Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights … And the Lord God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 1:17; 4:6-8)
What God Prepared
The book of Jonah is one of the most riveting stories of man attempting to thwart God and the Lord showing His mercy to rebellious and sinful man. Jonah was a preacher that was a contradiction but a man of fierce loyalty to the cause of righteousness, truth and denunciation of sin. Going to a heathen nation and preaching to the capital city a message of repentance seemed to be more than the prophet could believe possible as he feared the Lord would spare them and give them what Jonah believed was undeserved grace. The Assyrian nation was a vile people bent on destroying everything in its path with savagery, cruelty, violence, barbarity and well deserving of the wrath of God to annihilate from the face of the earth. There was nothing good in these people as Jonah saw them. His call to preach to them was uncalled for and in a bold move for a man of God Jonah tried to hide from the presence of the Lord taking a ship to the farthest point on the globe. What possessed his mind to believe he would succeed in going to a place the Lord would not find him? Why would a man of such devotion try to hide from the eyes of the all-seeing, all-powerful and all-knowing Lord? His attempt to run from God failed as the ship he was sailing was met with a great storm endangering the lives of its crew and the stranger from Israel. Jonah was fast asleep in the lowest part of the ship believing that he had fooled the Lord God when the captain of the ship begged him to call on his God for deliverance. Jonah knew why they were in danger. He had told the crew he was running away from the Lord and the storm was God’s wrath upon his disobedience. Following his instructions, the crew threw Jonah into the sea. Immediately the sea ceased from its raging.
Salvation for Jonah would come by the hand of the Lord as He prepared four things that would bring the soul of the prophet back to Him. First, the Lord prepared a great fish to swallow the prophet. What type of fish is not suggested in the story but through the miraculous power of God’s creation he prepared a fish to do something that was not in the normal scheme of things. The Lord prepared the fish to swallow Jonah but not to digest him. Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. This could only be done through the miraculous power of God. In the belly of the fish Jonah was in darkness with weeds wrapped around his head. He would describe his circumstance as being down in the moorings of the mountains and the earth with its bars closed behind him. Jonah did not know if he would ever come out of this place. His life was in the hands of the Lord and only through the power of God preparing the fish to sustain life for Jonah would he survive. At the end of three days and nights God spoke and the fish vomited Jonah onto dry land. Jonah’s life was preserved and delivered by the hand of God.
Jonah would go to Nineveh after the Lord came to him a second time and he would preach a powerful message of repentance that brought the whole city including the king to repentance. When God saw the hearts of the Assyrians humbled by the message of Jonah He relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon the city and He did not do it. The man who had first run from the presence of the Lord for fear of the grace of God being given to the people of Nineveh had preached so powerful he had turned their hearts to serve the one true and living God. This angered Jonah. He prayed to God to let him die because he would rather die than see these people enjoy the grace of God. Going out of the city and sitting down on the east side of the city Jonah waited to see what the Lord would do to this great city of one hundred twenty thousand souls. His heart was exceedingly enraged against the people and he was angered the Lord would save them. While he contemplated the undeserved mercy of God to these heathens the Lord prepared three things to trouble the heart of the prophet. First the Lord prepared a plant to shade and give comfort to Jonah. Jonah was very grateful for the relief from the burning sun. But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a second thing to teach Jonah a lesson about providence, grace and love. A worm appeared and so damaged the plant that it withered. Now Jonah did not have the pleasant shade that gave him comfort and he complained bitterly. To make matters worse, as the heat of the day grew more intense God prepared a violent east wind to inflict great discomfort upon the prophet. When he complained that he would rather die the lesson was driven home to Jonah that God’s will is accomplished in ways man can never understand.
The problem with Jonah was he was trying to understand the knowledge of God from human wisdom. Running away from the word of the Lord will always come to no avail. Refusing to show the saving power of God to an undeserving people is not for man to decide. God prepared a fish, a plant, a worm and an east wind to teach Jonah that only when man obeys the voice of God will he understand the measure of the love of God for all men. It was not in the mind of Jonah to decide who was to be saved and who were to be condemned. Salvation comes only from God and His will. Centuries later Jesus would use the story of Jonah to show what His Father had prepared for all men to find salvation. Jesus spent three days and nights in a tomb prepared by His Father so that He could be brought forth as the Savior of all men. There are many who reject the resurrection of Jesus as folly but God has prepared the Bible to be a message of hope like the shade of the plant to give comfort to the soul of man. He also brings his message of judgment through the same book to help man understand God saves whom He chooses by His own grace and mercy. Anyone who changes their heart and follows the will of the Lord will be saved. Salvation comes from the mind of God not the attitudes of men. Jonah was taught a great lesson when God prepared his heart to see His love.