Deep in the Belly

Jonah Gets a Time-Out
Jonah 2:1-4 (The Message)
Then Jonah prayed to his God from the belly of the fish. He prayed: “In trouble, deep trouble, I prayed to God. He answered me. From the belly of the grave I cried, ‘Help!’ You heard my cry. You threw me into ocean’s depths, into a watery grave, with ocean waves, ocean breakers crashing over me. I said, ‘I’ve been thrown away, thrown out, out of your sight. I’ll never again lay eyes on your Holy Temple.’”

Finally! Jonah finally prays! Up until this point he hasn’t spoken a word in response to God’s command in 1:1-2. He has been too busy running away from God, and hasn’t been interested in getting into a conversation with the God he had been so strenuously resisting.

But now, in the belly of the fish, he prays.

So, did he cry out on day one, when he realizes that he is not going to drown? Or does he have to sit inside a stinky, dark fish, sulking for a full three days before he decides to reach out to God? We don’t know when this breakthrough happens.

During the storm, Jonah had been hiding in the “belly” of the ship, immobilized by his fear and guilt. Now he is in the “belly” of an enormous fish, and he finally launches into the only action he can take: he thanks God for providing this very unexpected, and very improbable, aquatic rescuer.

When have you had a time of forced inactivity that helped you to better see where God wanted you to go next?

The time Jonah spent in the belly of the fish is the hardest part of the story for us modern readers to stomach. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!) We know too much about anatomy and physiology, and questions arise like: “How did he breathe inside the fish?” or “Could he really have survived in stomach acid?” But, on the other hand, we know that God — the Creator of the universe — can use all of creation for his own purposes. So, what do you think… Is this story an accurate account of an actual event? Is it an allegory? A teaching story? Something else entirely?

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