Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jonah and the Great Fish

Here are pictures I took of some of the beautiful stained glass inside the Main Chapel at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  It was not surprising that the various windows highlight stories from the Bible having to do with the Sea.  Both Jonah and Noah's stories are pictured in several windows each. 

Those familiar with the story of Jonah will remember that God told his prophet Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and preach to them, warning of the need to repent or that they would be destroyed in forty days.  Jonah hated the people of Nineveh, as did all of Israel.  The Ninevites were well-known for their extreme brutality toward their enemy.  They never showed an ounce of mercy, why should Jonah be the instrument to extend God's mercy toward these wicked people?

Instead of heading out toward the city in obedience to God, Jonah foolishly thought he might be able to run from God.  So, he bought a ticket for a far-away city, boarded the ship, went below and fell asleep.  A bit later, a violent storm nearly tore the ship to pieces.  It was discovered that Jonah was to blame and the window above illustrates Jonah being tossed overboard.  As soon as he went over, the storm immediately stopped.  At that moment, a great fish swam by with his mouth open and Jonah was swallowed into his stomach.  Miraculously, God had prepared this very fish for this very moment - and He was totally in control.

After three days and nights in the belly of the fish, and quite a bit of praying and repenting within that dark, smelly interior, God caused this great fish to swim up to the shore and vomit Jonah onto dry land.  After he washed his smelly self up, Jonah started walking toward Nineveh (a very long walk!).  This time, there was no arguing.  Jonah was still not happy about his mission, but he was not going to botch this assignment a second time -- he might not live through it.

  And so, as soon as he reached the gates of the city of his enemy, he began to preach about God and repentance.  The really, really amazing thing is that almost immediately, everyone in the city repented and turned to God.  They even put on sackcloth and sat in ashes to show their sorrow -- even the king and queen.  It was probably the greatest revival in history.  How exciting and wonderful!
   Except - Jonah was not happy.  In fact, he was very angry.  To make a long story shorter, he whined and complained, and finally God let him know his anger was misplaced and he'd better get an attitude check.

This story tells us at least a couple of obvious things:  First, God's mercy is shown in a big way.  It's a beautiful story of mercy and grace, not only to the people of Nineveh, but also to Jonah (that God didn't just zap him).  It also shows us how God sometimes uses imperfect and reluctant persons to accomplish His plans and -- that His plans will come to pass.

I'm so thankful for God's mercy and grace - and for His willingness to use we who are flawed vessels to show His great glory.  Praise God!

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