But, maybe you don’t feel completely innocent in the situation you’ve found yourself this time. Perhaps instead, it’s the belly of the whale that swallowed you whole that has entrapped you. Remember Jonah? His situation was entirely different from the 6 men mentioned above. He got swallowed up in a desire for revenge, on a national scale. His situation was unique on so many levels. Unlike David, Daniel, Joseph, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Jonah was guilty of some fault. In contrast to the early prophets; Jonah came in a time after the glory days of Israel, while Elijah, Elisha, Nathan and Samuel were a part of Israel’s majesty. Unlike the later prophets, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah; Jonah did not have a compassionate heart towards his mission field. He didn’t want to see them spared from the judgment he knew was coming. He knew God was angry and he wanted to see God’s judgment.
You see, Jonah came along at a time when Israel had been pretty much doing as they pleased, just like the unbelieving countries around them. Only Obadiah had begun the litany of doom predictions to Israel, and that had been twenty years before Jonah. Jonah knew that the non-believing Ninevites had a history of killing prophets sent to them. The country was a dangerous mission field with a record for brutality towards the people of Israel. So, Jonah was called by God to carry God’s message of warning to a non-believing nation of brutal terrorists, while no one else in his generation was speaking up. Picture that! Politically, everyone was turning an eye to the bad neighbors, in an effort to be politically correct and “tolerant” of cultural differences. Meanwhile, folks at home were beginning to act like the neighbors. This would be much like becoming a missionary to Muslim terrorist cells today. It is illegal to try to convert Muslims, to begin with. And, no one doubts the danger of trying to convince the radical terrorist cells of anything! But, call him God did.
The problem with the call was that Jonah knew the need, but refused to care. He knew they needed God, but didn’t care that they have God. He saw they were going to burn in judgment, and approved wholeheartedly. So, he ran from the call. He boarded a ship headed in the opposite direction. He felt so secure in his decision that he took a nap below deck. This decision to run from God was the reason he found himself in the middle of a storm. Waking up and seeing the destruction that was about to happen to all on board the ship, he told them they could just throw him overboard to save themselves from God’s wrath. He was certain that God had decided to destroy him for his disobedience. And, the sailors believed him. They tossed him overboard, and he began to sink. Things seemed to go down from there. He not only went down into the sea, but he was swallowed by a great whale and went down into his stomach. After three days in the belly of the whale, Jonah realized he had a problem.
Jonah began to pray from inside the whale. He could have prayed on board the ship, but he didn’t. But, now he saw that he needed a deliverance that could come only from God. So, he prayed for deliverance. And, God answered. God delivered him from the whale, he was spit up onto the seashore, and God gave him a call to Nineveh again. This time Jonah answered the call. All of Nineveh was saved at his preaching. But, the striking thing about this situation is not that Jonah was delivered from the whale, but that he was delivered from the sea. The whale was not the problem. The whale was the solution. The Bible clearly shows that the whale was God’s deliverance for Jonah. God prepared a fish that would swallow Jonah without digesting him, so that Jonah would not drown in the sea. Notice that God was not the one who had Jonah thrown into the sea. God was rocking his boat trying to get his attention. Instead of opening his ears and listening to God, or calling out to God for an answer, Jonah gave God the cold shoulder. He became practically suicidal. He ASKED to be thrown overboard in the middle of a tempest. He wanted to die because he knew he had displeased God and God was not happy. He knew God wanted more from him than he was prepared to give.
So, God sent the whale to solve all Jonah’s problems. Jonah was not happy with this method of salvation, but he hadn’t asked for help before now. God only took him out of harm’s way. So, Jonah began to pray. Luckily, there's nothing WRONG with praying in the belly of the whale. Jonah 2:1 It is always better to pray the storm away. It is best to be “prayed-up” and in the middle of God’s will before the storm. But, if you have waited this long, it’s better late than never. Don’t be bashful, just go ahead and cry out to Jesus. God listens to all our prayers. I remember hearing well-meaning Christians say that God does not hear the prayer of sinners, with the exception of repentance/salvation prayers. I don’t believe that. I believe God hears all our prayers. People have the remarkable ability to be in so many different relationships with God. Even individual people can be at different places in their walk with God on any given day or year. God tarries with us all. You may be further along in your walk with God, or you may be totally standing at ground zero. Yes, I meant that expression that way.
Regardless of where you are with God, it is never too late or too early to pray for help, until you are dead. Jonah was a backslider. Ruth was a heathen Moabitish woman in the Old Testament. God attended to the needs of both. He helped backslidden Jonah when he sent the whale, BEFORE he prayed. He saved him from suicide. So, don’t worry about who you are. Just ask yourself this, “Who is God?” Then pray where you are now. God will turn your storm inside out. He will deliver you from this situation. Don’t live in the belly of the whale. Look to God for escape. He didn’t bring you this far just to leave you.