“I called to the Lord out of my distress, and He answered me
Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice” [2:2-3]
[Day Two of Fast of Nineveh]
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit-One God, Amen.
Jonah’s three days and three nights in the belly of the fish
Introduction. Jonah means “dove”; dove is a symbol of peace, simplicity, and harmlessness. St. Jerome, citing a Jewish tradition, said Jonah is the son of the widow of Zarephath in Sidon, whom the prophet Elijah raised from the dead [1Kings 17:17-2]. The story of Jonah occurred during the reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel. Nineveh was a great city and was a capital city of Assyria ruled by Sennacherib. Prophet Nahum called Nineveh a city of blood that practiced endless cruelty [Nah.3:1]. The book of Jonah is a story telling the universality of God’s mercy. The compassion of the Lord is not limited to the jews, but extends to all people, even to the enemies of God’s people.
When Jonah runs away from God, the ship he boarded and thought to be safe just got mighty tempest in the sea., and the ship was about to break. When we are disobedient to God, our actions often have a negative effect, bringing a storm into our lives that can shipwreck the lives of those around us. The sailors first thought they could save him, but the storm got worsen and finally “they picked up Jonah, threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging”. God’s word and actions is always pursuing us when we try to hide or run away. God had to teach Jonah a lesson. When you run away from God, He will catch up with you and make your life very stormy to turn you towards eternal life with Him. No one can hide from God. The Psalmist reminds us (139:7-10), "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me." We are so precious to God that He will never let us go without fighting, be it in storm, sickness, or discontent, so as to bring us to Him. God provided a fish to swallow him [mind you this is an act of God].
Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. Early Church fathers has thought the parallels between Jonah and our Lord Jesus Christ. St. Cyril of Alexandria said Johan has foreshowed the Lord. St. Cyril acknowledged, not everything about Jonah was Christ like. “Jonah provides images of the mystery of Christ”. As Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of great fish, the Son of Man was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth [Matt 12:40]. There is striking parallel between the calming of the storm by Jonah’s being thrown over boarded and the salvation of the world by the Lord Christ. St. Cyril wrote the human race was like a ship driven by storms, due to the sin, the winds of the devil and his forces with him – to the point of destruction of the human soul ….. then the Father sent the Son to give up Himself willingly to death in order to halt the waves, calm the sea. Jonah sinned; whole mariners were suffered. One man must be thrown from the ship to calm the storm. Caiaphas the high priest said, “it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people and not that the whole nation should perish.” [Jn 11:50]. We have been saved by the death of Christ.
Jonah cried to God from the belly of the fish. Try to imagine and recreate in your mind the scene. God let Jonah experience judgment in the belly of fish, near to death, and wants him to learn his life is totally in the hand of God. Whatever Johan’s earlier reluctant to talk to God, he starts praying as soon as he hits the water. Then he cried loud from the belly of the fish and God heard his voice. As Jonah cried and prayed, prayer is the only lump by which we all see beyond the darkness we are in and through to the God’s grace. Prayer is what gives us the perspective to see God at work in our lives. What we learn from Jonah prayer is that he teaches and instruct us that we can pray at any time, and any situation we are in irrespective of our situation and circumstance, the prayer will come before the merciful Lord.
Don't think, O Lord, that I don't love you. I may escape from you and still love you. And I may sin and still Love You, and I may deny you three times and still love you. Out of the depths of my sins, I cry to you, O LORD; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy!
“Deliverance belongs to the Lord”!