The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17, esv).
The part that doesn’t often get noticed in Jonah’s well-known, underwater adventure is the connection between the moment when “the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land” (Jonah 2:10) and the moment of Jonah’s repentance. Jonah repented and was immediately delivered. Yet we know he was down there for three solid days leading up to his slimy rescue.
So what was he doing for those three days?
Obviously he wasn’t repenting—even in a place like that—or we can assume he’d have gotten out a lot sooner than he did.
Listen: God will do anything to get our attention. He’ll usually start gently before taking the more aggressive route. But He’s relentless. He’ll do anything—because He’d rather we lived anywhere than in disobedience to Him.
Like Jonah, however, we can be slow to get the message. We can sometimes be put through the equivalent of a fish’s belly, with all its suffocating, sauna-like conditions . . . with its nauseating air and painful gastric juices . . . and still not respond to God’s attention-getting measures with repentance.
God’s call for our attention will often cause life to start breaking down around us. But until we are lying down—in repentance—we are not yet in the right posture for things to change.
Our hearts can be amazingly resolute in our rebellion. We can go three days, three weeks, three months, three years, or longer, refusing to submit to His authority. Meanwhile He continues to pursue us—not about something new or that just recently came up, but about the same stupid thing we’ve been unwilling to release and relinquish for all that time.
In the military, calling for a person’s attention is supposed to result in a soldier standing erect, head up, shoulders back, ramrod straight. But in the spiritual world, God’s call to attention is a signal to drop down—on our knees; on our faces. Only when we are broken, kneeling, or prostrate before God, submitted to Him completely, does He have our full attention.
As Jonah was being tossed overboard, he probably thought he’d be drowned in a few minutes. As far as he was concerned, he’d rather have died than have done God’s will. When the fish swallowed him instead—a fish that was “appointed” by God, remember—he probably spent the first hours inside it trying to end his life some other way, a futile process that stretched on into days. Still on his feet, still fighting back.
Perhaps, as you look around today, you find yourself in a fish of some kind. God is going about getting your full, undivided attention—and He’ll do anything for it. But with Him, the way up is down. The only way to walk out of this situation is to bow down from inside it. If you’ve never laid yourself out before God, saying, “Yes, Lord, whatever You want,” maybe He never really had your complete attention in the first place.
Fall into His arms today. Let Him have what He’s been working so faithfully to get from you. Invite Him to do again in you the things He wants to do—the things He’s been pursuing you for.
Lord God, You are so faithful, even to bring me to a point of crisis when I won’t seem to follow You any other way. Thank You for proving again just how relentless Your love is, even though I haven’t always seen it as love. Today I humble myself before You, yielding this heart of mine that’s been slow to respond and quick to defend my reasons for it. Bring about the result Your Spirit desires in me, and receive again my surrendered, repentant heart. I give it to You along with my full, undivided attention, in Jesus’ precious name, amen.