On one particular trip, she was sitting next to a rather gruff old man. When he saw her pull out her Bible, he gave a little chuckle and went back to what he was doing. After a while, however, he turned to her and asked: "You don't really believe all that stuff in there do you?"
The lady replied: "Of course I do. It is the Bible."
He said: "Well what about that guy that was swallowed by that whale?"
She replied: "Oh, Jonah. Yes I believe that; after all, it is in the Bible."
He asked: "Well, just how do you suppose he survived all that time inside a whale?"
The lady said "Well I don't really know. I guess when I get to Heaven, I will ask him."
"And just what if he isn't in this Heaven of yours?" the man asked sarcastically.
"Then you can ask him!" replied the lady.
As this story illustrates, even people who do not believe the Bible are well acquainted with the story of the Old Testament Book of Jonah. Of course, in reality, the Bible does not say it was a whale, but rather a large fish that swallowed Jonah. But either way, it is clear from Jonah 1:17 and 2:10 that God directed sea an enormous creature first to swallow Jonah and then to regurgitate him back up onto the beach.
In the New Testament Gospels of Matthew (12:38–41) and Luke (11:29–32), Jesus Himself affirms the veracity of this Biblical story. For this reason, more than all others, I do believe that Jonah was swallowed by some sort of large marine creature. Certainly there are numerous species that would be capable of swallowing a man whole: among them Sperm Whales, Orcas, Whale Sharks, Basking Sharks, Mega Mouth Sharks, or even the dreaded JAWS, the Great White Shark itself.*
But I also have to affirm the truth of what G. Campbell Morgan, formerly Pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, once stated: “Men have been looking so long at the great fish that they have failed to see the great God!”
And of course, that is the point. The story of Jonah is not just a book about a man being swallowed by a large fish. It is rather a story about a man running from a great and awesome God. The fish is merely a tool in the hands of this awesome God, as are the ship, the storm, the sailors, the gourd (or leafy plant) and the worm that chewed the plant and made it whither.
(In fact, both the fish and the worm are members of a long list of animals that God utilized to effect His will in the Bible. See my earlier post of 06/13/16 about the African Grey parrot.)
And all of these things show us that this great God loves all people and wants to see all people come to Him. In accordance with the teaching so the Bible, we who follow of Jesus Christ believe we have found the way back to this great God though Him. For the following conversation with this Jesus is also recorded in the same Bible (Gospel of John, 14:1-6):
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.
Thus, having found our way back to God, we now have something in common with Jonah: we are a part of God’s people. And also like Jonah, we now have the responsibility to share His message of forgiveness with those who repent and judgment on those who do not with other people.
Where would the 120,000 hapless citizens of Ninevah be if the servant God sent to them in His name had shirked his responsibility?
Better yet, where would Jonah have been if God had not pursued him so passionately? And where would you and I be as well?
At best, off sitting in some backwater placed called Tarshish, rightfully spending the rest of our time in this world feeling guilt and frustration at a life wasted in flight from God and His divine will. And at worst, swallowed up by the evil of this world and being ever so slowly digested and absorbed into tis meaningless existence.
As for me and my house, we will go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach against it. I will do this, not in some bizarre joyous anger at its impending destruction, but rather in a cheerful acknowledgment of what God has done for me combined with a hopeful expectation of what He can do for the folks at Nineveh as well.
Having been fished out of the depths myself, I now gladly embrace the call of my Lord and Savior to go fish for men on His behalf! Why don’t you join me and let’s go fishing?!
STORY SOURCE: http://www.gospelweb.net/HumorWorks/BibleOnPlane.htm.
SCRIPTURE SOURCE: http://biblehub.com.
*As I write this, “Shark Week” is appearing on the Discovery Channel, paired against “SharkFest” over on the Nat Geo Wild Channel. Sperm whales can reach up to 80 feet and Orcas (or Killer Whales) 30 feet. These two species are of course air breathing mammals. But they are both carnivorous. They have even bigger cousins, such as blue whales, with mouths big enough to hold cars. These latter, of course, are baleen, or filter feeders, who feed on krill and plankton. But they still suck in small and medium sized fish on occasion.
Among the actual sharks, Whale Sharks can reach 50 feet, Basking sharks 30 feet. Like the baleen whales, they too normally feed on krill and plankton, but can also swallow larger prey. But unlike carnivorous marine creatures, these have small esophagi, limiting what they can swallow.
Great White sharks can get up to 25 feet, and they are certainly carnivorous. On one recent episode of “Shark Week”, a silhouette of a shark was placed under the water and a Great White shark swam close behind it, allowing the cameras to accurately measure the Great White at 22 feet long! The mouth was easily three feet across and an intact grown man could have easily fit within its massive girth.
Lastly, sharks are known to have slow digestive processes. They are also known to regurgitate the contents of their stomachs when under stress. Provided there was enough breathable air was available, it would not be unreasonable that something not bitten into pieces but swallowed whole would last three days. The harshest damage would likely be done from the gastric juices on the skin of the prey.
Records from whaling ships indicate at least three modern accounts of men being swallowed by whales and living to tell about it. These accounts are all available all over the internet. As one might imagine, a huge debate rages online both for and against the veracity of these accounts.