Is this man, O Lord, still suitable for this great ministry, after all that he has done?
Yes.This Jonah is My son, and My beloved. He is also My prophet, and I willsend him to Nineveh. If he sinned I will correct him and make himuseful for My ministry. I will save his soul and save the city throughhim. This unpolished stone, I undertake to chisel until I make itsuitable for building.
Indeed, God is wondrous in His long-suffering. He does not hastily abandon or become angry with His servants who fall.
Hereceived Peter after he had denied Him, and confirmed him in hisapostleship. We human beings are characterised by our quick temper, andby our being quick to punish and quick in cut our relationships.Whereas God is not like that. He kept Jonah in his ministry andpreserved him safe and sound to accomplish his mission. When Jonah wasthrown into the sea, the God of the sea received him to protect himfrom every evil.
WhenJonah was thrown into the sea the Divine hand picked him up and carriedhim delicately that he might not perish or drown. God took him andplaced him inside the whale to preserve him safe there.
God had “prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah” (Jon. 1:17). Hedid not prepare it to destroy him but to preserve him. The great fishwas not a punishment but a shelter. Jonah was safer and morecomfortable in the belly of the whale than if he were still in the shipstruggling against the waves and the sea, and against fatigue, cold andwind.
This whale was sent by God to carry out the Divine will entrusted to it.
Itdid not have authority to eat Jonah nor to secrete digestive enzymesonto him to absorb him. No, but rather it swallowed him in order totake him into its inner bosom and keep him safe there until he wouldapproach his destination. The whale was a free means of transport bywhich Jonah reached the nearest point to his embarkation stop.
Itwas as though Jonah was in a protected submarine sailing underwater.That great fish was sent to rescue him from the sea and its tumults. Itwas like tribulations, appearing fearful from the outside whilstentailing within them all benefit. Jonah was inside the fish for threedays, sound and not conquered by the whale, just as Christ was in thetomb for three days and was not conquered by death.
Soshould you be, blessed brother. If the Lord prepares for you a greatfish to swallow you, do not fear, neither be troubled, nor grieve. Frominside the belly of the fish bless the Lord as Jonah did.
Beassured that the whale can swallow you but it cannot harm you. It cannever touch you without God’s sanction. The time will surely come whenthe Lord will order it to disgorge you onto dry land where you wherebefore. Is God not the Creator of the whale, and are not its life anddirection in His hand? If you are in tribulation, brother, thenremember Jonah’s whale and you will be reassured. You will know thatthe Lord is the one who has prepared this whale for you to grant you aparticular virtue or a special grace.
Be careful not to complain whenever you are swallowed by a whale, for the whales of the sea of this world are many.
Donot say: “Why do You treat me like this, O Lord? Why did You preparethis whale to swallow me? Where were You, O Lord, when it wasswallowing me? And why did You not rescue me?”
Knowthat God’s answer is one: “Do not be afraid. It is enough for you thatyou are with Me. Even if you are in the belly of the whale, I am withyou. I will not disregard you nor abandon you.” Therefore, my brother,do not be afraid. Remember the saying of the righteous Abba Paul, “Hewho flees from tribulation has fled from God”.
That whale was extremely huge. It was “a great fish “.
Thereare many huge whales, each one of them like a spacious room, able toswallow a boat together with those in it. When the great fish swallowedJonah, Jonah looked and found himself as if in a large hall or in apool. What did he do? He returned to his senses, knelt down and prayedin the belly of the whale, and the Lord beheld him and rejoiced:
AhJonah! I have wanted this prayer from you since the beginning of thestory. The reason for all that has happened was to make you kneel down,even if in the belly of the fish, that we may reason together.
“Fora long time I have wanted to talk to you and reason together, but youwere angry, you fled and refused to talk. But now is an appropriateopportunity to reconcile together.
Jonahknelt and prayed to the Lord, and returned once again to his propheticrites. He returned to his former image as an obedient God-loving man,firmly believing in God’s promises. He returned to his former state,trusting God and offering Him thanksgiving.
Iwas greatly affected by Jonah’s prayer in the belly of the great fish,which is characterised by the spirit of prophecy, wondrous faith andassurance of the unseen.
Itis one of the greatest prayers I have ever read in my life. If only hehad offered it, or a prayer of its like, before he had thought offleeing from the Lord! Indeed tribulation is a school of prayer.
Iwas deeply affected by his saying: “I cried out to the Lord because ofmy affliction and He answered me”, and I said in myself, “What is allthis, Jonah? How has God answered you when you are still in the bellyof the great fish? Would it not be more appropriate to say, ‘I criedout to You, O Lord, answer me’, so that you plead for your prayer to beanswered rather than declaring it?”
Jonahsaw with the eye of faith what the Lord would give him. He saw it as ifit were before his eyes, and not as if he would obtain it later on,thus he said joyfully: “I cried out to the Lord.. and He answered me”.
Jonahcontinued his wondrous prayer, saying to the Lord: “Out of the belly,of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice… all Your billows its andYour waves passed over me… Yet I will look again toward Your Holytemple”. With this faith Jonah could see himself outside the greatfish, looking toward the temple of the Lord.
Withthis faith he was able to turn his prayer from petition intothanksgiving whilst he was still in the belly of the great fish, and thus he concluded his prayer by saying: “ButI will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay whatI have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord” (Jon. 2:9).
Whatmade you sure, O holy prophet, that the Lord heard your prayer andanswered you, sanctioned that you come out of the whale and return oncemore to behold His temple? How far was that temple from you? It was faraway in Jerusalem whilst you were in the belly of the whale, somewherein the sea, exactly where you could not ascertain. But the prophetreplies:
“Iam completely confident that I will come out of the belly of the whaleand accomplish my mission, because God’s word is never disproved nordoes it return empty.”
“Solong as God commanded that I should go to Nineveh, then I will go thereand carry out His sacred will, undertake my preaching ministry and thenreturn to the temple of God to worship there. I will sacrifice to theLord and offer my vows. All this I see clearly and without doubt beforemy eyes. My present temporary state in the whale and the sea has noeffect on this at all.”
Howamazing is this man in his faith! Indeed, he is the man of deep faithchosen by the Lord. We do not deny that a cloud engulfed him and hesinned against God, but his essence was still good.
Hesaw the future full of hope as though it were the present. He offeredthanksgiving to the Lord for the salvation which he had not yetreceived according to time, but which he had actually receivedaccording to the gift of revelation granted to prophets; the revelationof the man who has eyes open to see the Lord’s visions as in an openbook, and who enjoys God’s promises before they are fulfilled.
When Jonah’s faith reached that wonderful level, the Lord ordered the whale to vomit him onto dry land.
Thatwhale acted with great discipline according to an assuring predestinedDivine plan. It appeared in the proper time and at the right place inorder to carry Jonah in its belly. It was as though this prophet wasbeing taken from an open ship liable to being covered and drowned bythe waves, into an enclosed and protected ship invulnerable to waterand waves. In due time the whale vomited Jonah onto dry land at theplace which God defined. There it left him unharmed after it had fullycompleted its errand.
Congratulations, Jonah, on this wonderful submarine in whose bosom you lived for a while. It has brought to your mission.
Let us turn over this page in the life of Jonah as if it had neverhappened. As if the first two chapters of the Book have been forgottenby the Lord. O the Lord returned and said to Jonah anew: “Arise, go toNineveh, that great city, and preach the message that I tell you.”