You can’t run from God; He always knows how to find you.
‘American lobster fisherman spit out by whale’
Last Saturday I read an extraordinary report about an encounter between a lobster fisherman and a humpback whale. This fisherman, Michael Packard, had dived to the depths of the lobster grounds with his oxygen tank, where he was confronted by a humpback whale. This is not harmless. Experts say you have to stay at least a hundred meters away from such a fish, otherwise you are at great risk. Michael was at the wrong time and in the wrong place. He himself says of this event, “I was diving for lobsters when a humpback tried to eat me. I was in the mouth for 30 to 40 seconds before the whale came back to the surface and spit me out.”
This American lobster fisherman, from the town of Provincetown, about 200 kilometers east of Boston, said he got off with a scare. Packard told WBZ-TV News that after he jumped from his boat into the water, he “felt this huge humpback whale and everything went dark.” At first he feared he was being attacked by a shark, but it turned out otherwise.
In those critical seconds, he thought, “Oh my god, I’m in the mouth of a whale . . and he’s trying to gobble me up.” He also thought that this would mean his death. He had to think of his wife and children and did not know how to get out of the mouth of this huge fish. He continued: “Then suddenly he went to the surface, shook his head and so I was thrown into the air and landed on the water.” One colleague witnessed this situation and immediately alerted the emergency services.
This story naturally reminds me of the story of Jonah. There are obvious similarities. The Bible speaks of a large fish, which swallowed Jonah when he had been thrown overboard by the sailors of the ship with which he was trying to avoid God.
We read in Jonah 2:1 “The LORD caused Jonah to be swallowed by a great fish. Three days and three nights Jonah was in the belly of the fish.”
There are more stories like this in the history of fishing and shipping, but they are a rarity. In the book ‘Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith’ the author R.K. Harrison mentions some examples of people who were swallowed by a fish and survived. The same was true of Jonah. He had been thrown overboard because a huge storm had come up, and sailors at the time believed that an offering to the sea would quell the storm. By casting lots, the culprit was identified. Jonah was the victim and he could not escape his punishment.
Thus Jonah was thrown overboard, facing imminent drowning. The spiritual background of this story is that Jonah disobeyed God and his calling. He had no desire to carry out his prophetic mission and thought he could escape God by fleeing to Tarshish, a harbor far from Nineveh, where God had sent him.
His rebellion cost him dearly, and had God not intervened, it would have meant the end of his life. Thankfully, God cares about His prophet, just as He cares about us when we go a different way. Our own way, far from God.
Thus, a big fish is ultimately his salvation. Some unanswered questions remain about this story from the Bible. There is no mention of what kind of fish it was or how Jonah survived this period in the guts. The point of the story, however, is to teach us something, namely: Those who run away from God can never escape Him. He goes after us, He pursues us, just until we give in.
So too did Jonah. It says, “Then in the belly of the fish he began to pray to the LORD his God, ‘In my distress I call on the LORD, and he answers me” (Jonah 2:2)
It was a plea, a cry for help: “Lord please….”
If you have found yourself in an impossible situation, just like Jonah in this fish, and like him you are in a circumstance, where you see no way out, then it is good to follow Jonah’s example. In his distress he cried out to the Lord. There was no way back. There was no point in running away anymore. This also applies to our situation: your flight has not brought you what you expected of it. Your problems have gone with you or they have even gotten worse. Then there is only one solution left: cry out for help: “Lord please….”
Finally, God speaks to the fish and he spits Jonah out onto “dry land,” it says in the Bible. When God starts speaking something always happens. When you let God speak in your life, the problem, your addiction, your worries, can no longer hold you. You are released from it. Fortunately, in the storm He is there. Even if you don’t see Him, even if you don’t experience Him. He is there…..
Through the amazing redemptive work of Jesus, all this has become possible. There is also a connection made in the Bible between the Lord Jesus and Jonah. In Matt. 12:40 it says, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
That is what our salvation has become. Jesus has been in death for three days. He experienced the depths of darkness for us. But just as Jonah was spat out on dry land, so death could not hold our Lord. He rose from the dead, came back to life by God’s power. Death could not hold Him. Thus Jesus is God’s reaching out to us. People, who like a drowning man beg for salvation and can repeat Jonah’s words: ‘In my distress I call upon the LORD…..’