Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly. (Jonah 2:1)
One of the passages of Scripture that skeptics use to try to make the Bible out to be a fairy tale is the story of Jonah being swallowed by a great sea creature, as recorded in chapter two. Admittedly, it is a whale of a tale! Yet, there are documented cases in history where sailors have been swallowed by sperm whales and survived. Aside from that, Jesus believed the story and used it to illustrate his resurrection (see Matt.12:38-45). One might understand an atheist’s mockery, but for a professing Christian to try to explain it away is to question the authority of Jesus and the historicity of His resurrection—and I would question the reality of such a person’s faith. Bottom line: if God is God then He can do anything He wants to do, including making a fish that can swallow a man. I have no problem swallowing the story!
What happened inside of Jonah was a result of what happened inside the sea creature—literally, the Hebrew word means, “sea monster,” so that we don’t know exactly what kind of aquatic beast it was—only that it had a mouth big enough to swallow the disobedient prophet and a stomach large enough to accommodate him! I think it likely was a whale—and will so refer to the animal from this point on. He slept on a foam blubber mattress covered with a blanket of seaweed and plankton pillow!
This we know—Jonah was disciplined by this descent into the deep (v.1-3). He had tried to escape from God’s call to go preach at Nineveh, and headed the opposite direction. God sent a storm to stop him and a whale to swallow him all in order to send him to the place where he needed to be. My old neighbor, the late preacher Cecil Fox, said to me many times, “God can make you want to do what you ought to do!”
Jonah was given a taste of hell—for so he describes it. The temperature inside the whale would have been 108 degrees, the gastric juices would have burned and begun to eat away at him. Can you imagine the darkness and stench? No wonder Jonah got on his knees and did some serious repenting! What will it take to drive you back to God if you are currently in defiance of His will?
His prayer was urgent, as you might imagine (v.4-9). He had sought to hide from God and now he worries that God will hide from him. When he was asleep in the ship as it rocked along on the waves, he felt no alarm. Now, in the belly of the beast at the bottom of the sea, terror is what he feels—yet, that is a good place to be. When God takes you down that low, you have nowhere to look but up! That’s when things change.
Jonah would experience a resurrection of sorts. Did you consider that maybe he actually died in the whale and God raised him? One thing is for sure, he died to his sin and was now alive to God.
Did you know that whales sometimes beach themselves and will vomit out the contents of their stomachs just before they die? The whale lived to do the will of God and died in peace. A beast was more obedient than a prophet! Yet, Jonah repented and “You can’t keep a good man down!”