Christian Living

Spiritual Life

More Than a Fish Tale

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Author Biography

    Jennifer's been praying and encouraging people through her seven-plus years of service in CBN's prayer center. She's also a professional life coach who enjoys reading, writing, and her relationships with her grown children. 

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Jennifer Scribner - Partner Development Specialist

I first learned about the story of Jonah and the whale as a child in Sunday school. The idea of a grown man being swallowed by a whale and emerging unscathed sounded absurd. I didn’t believe that tale was as simple as my teacher’s lessons made it seem. Nevertheless, the story intrigued me.

Have you ever wondered how Jonah ended up in that predicament? The chain of events began when Jonah disobeyed God's command to deliver His message to the people of Nineveh—that that God had seen its wickedness and was not pleased (Jonah 1:1). But Jonah did not want that assignment and did not do what God had asked.

Instead, Jonah decided to get as far away from Nineveh as he could. He headed to Joppa and boarded a ship bound for Tarshish. When a monstrous storm slammed the ship, and the crew determined that this was Jonah’s fault, he said:

“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you"  (Jonah 1:12 NIV).

The crew tried to avoid throwing Jonah overboard, but the sea grew rougher. So, they prayed and asked God to not hold them accountable for taking Jonah’s life and threw him in the sea. Then the storm calmed and all the men on the ship were amazed at God’s power and worshipped Him (Jonah 1:13-16).

From inside the fish, Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry” (Jonah 2:1-2).

His prayer continues with praises to God for sparing his life, and he acknowledges his waywardness. By the end, Jonah says:

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” (Jonah 2:8-9). 

Then God commanded the fish to spit Jonah out onto dry land, and Jonah carried His message to Ninevah:

Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth (Jonah 3:4-5).

The King of Ninevah then ordered everyone in the city to fast, wear sackcloth, call on God for mercy, and give up their evil ways and violence. And they did (Jonah 3:6-9).

When God saw how the Ninevites turned from their evil ways, He had mercy on them and didn’t destroy them (Jonah 3:10).

In Jonah 4:1-4 we learn why Jonah didn’t want to bring God’s message to Ninevah. It made him angry that God would have mercy on these flagrant sinners if they responded to the news of destruction with changed hearts for God—and that’s not what Jonah wanted. He wanted them wiped out.

But God instructs us to love Him and love others (even those who resemble the wicked Ninevites, despite their evil deeds).

When we oppose God’s purpose for our lives, we only make circumstances worse for ourselves. Jonah is quite the example. But so are the Ninevites, who were nearly destroyed.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your endless mercy and grace! Help us all to carry out Your will for our lives.


Scripture is quoted from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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