Monday, January 11, 2016

He Didn't Send a Shark





My little 3-year-old is fascinated  right now with "role-playing" the Bible stories that she hears. She will play the part of Jonah while I am assigned to "The Fish" --although she assures me that her Dad's fish re-enactment is more convincing than mine :-). 

I've been thinking about the prophet Jonah lately. A 2-part series of excellent messages given by apologist and teacher Ravi Zacharias on the book of Jonah deeply spoke to my heart over this past summer (I'm hoping to share more about that later) and the Pastor at the church that we've been attending addressed him in a sermon as well that was really insightful and excellent. 

But something somewhat unrelated to the sermons that I heard on the book of Jonah struck me over the past few weeks -- after my daughter and I had been discussing the story of Jonah -- his rebellion, repentance, subsequent obedience, and then sullen pouting over the Lord's mercy upon Ninevah. 

That the Lord didn't send a shark. 

He didn't send a shark; He sent a "great fish." He sent something huge and frightening and eye-opening and confining, but He didn't send something consuming and terminating. 

He knew Jonah's heart. He knew his fear and his stubbornness, and the deep feelings of resentment that Jonah harbored toward a people who had committed such atrocities against the surrounding nations and against his own. He knew Jonah's heart, understood it, and yet, still required obedience. And He still held compassion for the Ninevite people -- even their animals. 

He sent a great fish, something that swallowed Jonah up and caused him to take a hard look at his rebellion and stubbornness and to cry out to God in the midst of it all. And serve as a picture of Jesus Christ, resurrected from the dead. 

Jonah was resurrected from the dead. The death of a hard place. The death of an impossible situation. And in a strange paradox, he experienced the death of self -- of having no other place to turn except to God in repentance and humility and trust and surrender.

We serve a merciful Father. He could have put Jonah "on the shelf," so to speak. He could have let Jonah go his own way and called someone else to do Jonah's job. He could have sent a shark. He could have allowed Jonah to drown in the pressing, unyielding waves. 

Instead, he relentlessly pursued Jonah, with a storm, with a fish, with a hot searing wind, with faintness. 

He pursued Jonah; he engaged his heart and his intellect and his reason. 

He pursued Jonah; He sent a fish.

When He could have sent a shark. He could have poured out His wrath upon the rebellious prophet -- He could have displayed His power and authority to one little Jewish man who dared to question His judgement and authority. 

He could have consumed Jonah. 

But instead He sent a fish, a great fish. He stopped Jonah from running and put him in a place where he had to listen and cry out to God. 

Sometimes we find ourselves figuratively, in the belly of a fish; God has put us there. We are in  a place where nothing is left to us but to cry out to God. And we think for a moment that we are being consumed. But we're not. We're receiving His mercy. And the place that seems like a tomb of death is really the instrument of our deliverance. 

I read a story, a long time ago now, about a naturalist who was documenting the survival of a flock of juncos (snowbirds) in a harsh winter. She was to record what happened to the juncos over the course of an extremely cold night in blizzard conditions. The temperature dipped well below freezing and the little birds were fighting for their survival. She was not allowed to intervene in any way while she was documenting over the course of the assigned hours. 

The woman struggled not to intervene as she watched the little birds. One junco especially caught her attention; he seemed weaker than the rest. The wind howled and the night grew dark. The little flock flew into a bush as the snow fell hard and deep. The woman felt overwhelmed and finally went to bed, despairing of what would happen to them, especially the weak little junco who had gained her sympathy. 

In the morning she flew to the window and beheld the world covered in a thick encrusting of snow. She felt that the juncos could not have survived such conditions until, all of a sudden, the bush where they had flown into the night before, covered completely in a thick layer of snow,  literally burst open. 

The snow from the blizzard had actually kept them warm, provided them a shelter from the frigid cold and preserved their lives. The snow that appeared to be the enemy had actually given them protection and warmth in the midst of the storm. It had been their salvation. (The woman records that then she joyfully threw out handfuls of seed to the birds; she was no longer recording and was so glad that they had survived, especially the weak little junco). 

At times, we think that God has put us in a confining, fearful place -- but that place is actually our salvation -- the situation is actually the catalyst to our surrender  and dependence upon Him. We think that we will be consumed; instead we are saved and given renewed vision to accomplish His will. 

In our "tomb of death," we receive life--and our confinement becomes a sanctuary to quiet our hearts and to hear the voice of God. 

He is merciful. In Him, we are not consumed. Our difficulties become places of deliverance and where it looks like there is no hope, an empty shore awaits us and the grace to preach His Gospel in and through it all. 

He sends the great fish; He rescues and delivers. In the unexpected place, He gives His grace and salvation.

And we, like Jonah, are not consumed. 


You might find me on these link-ups:

Strangers and Pilgrims on EarthInspire Me MondayLiteracy Musing MondaysThe Modest MomWhat Joy is Mine, SDG Gathering, A Mama's Story, Mom's the Word, Rich Faith Rising, Time Warp Wife, Cornerstone Confessions, Mom's Morning Coffee, Motivate and Rejuvenate Mondays,, Raising Homemakers, Hope in Every SeasonA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries, Whole-Hearted Home, Testimony TuesdayTell His StoryA Soft Gentle Voice, My Daily Walk in His Grace, Women With Intention WednesdaysMessy Marriage, The Charm of Home, Graced Simplicity, Theology ThursdaysChildren Are A Blessing, Imparting Grace, A Look at the Book, Essential Thing Devotions, Thought Provoking ThursdayCount My Blessings, Christian Mommy Blogger, Renewed Daily, Soul SurvivalGood Morning MondaysThe Weekend BrewBlessing Counters Link PartyThe HomeAcre HopMommy Moments Link UpGrace and Truth LinkupFaith Filled FridayTell It To Me TuesdaysSHINE Blog Hop, Faith and  Fellowship Blog HopMotivate and Rejuvenate Monday Link-UpA Little R&R WednesdaysTGI Saturdays Blog HopTotally Terrific TuesdayRaRaLinkupWord of God SpeakBooknificent Thursday

23 comments:

  1. Amen! What a great devotional thought for the start of this week. God truly is merciful.

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    1. Yes, Jed; truly He is! Have a blessed week.

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  2. PTL, He is still a merciful God, today. Last year, I did the Bible study "Jonah" by Priscilla Shirer and learned so much from it. Visiting today from #RaRaLinkup where we are neighbors. Blessings...

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    1. Yes; He is a merciful God! You're right; there is so much to learn from that little book. The Lord bless you!

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  3. I love this. Your title caught my eye and I knew the post was going to be about Jonah. I had my own "Jonah moment" last week and I am grateful that God pursues us rather than consumes us. I love how you describe this here.

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    1. Yes; I am so grateful for that, too! He is truly a loving Father. The Lord bless you, Carly. :-)

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  4. Bekki, What a beautiful, encouraging insights into the book of Jonah and the loving character of God.

    When Gabrielle first moved away, clear across the country, her empty room seemed like a tomb to me. Whenever, I walked by I would grieve and miss her so much. But then that empty room became a place of healing, where I set out to create a space for family to come and stay, (most especially Gabrielle) when they came to visit. I spent many hours painting and preparing special pieces for that room that had significance for each family member, all the while talking with my friend, Jesus. It was during that project that Jesus truly was my best friend, where I found sweet fellowship with Him; where He showed me those ministries He had set aside for me to walk in and where soon after, I was blessed beyond measure, for now I had time for those other ministries.

    It is always a blessing to read what the Lord has laid on your heart. :-)

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    1. Karen, that is such an encouraging testimony of the Lord's mercy and faithfulness--causing a rose to grow in the desert. How many times has He taken our "bleak" circumstances and given such grace and joy. The Lord bless you, Karen. :-)

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  5. love, Love, LOVE the story of the woman and the junco :-)! I also appreciate you how explain the difference between the shark and the fish, how one consumes and the other doesn't. SUCH an important distinction and reminder of how HE does have our best at heart....
    Thank you so much for sharing this at Coffee & Conversation!!

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    2. Oh, I'm so glad that I could share it, Pat! That story about the woman and the junco really touched my heart, too--so many times in my own life, the situation that seems like it will overwhelm me has been a breakthrough of the Lord's mercies.

      The Lord bless you, Pat!

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  6. What a great insight...I think I'll always remember it when I read Jonah. I'm so thankful when God deals with me, He doesn't send a shark.

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    1. Yes; I am too, Pamela! The Lord bless you; have a wonderful Lord's day! :-)

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  7. Rebekah, what a wonderful post! I had to read much of it to my husband and he enjoyed it as much as I did. I love your point that God didn't send a shark! And who wouldn't love the junco story. Great thoughts! Thanks for linking up at Mondays @ Soul Survival. Many blessings!

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    1. Oh, thank you for your encouragement, Donna! Yes; the Lord is so good! In Him, we are not consumed. The story about the junco really touched my heart, too, when I read about it. The Lord bless you, Donna!

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  8. Beautiful words and a great reminder of our own strength in the face of adversity. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring piece with us on #SHINEbloghop this week. It's great to see you back week after week.

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement, Maria! The Lord is truly good! Have a blessed Lord's day! :-)

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  9. A wonderful post! "the place that seems like a tomb of death is really the instrument of our deliverance" - goosebumps! It is so hard to see this truth when we are in that tomb, but from the perspective of time, the evidence is there. Thank you for blessing me tonight!

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    1. Yes; that is so true, Lori! It is hard to see that what we perceive as a place of death is really where we receive life. How many times has the Lord brought me to this, over and over in different situations! He is faithful.

      The Lord bless you, Lori!

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  10. I loved your thoughts about the Lord sending just the right fish to Jonah, many I had never considered. God bless!

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    1. I'm glad that it was an encouragement! God bless you, also! :-)

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  11. Thank you so much for this story. I have been a very hard place these past couple of maths asking God "why?" And now I know. I have never even seen your blog before so I have never read it!! God is awesome! Will be sure to continue to read. Thank you and God bless you and your presious little one.

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    1. Lorraine, may the Lord strengthen you and draw you to Himself and may He use the hard things that you are facing to reveal Himself to you. He is Love . . . Your words were such a blessing to me.

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