Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Jonah wasn’t getting off the hook, so to speak. He had tried to run away from God, but he never even made it to Tarshish. He didn’t die when he was tossed into the sea, but this great fish prepared by God took him in for a short stay. He would not be able to avoid this commission he did not want to do. God didn’t give him over to his disobedience and find someone else to go to Nineveh, but He got Jonah to a place where he would go and proclaim God’s message to the people there.
And isn’t that the case in our lives sometimes? When God shows us a path He wants us to take and we just don’t want to go for whatever reason, He’ll sometimes intervene and get us to a place where we’ll go and do as He asked. When we try to flee from His presence or disregard His voice or ignore it and hope it goes away, God will often inject something into our lives—another person, some circumstance, an unmistakable prod from His Spirit—that gets us up and heading in the right direction again.
In Jonah’s case, it was a big fish. And time in the belly of that fish gave Jonah a different perspective, perhaps, than he had on his life before. As a prophet, he had a specific call from God upon his life. He was not his own. He was not free to traipse about the country when he had a job to do. He found as he sat there wallowing that he could not dictate to God what was acceptable and unacceptable for him to do. He found in a very definite way that God is in control of everything and will do what it takes to see His will accomplished. He saw in that very dark place that our greatest freedom is truly found in obedience.
So where are we right now in relation to God’s will and plan for us? As His people, we’re commissioned for a task. We each have a specific call from God on our lives. Are we obeying Him and fulfilling His purpose for us? Or are we, perhaps, sitting in some fish’s belly, learning a lesson about our place before God? For some reason, Jonah had to be the one to go to Nineveh, and sometimes God gives us a task that He wants us to do and no one else. Let’s be willing to submit and surrender to God no matter how we feel about what He has called us to and find our own freedom in obeying our sovereign God.