. Jonah "signed off." but God was prepared to make him a sign. A sign of God's mercy. a sign of God's sovereign grace. The man called dove would become a sign of God's mercy, of God rescuing, of God's care. When we see God's acts of mercy displayed, what will we do? After God shows us mercy, will we be merciful to others?

Going through a trial or through a dark night is an opportunity for growth. How much we grow in God is up to us. We have to process our experience in a way that we say yes to God for it to be transformative. Two people can go through the same trial or dark night and come out differently because of how they responded to God.

Jonah had the opportunity for growth and transformation in God. How much growth was up to Jonah. The experience in the dark, in the giant fish, is a big one. But Jonah's walk with God and his personal growth was not over. God walks with us and is fathering us for our maturing throughout our whole lives. Authentic maturity fosters humility in us that causes us to see that we need even more maturing from God.


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