Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Devotion: Jonah 1:17

The story of Jonah and the big fish is often taught to Sunday School students. Similar to the story of Noah's Ark, the story is usually cleaned up and sanitized for children. The grit, fear and gore are cleaned out of the text and these stories are presented as adventures with animals for children. If, for a moment, however, we set aside the cleaned-up 'children's Bible' version, we see these accounts for what they are--a massive display of God's power and might and humanity's frailty and dependence. In Jonah's case, he is consumed by the call of God and must rely upon God's faithfulness to survive. Let's take a look at the very brief account of Jonah being consumed by the great fish:
"And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." -Jonah 1:17 ESV
Jonah had fled the call of God. God sent a great storm to force Jonah back to his call. The result of the storm was a mass conversion of the sailors and Jonah being tossed overboard to appease YHWH. In the end, YHWH sends a great fish to swallow Jonah and carry him back toward Israel, and beyond it, Nineveh. While we do not have every detail of the great fish, it is not idle speculation to think it must have been something like leviathan, described in Job 3:8, 41:1-11, Psalm 74:13-14, 104:24-26 and Isaiah 27:1-though admittedly Isaiah describes leviathan as more of a serpent than a fish. At any rate, the great fish is large enough to swallow Jonah whole.
Jonah is then said to spend three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, no doubt as the fish travels back toward Israel to deposit Jonah on the shore to make his way inland to Nineveh. As we will see next week Jonah lifts up a prayer from the belly of the fish and so his life must be preserved there, no doubt supernaturally by the Lord. Yet, Jonah's consumption by the great fish is a death of sorts and a resurrection when he is spewed out on dry land. How do we know? Jesus tells us so in two disputes with religious leaders of his day:
"Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, 'Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.' But he answered them, 'An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.' " -Matthew 12:38-41 ESV
"And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, 'When it is evening, you say, "It will be fair weather, for the sky is red." And in the morning, "It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening." You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.' So he left them and departed." -Matthew 16:1-4 ESV
Jesus takes the time Jonah spends in the belly of the great fish as a prefiguring of the time he will spend in 'the heart of the earth' following his crucifixion and leading to his resurrection on the third day. Much and more ink has been spent working out the math of three days and three nights for Jesus in the tomb, but suffice to say, the point is not precision in math, but that Jonah's time in the belly of the great fish was a type pointing forward to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Like the sailors with Jonah, the religious leaders are to accept the sign that is given to them and not seek for one on their own terms.
Like many things in life, we often want more surety and certainty than we are given. In finance, most want a guarantee that a particular investment will make a profit, hence Bernie Madoff was able to dupe many out millions because he seemingly (though fraudulently) could guarantee a good return on investment. I imagine the religious leaders of Jesus' day wanted a guarantee that Jesus was the Messiah before they put their support behind him, but perhaps they simply wanted a confirmation that he was not so they could dismiss him as a fraud. Jonah, on the contrary, had no guarantee apart from the faithfulness of YHWH when he hit the water and was consumed by the great fish that he would survive. He merely had his call and trust that the faithful God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, YHWH, would preserve his life until he fulfilled his mission.
Surety and certainty that come in the form of portends and signs are not only unnecessary for our faith, they are a hindrance to it. Such signs make God perform tricks to woo us to His call and cause. In the end, these demands place us in a superior position to God and simply continue the sin of Adam in our lives. This is why Jesus rejects the call for a sign in both instances from the Gospel of Matthew. Yet, Jesus does say they will have one particular sign, namely, the resurrection.
As we participate in God's call on our lives to proclaim Jesus Christ we have few guarantees apart from the resurrection of Jesus. Our entire faith hangs on the veracity of that event (see 1 Corinthians 15:12-20). So, like Jonah, we must be consumed by God's call on our lives and trust only in His faithfulness to deliver us from death.

Music this week is "Levithan" by Josh Garrels.

News for You:

  • Shout Out: A big thank you to all who helped with the sound upgrade in the sanctuary this last week. Butch, Pete, Jim, Joe, Kurt, Nick and Elizabeth put in the hard work to help us all hear the Word more clearly.
  • Maundy Thursday, March 29th, at 7pm will be a service of scripture, prayer, and the Lord’s Supper.
  • Community Good Friday Service will be on March 30th at 7pm at CPC!
  • SonRise Service will be at the Omak Memorial Cemetery on April 1st at 6:30am.
  • The new youth director position is ready for applicants. If you know of anyone who is qualified for the position, please contact the church.
  • We are getting the Blue Angel up and running again! If you are needing a ride to church on Sunday, contact Dave at 826-1290.
  • For the month of April, we will be doing a diaper drive for Care Net. Please bring in size three diapers if possible, thank you!

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