“And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Jonah 1:17b
Here, we find a prophet in the belly of a fish. Before writing this off as a familiar story, let’s pause to ponder this further. When we read this story, we should find it an unusual place for a prophet.
God-appointed prophets are typically hearing the voice of God and obeying him despite the consequences. We picture prophets following close to God and acting as a conduit of God’s grace and truth in the lives of others. Remember God calling young Samuel in the dark of the night and Isaiah being caught up in the presence of the Lord to receive God-anointed words on his lips. Remember Hosea being instructed to take back his wife after she repeatedly cheated on him and Jeremiah who continually encountered opposition through famine and captivity. We look up to prophets as the epitome of chosen men filled with godly character.
But, not Jonah. Here we are with Jonah. All alone. Not only in the depths of the ocean but contained within a creature known for dwelling in the chaos and evil of the sea. Waiting. This is perhaps the furthest place from God. And Jonah knows it. The words he utters from this place reveal how far he feels from God. He says, “I am driven away from your sight… [but] my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.” The temple of God in the heavens feels far, far away.
Today, enter into this part of the story by designating something to represent God’s presence or God’s temple. This could be your Bible or a space in your house you go to experience the presence of God. Stand up and walk away from this sacred spot moving to another place in your house or in your neighborhood that feels far away from God’s presence. Think about how it would feel to be that far away from God. Consider what prayers you would pray far away from your sacred spot.
By Yvonne Biel