Unexpected Mercy

Background Story: Jonah was a prophet of Israel who God had called to share His words with the people.

Read Jonah 1

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Big Idea: Storms and smelly fish may be God’s mercy in your life!

It seems almost ridiculous that Jonah, a prophet of God, thinks he can run away from God by getting on a boat and sailing away. As a prophet to the people and to the Kings of Israel (2 Kings 14:21-25), Jonah knows that God sees all, knows all, and carries out His plan. But nevertheless, here we see Jonah on a boat trying to find a place outside of God’s reach. What’s God’s response to Jonah’s pride and disobedience? God sends a storm. Jonah responds by taking a nap. So the storm gets rougher…so rough in fact that the people around Jonah recognize this isn’t a normal storm but a supernatural one. Does Jonah turn back at this point? Does he cry out to God in surrender? No. Jonah comes up with his own plan and the people on the boat throw him in the water. Surrounded by huge waves and winds, Jonah and his pride have taken him to the lowest point (you would think). But then a HUGE FISH swallows him and Jonah gets to hang out for three days in the fish’s stomach.

Verse 17 strikes me, where it says, “Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah.” Provided? Instead of seeing that storm and giant fish as a punishment for Jonah’s disobedience, let’s flip our vision and see them for what they really were… MERCY. Punishment would have meant drowning but mercy came in the form of a smelly fish.

In Jonah’s life and in ours, God may send circumstances or close doors to steer us back on course or to protect us from unseen situations. Maybe you get a rejection letter from your 1st choice college, a relationship ends, or you don’t get the job you wanted. Maybe you get caught by your parents before you make a stupid decision. In all those situations, they feel bad and frustrating at the moment. But God is sovereign (all knowing), and good, and loves us more than we can understand. He has a plan for your life and will do what is necessary to protect you and keep you in right relationship with Him (including a smelly fish and a big storm).

If you find yourself running from God’s will and plan, instead of having to spend time in your fish, learn from Jonah and turn. Turn to God surrendering your life, your will, and your ways to Him. As we daily surrender ourselves to Him, maturity in our Christian walk means we begin to trust Him knowing that if removes something, closes a door, or says no, it’s for YOUR GOOD. Today, thank Him for His sovereignty, mercy, and goodness!

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