April 26, 2017

From the Belly of the Beast

Jonah 1:17-2:10

“I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

—  Jonah 2:9-10

Jonah’s story challenges our natural skepticism. Imagine blaming an ocean storm on one passenger, though he admitted sinning against God. And how could tossing Jonah overboard calm the storm? Yet it did! And there’s more: God sent “a huge fish to swallow Jonah,” who survived in its belly for “three days and three nights.”

Jonah confessed his sin, professed faith in God’s power to save him, gave thanks for deliverance, and vowed eternal gratitude. Now God had Jonah’s attention. He ordered the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land.

This story sounds bizarre. But Jesus used it in a discussion with the Pharisees. The Pharisees demanded miracles from Jesus to prove he was all he claimed to be. Instead, Jesus referred them to Jonah: “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 12:39).

Jonah didn’t dive voluntarily into the sea expecting a “huge fish” to save him; nor did he expect to be vomited from the beast onto the beach. But God used Jonah to point to Jesus’ sacrificing his life and being sealed in the tomb for three days before God resurrected him. And we share his eternal life. Born in the belly of the beast called sin, Jesus freed us for eternal life. We can sing with Jonah, “Salvation comes from the Lord”!

Lord Jesus, you willingly came into our world of sin to save us. How can we thank you enough? Accept our praise. Amen!

About the author — Norman F. Brown

Chaplain Norman F. Brown graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, in 1969. He served aboard destroyers during the Vietnam conflict and ashore in San Diego, Calif., as an instructor. By then God had made clear his call to work in pastoral ministry, and Norman entered Calvin Theological Seminary, graduating in 1980. Chaplain Brown pastored churches during his ministry career but spent most of his time as a navy chaplain. During one assignment he served three years at Holy Loch, Scotland, where he and his wife, Ruth, encountered the Iona Community and their emphasis on spiritual disciplines. Chaplain and Mrs. Brown have three married children and nine grandchildren.

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