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Shepherds Hill Homestead » Messages » Big Fish Story

Big Fish Story

Our message this week is about a big fish. As a child I always got excited when I heard of the fishermen in the Bible. My Daddy and Uncle Bobby would often come home with buckets of fish and we’d have a fish fry. Often, I would go with them and “help” bring them in. It was always fun to see these two siblings chide each other as to who caught the biggest one.

Of course, there was always a tale of the one that got away. Sometimes there would be evidence of a broken pole or a bent hook and our eyes would widen! But never has there been such as tale as the one in the book of Jonah in the Bible. Today we will skim through the book but I encourage you to get deep in its message.

In Jonah chapter 1, we find out that The Lord called Jonah to go preach at Ninevah. I have heard many a sermon preached on this great prophet and usually hear the negative said regarding him. We sometimes forget that having only four chapters written about a person does not give someone a true picture of their character. Let’s face it; we all have had our bad days. Surely Jonah had done much more than this in his life.

But alas, we aren’t told the rest of Jonah’s life. All of us could have such a chapter written about our lives that we would not like having recorded for all time. Obviously, we are to learn something from this short story in history that is relevant to our lives. Let us see what we might see through God’s Word today.

In verses one and two we find this short and concise command given to the prophet. God’s directives are often given as short and to the point. Perhaps you have waited for the rest of the directions (since you didn’t like what you thought He said). But, God’s command is clear to Jonah; all too clear.

Jonah takes immediate steps to go in the opposite direction. Ninevah was northeast from Jerusalem and Joppa was southwest. In Joppa, he would get a boat to Tarshish at the tip of Africa.  Isn’t it interesting how we can do exactly opposite things from what the Father has told us, thinking we are still in His will? I am so amazed at how we have been given direct commands in His Word and yet some choose to say it’s not relevant for them. But Jonah has a secret reason that we have yet to read about that allows us to see why he rebels.

As he took his leave from God he walked outside His protection and provision. As he boarded the vessel, Jonah may have hoped that the directive had been given to someone else. Or perhaps the Lord had time to think about it and had changed His mind about the great city of Ninevah. Whatever Jonah thought, with the pride of Balaam, he was able to sleep in the midst of the storm that is coming.

In verse four there is a storm sent to buffet the boat. Everyone in the boat will suffer the storm. Have you ever realized that your sin affects others? Our sins do harm others. In this event we see that it caused the tiny ship to lose some of its cargo. Then it caused fear on those aboard.

Jonah is awakened (v 6) and lots are cast to see who the culprit is that caused the storm. Sailors are known throughout history to be superstitious. I have gotten a lot of questions through the years as to how lots were cast and why it worked. The answer is still, “I don’t know”. Somehow Jonah’s name came up. The men began to cry out to God in fear and still tried to save the vessel. But since they cannot, they must throw Jonah into the sea at his request. His sacrifice calms the sea and the sailors sacrifice to God in fear.

Here is something that I want to emphasize. Jonah, in his disobedience, comes to the end of himself and asks to die instead of obeying God. I am going to call this “spiritual suicide”. I have been there before and you may have also. We don’t see the harm as we move into what we think is martyrdom for God. The fact is- we have just stepped over the line of pride. Our pride says that we refuse to suffer anything else. In lieu of carrying a cross we would rather die first. If you don’t believe that this is pride in Jonah, hold on! He’s about to go on a little ride!

Chapter one ends with the simple verse that the Lord had prepared a great fish to accommodate this rebellious prophet. I hear questions thrown around about Bible topics such as the size of Noah’s Ark and whether or not it could hold two of every kind of animal. Then there’s the one about Cain’s wife and where she came from. Have a little faith, my friend, and trust that everything He said was true. None of it has ever been proven wrong and none of it ever will!

This great fish was specially prepared to hold someone alive (with enough consciousness to think things through) for at least three days. The Word says that Jonah was in the fishes belly for three days. This was quoted by the Lord Jesus (Matt 12:40). He obviously didn’t think it was a fairytale.  It was symbolic of the Lord being in the tomb for three days.

Chapter 2 of Jonah begins with the word that allows us to see Jonah’s pride. THEN- When was then? What was the time period? It was three days of thinking (and stinking) inside a fish. Jonah was so stubborn that he fought that long before giving in to God’s will. Oh, how much suffering we’ve all gone through because we failed to yield to the divine call of the Almighty. Jonah prays in the next seven verses and God simply spoke Jonah out of his dire need.

Chapter three-God again calls Jonah with a message. But, does He send him somewhere else? Of course he doesn’t. Jonah doesn’t win this argument and neither will you, friend. God will always win. He hasn’t lost an argument yet. Remember; He’s the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. He has the first Word and the Last Word in the discussion.

So this time Jonah went. Only now he is covered with the smell of his rebellion. His skin is probably bleached with the chemicals from the fish’s belly. I picture him with seaweed wrapped around his head and pruney fingers. This image would have certainly gotten my attention. His message was clear. God was planning on destroying Ninevah.

Have you ever thought about the message he gave? If God had planned on no mercy for this city, He certainly would not have bothered this prophet. He would have simply brought the destruction down onto it and wiped the sand clean after He was done. But our God is a Merciful God! His Mercy endures forever!

Friend, the very fact that you still draw a breath shows that He hasn’t given up on you! You may think that you’ve parted ways with God. You may have given up on Him. Maybe some terrible hurt of the past keeps you from giving up your will to His. Today is the day of salvation to you! Maybe you’ve spent days in the middle of the big fish. I can testify that my life was one big stinking mess. But God spoke, (that’s all He had to do), and I was thrown back to what I was supposed to be doing.

Of course, the end of Jonah’s story is that Jonah was displeased at the revival meeting he orchestrated. Wouldn’t it be strange if an Evangelist came to your church and preached a fiery message and then got upset when everyone heeded it? That’s what happened to Ninevah. They took the smelly servant’s word and repented. God shows us here that their works indicated a condition of their hearts.

So Jonah is upset with what has happened and now we will see why he didn’t want to go in the first place. In chapter four verse 2 Jonah admits why he refused to go. He knew that God was a Gracious God and tender in Mercy. He knew that Ninevah would repent. He wanted judgment to come.

Now, I am going to finish with this point, although there is more scripture that I haven’t covered. Please read it this week and let the Spirit lead you.

I ask you this — have you refused to forgive someone because you know that they will repent? Is there someone in your life who, perhaps has repented many times before, and needs forgiveness one more time? Yes, God will forgive them again. We don’t have a lot of written text about Ninevah’s history of falling away from the Lord. But when we study Israel, God’s select people, we see a pattern of falling away and coming back for thousands of years that makes us marvel at the Mercy of God.

Yes, we are required to forgive our enemy. We don’t know what Jonah had against this huge city. Maybe he had been hurt again and again by the people. He was required to forgive anyway. Until we forgive others we run from God’s will in our lives. Maybe we’ve gotten comfortable in the belly of the fish. Because of our pride we choose to live here instead of our intended home. We accept our suffering as a fact of life. There needs to be a change in our lives. We need to leave where we are and go where He is sending.

How about it friend? Are you in a spiritual suicide condition? Have you chosen to lie down and die instead of stand up and live? It’s your choice. I pray that your big fish story is the one that does get away.

 

Prayer-Lord, I ask that you show each of us how to forgive today. You forgave us much more than we are asked to forgive our brother. Help us to put the past behind us and move on with life. Melt our pride and bring humility to our hearts. Forgive us of our sins.

 

In Jesus’ Name-Amen

paul

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Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

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