There is no doubt this posture of social/physical distancing and quarantine is impacting most of us in the world today. Do you believe God is doing something in the land to get our attention? As I asked God to give me something to encourage myself and others, He turned my attention to the book of Jonah. You remember the story of Jonah and the whale, don’t you?
The Bible tells us that Jonah had been given an assignment from God to go to Nineveh to preach to people who were in desperate need of a life changing revival. In the 1st chapter of Jonah, we learn the people in Nineveh were evil and that Jonah did not want to go preach to them. Jonah made the decision not to go to Nineveh, and he boarded a ship to Tarshish in an attempt to flee God’s presence and to get far away from the people of Nineveh.
Jonah was on a ship with men who worshipped other gods. When a storm arose over the waters, they started praying to their gods. When the storm continued, they went to Jonah who was asleep. They insisted Jonah call out to his god in hopes they would not perish. They even cast lots to figure out who on board the ship may be the reason for the raging storm.
After casting lots that pointed to Jonah, the men knew Jonah was the one who had brought trouble upon the ship with the storm raging over the waters. At this point, Jonah had to tell them he was a Hebrew and he worshipped the God of the heavens, the God who made the seas and the dry land. The men realized Jonah was running from God’s presence and this brought great fear on them. When they questioned what needed to be done as the storm grew worse, Jonah told them to throw him overboard. He knew he was to blame and this was the answer to calm the storm. At first the men tried to throw cargo overboard and head back to shore. However, the storm continued and they threw Jonah overboard, as he had told them. This was great for the men because the storm was calmed, but not so great for Jonah! Jonah knew he had to physically distance himself from the men and the ship in order for the men to survive. Because their lives were spared, these same men who did not know the god Jonah worshipped, began to fear the Lord and make vows of sacrifice to Him.
The last verse in Chapter 1 of the book of Jonah tells us that a great fish swallowed Jonah and he was in the belly of this great fish for 3 days and 3 nights. Jonah was running from God and from a god-given assignment, when he got quarantined in a belly of a fish for 3 days! This was a quarantine orchestrated by God. God had Jonah’s attention and Jonah had to decide what he was going to do.
Chapter 2 of the book of Jonah tells us how Jonah started to pray while he was in the belly of this great fish. He says he was distressed, and that he cried out to the Lord. He was in the realm of the dead and waters swirled all around him. Jonah said when he saw his life ebbing away that he remembered the Lord and his prayer rose to the Lord’s holy temple. Jonah knew God heard his prayers and God answered him. Then Jonah began to praise God. He said “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But, I with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say salvation comes from the Lord” (v.7-9). Upon hearing Jonah’s prayers and praise, the Lord commanded the fish and it spit Jonah back onto dry land.
It would appear from Jonah’s story that he found himself in a situation where prayer was his best and only way to get God to answer him. I truly believe this is where we are today. We are in quarantined environments where the best thing we can do is remember God; remember who He is in our lives and pray so that He hears us in His holy temple.
During these past few weeks, have you remembered God? Have you spent more time with Him? Have you opened up your Bible more and meditated on His Word? Have you remembered how He has provided and protected you over the years? Have you remembered that He has never left you or forsaken you? Have you remembered He can speak to the wind and calm the storm? Have you remembered Who He is? Have you remembered He is Lord?
Dear Lord, thank You for turning our attention back to You and reminding us of the love You have for us. Thank You for hearing our cries of distress and for answering our prayers. Forgive us for clinging to worthless idols. Thank You, Lord, for giving us another chance to remember You. Lord, we honor You with praise you so richly deserve. In Jesus’ mighty name, amen!
Jonah 2:7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.”