Over the past few weeks, I’ve been tracking through the Book of Jonah. When we ended it last, Jonah was in the middle of a stinky situation (click here) and he was finding the strength to worship God from inside the fish.
After three days and three nights, Jonah’s situation changes and Jonah 2:10 describes it simply this way:
Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto the dry land.
I’ve had fun discussing this one with children. A children’s Bible might actually clean this verse up to say the fish “spit” Jonah up onto the land.
Yet, scripture goes with the word that means vomit. Or, by the other names you might call it — puking, hurling, selling Buicks. Whatever you call it, it’s just a nasty thought.
I’m going to have to admit though. It’s a much different image than what I had when I was growing up. Maybe it’s just that when I was a kid and heard this story, I never actually thought through the mechanices of how Jonah ended up on the beach.
Just before this verse, it seems as if Jonah has figured something out. He’s been praising God for saving his life from drowing. He hasn’t said a lot (or anything) about the people he was supposed to be going to in the first place.
But remember, this isn’t so much a story about Jonah as it is a story about who God is and what God does. This is where God makes a key move in Jonah’s story. God takes Jonah to Nineveh.
After spending some time inside and praying for God’s rescue, now we get to a key moment in Jonah’s story. God takes Jonah to Nineveh.
Contrast that with how things started. God tells Jonah what he wants and Jonah tries to run a 1,000 miles in the opposite direction. Jonah’s choice of transportation was to jump on a ship and get away from the problem.
When God intervenes and saves Jonah’s life from the sea, God changes Jonah’s direction and destination.
It’s just that the end result is kind of gross. Thrown up on the beach. Can you say, “Yuck?”
Jonah might have escaped the situation on the ship. He might’ve survived the ocean. But, Jonah is never going to forget three days and three nights in the belly of a fish.
It’s going to take a lot of hot showers, a lot of Axe aand a lot of Febreze to begin to cover the smell of this journey. Jonah smells like the inside of fish and he’s standing outside of Nineveh with another opportunity to do what God asked in the first place.
Maybe there’s some truth in this for us. Maybe in those times that we run away from God, when we ignore what God has asked us to do or when we do it our own way, we end up carrying some reminders of the journey to get there. We don’t ignore God without experiencing some stinky situations in our lives. And in the resolution, we find that we aren’t exactly the same as we once were.
We don’t always end up smelling like a fish, but maybe we always carry a hint of the aroma of the journey that brought us to God. In some small way, it serves as a reminder that we didn’t get here on our own, that God was involved in bringing us through it.
Jonah’s journey has brought him back to the place where God originally asked him to go and he has been changed by the journey to get there.
Our journeys with God are exactly the same.
Do you still notice the “smell” of the journey through the stinky situations that brought you back to God?
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