Month: March 2024

Out of the Belly

Out of the Belly

Out of the Belly

“I will pay that I have vowed, salvation is of the Lord.”  Jonah 2:9 KJV

A prayerful Jonah approached the throne of God reminded by his own words, that he would pay what he vowed. Salvation is of the Lord. At depths unknown, Jonah fell silent.

As we continued our journey into Jonah, the voice of the Lord called deep within the ocean to the great fish in its state of dormancy, and in obedience, it began to move. Out from its protective lair, it began its ascent out of the chilly dark abyss and headed toward the surface of light and air. With its precious cargo safely inside, the fish moved smoothly as it glided through the water. Can you see the sovereignty of God here, not just over mankind, but all creation.

Here more of my imagination comes to the forefront. As the fish approached the shores of Nineveh, its now-working esophageal muscles began to go flaccid. Startled by the aggravating noises and movement along the walls of the fish’s stomach, Jonah found himself in a pressurized wind tunnel as he began to move up and away from his current position.

Saturated in complete darkness, Jonah began to yell at the top of his lungs as he was violently tossed around. It was then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. Like a slingshot, he was spewed up and out of the fish’s mouth. A yelling Jonah catapulted, taking a hard nosedive as he went headfirst into the sand.

Coughing and shaking off the sand with the smell of fish all over him, he began to wipe his face and head with his hands. He breathed the fresh air deeply as he weakly pulled himself up from the sand. He turned around toward the sea, hoping to steal a glimpse of his underwater prison, but it was nowhere to be found-no evidence for his now curious eyes. Only memories of darkness and the smell of rotten fish.

A bewildered prophet stood shoeless in the shallow waters, looking at calm, rolling waves approaching the shore. He stood as a silhouette. His undernourished body reflecting off the water. The rays of sun filled the sky, scattering colors of oranges and dark blues as it began to disappear behind the clouds of night. With no words to describe where or what he had been through, he silently took a seat on the sand, mesmerized by the ocean.

Remember friends, we are each other’s keeper and the only time we should be looking down on someone is when we are helping them up.

Solitary Confinement

Solitary Confinement

Solitary Confinement

“Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me” Psalm 42:7 KJV

Again, more of my imagination sees a frightened Jonah who was full of anxiety as he was feeling claustrophobic in his cramped belly spaces. Even if he told someone, no one would believe his tale of the high seas. He really couldn’t believe it himself, but he was inside the belly of a monster fish. Maybe this was other side of madness or did he finally loose his mind. He had escaped death, but for how long. Both hungry and thirsty, his grumbling stomach and dry cotton mouth continued to betray him. Unplanned and unprepared, he was forced into a complete fast from everything.

Unable to hold his feelings anymore, tears ran down his face as he became flooded with anger. He took his frustration out on the fish, hitting at the walls of its stomach until he was tired. He began to think about everything that has happened thus far, starting with the Lord’s call of him to go to Ninevah. He thoughts about how he ran from the presence of the Lord as he got on that boat heading elsewhere. His choices put an innocent crew in danger and all because of a lack of obedience.

Relenting and no longer full of foolish pride, we move into to Jonah chapter 2:1, a still tearful Jonah cried for help. Our prophet was made to reflect as he spent time in the depths of the sea, deep in solitary confinement. The dictionary defines solitary confinement as isolation. The lesson would deal firsthand with disobedience, as Jonah would be reminded of God’s authority OVERALL.

I picture Jonah contemplating that his prayers had fallen on death ears and that he had gone too far this time. Both physically and mentally drained, he remembered the Lord in sorrowful contrition as he prayed to Him saying, “I will pay that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.” Then Jonah fell silent. Amen.

Remember friends, we are each other’s keeper and the only time we should be looking down on someone is when we are helping them up.

Swallowed Up

Swallowed Up

Swallowed Up

“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights…Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly.” (Jonah 1:17, 2:1 KJV)

This is where I get to share my imagination. This great fish that the Lord had prepared for Jonah was not for digestion but ingestion. Let’s look at the definitions of these two words. Digestion means the process of breaking down food, that can be used for the body.  Ingestion means to take into the body by swallowing. The ingestion or swallowing of Jonah was meant to be a kind of holding cell for our prophet.

Keep in mind, that this fish was prepared with a special function to protect the human life it would house inside. It would need an airtight seal, necessary oxygen for breathing, and a pressurized container suitable for the depths below. Finally, for its assigned purpose the great fish would not need food, as its nonworking digestive track was made inoperable.

Only fully gripped by my own imagination do I attempt to understand the phrase “swallowed up.” Like a big vitamin and a gentle swallowing motion, Jonah was pushed down the fish’s throat as he passed through the esophagus, a simple tube with a muscular wall leading into the stomach. As he slides down a slippery slope toward a nonworking, expandable muscular stomach wall into a clear, jelly like lining that was both longer and wider than he was. Lying there, a still passed-out Jonah would remain. Is anybody as intrigued by the thought of where Jonah was the way I am? An alive Jonah was in the belly of a fish, no doubt a miracle of God’s mercy to a disobedient prophet.

The great fish swished and gracefully glided, descending into a chilly abyss of underwater mountains and thickets of coral, passing by vividly colored fish, extinct volcanoes with piles of lava, and sea stars on the broken ocean floor. It watched massive loosening rocks tumble down from above like an avalanche as it passed by, going deeper into the ocean’s black hole and coming to rest in a large underwater lair.

At some point Jonah opens his eyes to complete darkness. Gagging and coughing as the smell of rotten fish came across his nose. Thoughts began to race across his mind as they became clearer, he remembered being thrown into the ocean and a fish bigger than he had ever seen. In his mind, he said, “it was attacking me, and I was fighting to get away.”  There was that stench of rotten fish again, as fear gripped him, as he realized he didn’t get away. Could it be? O Lord my God, is it even possible? Amen

Remember friends, we are each other’s keeper and the only time we should be looking down on someone is when we are helping them up.

You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide:Running Away From Duty

You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide:Running Away From Duty

You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide:Running Away From Duty Part 1

“The word of the Lord came to Jonah, son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Niveveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went about and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” Jonah 1:1-3 NIV

As we begin our lesson today on Jonah, Let’s get a little background on Him: his name means dove. When Jonah was a boy, he became very ill, and the prophet Elijah cried to the Lord, and the Lord heard him, and he was revived. The book of Jonah does not identify the author, but the work is accredited to him.

The first chapter of is about a prophet on the run from his duties. Jonah obviously knew the voice of the Lord because he was running.  Here in chapter one, God gives Jonah a direct command. No, he was not asking him what he would like to do. God told Jonah to “arise and go.”

In my view, Jonah’s run, stemmed from a couple of areas: first he knew the lord was gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Secondly, the thought of the Lord being merciful toward the people of Nineveh, made him angry. In Jonah’s eyes these people were not worth the trouble. To Him, they were an ungrateful, ruthless, warlike, and full of selfish ambition as they worshipped idols with no respect for God. Not to mention they were a direct threat to Israel.

Jonah felt I believe that it was his actual duty NOT TO GO. So instead, he would go into the boat and hide from God. How many of you know, that we can’t hide from Him? But our prophet was shrouded in emotional turmoil, unable to see beyond himself and his opinions, lead him to believe that he could just skip out on God. But unknown to him friends, there would consequences and repercussions from his current choices.

Jonah made it to the getaway vessel, paid his fare and went down to the inner part of the boat. Now that the boat was out on the seas, a rockin and a reelin, Jonah could feel sleep beginning to kick in on him. His eyes were getting heavy and then he fell asleep. All that running had worn him out.

But look at the power of God. The Lord sent a great wind upon the sea. I believe the crew had seen a lot of things, but there was just something not right in this storm to them. At that time all hands were on deck, but where was Jonah?  The ship’s captain, a Pegan woke up a sleeping Jonah, telling him to pray to his God.

In his mind, he knew that this storm was because of his action to run. He eventually fessed up to the captain and crew, who now knew he was the reason for the storm in the first place. Wanting the seas to still it’s roar, but at what price. These men were not killers. They were a crew without choices and at the mercy of God as they threw Jonah overboard. Can you say Man Overboard? Amen!

Remember friends, we are each others’s keeper and the only time we should be looking down on someone is when we are helping them up.

Abraham & Isaac

Abraham & Isaac

The Lord will Make a Way Somehow

“Take your son, your only son, whom you love-Isaac-and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Genesis 22:2 NIV

Growing up as a kid, there were lots of decisions my parents made that I didn’t understand. As a child I trusted, that wherever we were (new city, community, or church) I was safe, because we would be together. As a kid there was security in that for me. Naturally I would dream about what my new school would be like. Would I make friends? I hoped to have nice teachers too. I thought about things like our new church home, and what the people were like. Would they love my family, like Mr. Christ did? Would there be kids my age or just adults and babies who can’t talk.

When Abraham and Sarah were old God gave them a son. I see Isaac, as a loving son, who loved his family. He trusted his daddy. Did you know that Abraham waited 25 years for the gift of a son? Abraham trusted God’s promise, and in time he had a son to spend time with and pour love into.

One day friends, God told Abraham to do something that no doubt had him scratching his head. God told him to take his son Isaac to a special mountain and give him as a sacrifice. Maybe for a fleeting second, he thought about the bad humor of God in that request. Maybe?

Can you see Abraham taking a deep breath as he slows his row, to think for a minute. He remembered that God promised that Isaac would have a family. If he was to be a sacrifice, then how would he have his own family one day? Here we see the season salt of wisdom kicked in his mind. He knew God would make away somehow.  He did not know how, instead he believed God would keep his promise.

Nevertheless, Abraham obeyed. Early in the morning he and Isaac, two helpers along with their supplies on a donkey, began their three-day journey. Can you imagine the conversations they shared? I am sure Abraham’s mind was on his son the whole way. When they arrived, only Abraham and Isaac went up the mountain.

Here we see an inquisitive Isaac, who paid attention to the things around him as he noticed there was something missing-the sacrifice.  He asked his daddy, where was the lamb to sacrifice to God? Abraham according to the scripture said, “my son, God will provide himself a lamb for the burnt offering.” Here again it’s obvious that Isaac had no idea that he was to be the sacrifice.

Abraham built the altar and got ready to offer Isaac to God, but a voice called from heaven and said, “Abraham, I see that you were willing to do what I said. You do not have to offer your son Isaac.” There in the thicket was a ram caught for the sacrifice.  Abraham called the place, “the Lord will provide.”

To me this story wasn’t really about sacrifice, but instead faithfulness and the provision of an on-time God. What he says, He will do! Trust him friends, He will make a way somehow. Amen.

Remember friends, we are each other’s keeper and the only time we should be looking down on someone is when we were helping them up.