S68P3 – Through the belly of the fish: the strange place

Jon. 1:15-17

Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him. Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.

From an early age he received many prophetic words telling him that he would walk in his father’s footsteps and lead his own flock one day.  The problem was that his mind was on anything but God during those years. He was not one to enjoy rules and structure, and he was waiting for the day when he would be free to live as he pleased.  The moment he gained that freedom, it was one catastrophe after another.  Minor offenses and petty crimes would lead to more serious issues.  Within five years of leaving his parents’ house he was in prison.  It was during those years of incarceration that God would teach him and speak to him.  His plan all along had been just as prophesied, and that time of confinement would be necessary for that young man to listen and heed the call.

The story of Jonah reminds me of the Israelites wandering through the desert for decades.  It is a common theme among us as well.  God will ordain certain things for us, but we either will choose otherwise or simply fail to hold up our end of the bargain.  What results is our arriving at a strange place.  For Jonah, that place would be the belly of a fish.  It was not where God had planned for him to arrive, but it was what would be necessary for God to get him where he was destined to be.  The belly of that fish was a pit stop which resulted from Jonah’s own disobedience, and he would have to endure some time there before he could move on.  Arriving there made him realize that he needed to take stock of how he got there and make some changes.  It was an indicator that it was time to reset things.

God can be relentless.  When He has determined that a child of his is meant to accomplish something unique and specific for him, He makes that happen.  If we are discerning, willing and obedient, we see that plan come to fruition as designed.  If we respond otherwise, we may be simply delaying the inevitable as Jonah did.  When that happens, and God allows us to arrive somewhere strange and unexpected, let that be our indicator that it is time to reassess things.  Of course, the greater path is the one which yields to the will and purpose of our Father from the beginning.  Father, give us the discernment to know when we have gotten off the path You have designed for us, that we would seek your correction and your will.