How do you like your fish prepared – broiled, fried, blackened, or grilled? Perhaps you like it sautéed, or even raw for sushi. Whatever your preference, you most likely are thinking of prepared fish as food. To God, however, it is normal for a prepared fish to be left alive. Just ask Jonah.
Jonah was a man on the run. God called him to evangelize Nineveh and to preach against the wickedness there. In his own mind, Jonah decided he was not prepared to perform this task. Consequently, Jonah jumped aboard a ship headed west to Tarshish instead of traveling east to Nineveh. He was headed toward the other end of the Earth to be as far away from God’s appointed destination as possible.
Jonah probably imagined he had caught God unprepared because his escape, at first, seemed to go off without a hitch. However, things soon got rough, literally – rough storms, rough seas, rough shipmates. The crew cast Jonah into the sea and his fate appeared to be certain death. God, however, was fully prepared for Jonah’s ocean dunking. Scripture tells us that while Jonah had been on the run, “The LORD prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah” (Jonah 1:17, NKJ).
God had been preparing this fish for a long time. In the history of creation, God created great whales (Genesis 1:21), a leviathan in the deep waters (Psalm 104:26). Of all the fish in the seas, God prepared (or numbered, literally) this particular fish to rescue Jonah. God annointed this fish and appointed him to be Jonah’s receiver and deliverer. Jehovah jireh, God provides just what He needs and just what brings glory to Him at the perfect time.
We see in God’s preparation of this fish how He controls all creatures. He who made them can make any of them serve His designs. This Truth applies even to the fishes and the great whales of the sea, which are far from man’s control (Job 41:1-10). The fish God provided to Jonah was prepared for his mission; in fact, the fish was more prepared for his mission than Jonah was for his. The fish lay ready, just beneath the waves of the raging sea, close to the ship and prepared to save Jonah from sinking to the bottom of the abyss. It was a fish on a mission.
We can all find great hope and comfort in this story – God is prepared to save even those who run from Him. The fish swallowed up Jonah, not in an act of feeding his hungry belly, but to provide a salvation for Jonah from death. In His pity, God had saved the very one who had offended Him and was running away. This fish was prepared by God to protect, not devour and consume, for Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish and was later returned to the shore.
God prepared all aspects of this fish. Once inside, Jonah must have considered his death as certain. A fish’s belly lacks breathable air and is full of acid fumes. To survive this experience in nature is impossible, but not to the God of nature, to whom all things are possible. Despite Jonah’s prayer, Jonah probably died. After three days, God resurrected Jonah, a symbol of Christ’s death and resurrection to which He referred in Scripture (Matthew 12:40).
Jonah’s experience shows how it is always normal for God to prepare for our salvation. In an act of divine mercy, God rescued a man who had sinned and run away from Him. In His mercy, God restored Jonah, who became a preacher and performed the miracle of the largest single-site conversion ever. Moreover, in His wisdom, God prepared an illustration of what His Son would endure, three days and nights consumed, but still able to return to life. This illustration would serve Jesus as an enigmatic answer to the Pharisee’s condescending questions.
It is normal for God to rescue the sinner, even the one who is running away. God prepared a fish to save Jonah, but He has prepared something much greater to take away our sins. God prepared His Son Jesus Christ to die for us on the Cross, and then raised Him back to life after three days. This is God’s ultimate preparation, providing an escape and redemption from the sin that consumes us all.
Are you running away from God? Have you refused to do the work He has called you to do? No matter how badly you have sinned, no matter how far away you have run from God, God is prepared to welcome you back. God prepared a great fish to save one man, but He has prepared a means of salvation through His Son that is available to all, no matter how far astray we have gone.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a net that is let down to catch all fish (Matthew 13:47). Only those who accept Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior, however, will be granted entry into the Kingdom. He is prepared to keep the good fish and throw away the bad fish (Matthew 13:48). God has prepared for you to have eternal life. Are you prepared for Him?
A servant of Jesus Christ
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