sermon delivered September 23, 1995

by Pastor Don Gettys of McDonald Road SDA Church, McDonald, TN

Running TO God

Jonah the runaway prophet was in a heap of trouble. The storm was fierce. The jury of Sailors had judged that he was unworthy of life. They were about to make Jonah walk the plank. He would be cast into the raging sea and there he would drown. I would hate to drown wouldn't you? I believe I would prefer most any other kind of death. One time we were down South at a pleasant cove on the ocean. We were snorkeling. Now I don't swim. About all I do is dog paddle. I was wearing a small life preserver around my waist. As we pushed further away from the safety of the beach the bottom got deeper and deeper but more and more beautiful. There were bright colored fish and things of great interest.

Suddenly a small wave sent water down my breathing tube. I breathed in water and started to choke. It was a first class emergency. I grabbed the nearest person near to me and hung on. For awhile I thought we would both drown because I seemed to be pushing him down. Finally we got back to the shore and I thought, never again! Not me.

I wonder if Jonah felt that way. These sailors took Jonah and threw him far out over the side of the ship and down he went into the cold water. At first he may have managed to hang on to some of the floating drebree that had been cast overboard. Praise God for this stuff. I will just hang on and save my life.

But Just when the storm seemed to be subsiding he sensed a new danger. He saw a large dark object under the water coming toward him. His worst fears were realized when he saw its cavernous mouth open wide. It was right under him. The water under him swirled like water going down a drain. A strong whirlpool sucked him down between giant jaws right into the belly of this water monster. It was the worst possible nightmare for Jonah. Just when he thought he could save himself by clinging to some of the crates and floating boards here comes sure Death!

But Jonah was dead wrong. What he feared the most was actually sent by a Loving God to be his personal Saviour! The Whale was a symbol of Christ. You Know, we are still like Jonah today. How often we fear the wrong things. The next time you get into a terrible crisis, just try to surrender yourself totally to God and trust in Him. Allow God to save you in His own time, in His own way.

God brings men into deep waters, not to drown them, but that they might be CLEANSED. Had Jonah been able to save himself that day and swim to the shore he probably would have never gone to Nineveh. It's citizens would all have been lost. God's will would not have been done.

God used a fish to preserve His runaway prophet. God did not want to kill Jonah, He wanted to save him. The belly of a great whale is not a happy place to live. But it was a healthy place to learn. Jonah learned more at the bottom of the sea than some students learn at the seminary. The whale had enrolled him in the most important school of his whole life. In this floating school Jonah learned a lifetime of lessons. We do not learn very many spiritual lessons on the mountaintop. Unfortunately, It seems that we learn them best down in the depths of the valley.

Jonah 1:17--The Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah.

WAS IT A WHALE? No where in this book does it say Whale. It says "A Great Fish". In Matthew 12:40 Jesus says KATOS. The King James translates it Whale but almost ALL other translations say Sea Monster or Great fish. Greek=Huge fish. Desire of Ages p. 406 says Whale. I am going to call it a Whale.

Whales get quite large. Over 100 feet long and up to 150 tons! That is 1 1/2 tons per foot. Let's see, I would weigh about 16,000 pounds! One whale is as large as 50 Elephants. In fact a Newborn Whale is 25 feet long and weighs as much as two full grown elephants! Whales are Larger by far than any dinosaur ever hoped to be!

Many churches have voted to take scissors to the book of Jonah and remove it from the Bible because they say it sounds FISHY! They think it was a parable or something. From the Catholic church on down unbelief is strong. Most Bible scholars..... throw the whole book of Jonah overboard. Do you know why I believe it? Because Jesus believed it! Matthew 12:40 Jesus Himself says: Jonah was 3 days and 3 nights in the Whale's belly! If you don't believe in Jonah then you are not a believer in Jesus!

Can a whale swallow a man? I heard someone say once that the reason that this Whale could swallow Jonah was because he was just one of the "MINOR" prophets of the Bible.

It has been amusing to me that since people have heard about this series on Jonah that so many have come up to me trying to prove the possiblilty of a miracle. Several well meaning persons have told me of stories showing how it possible for a person to live a certain number of days in the belly of a whale. One source said the stomach gasses emit enough oxygen for breathing. One said a whale swallowed a horse. But I ask, WHY is it that we always think that we have to offer an explanation for God's miracles? When the whale swallowed Jonah it was a miracle! Don't take away God's miracle. God specializes in miracles.

About this time Nineveh started to look real good. There inside the whale Jonah was incarcerated. Solitary confinement. Cut off from the whole world. Locked away. Doomed to die. But prisoners do have freedom to make a phone call. Jonah makes a 72 hour phone call, he talks to God for three days and it changes his whole life.

JONAH 2:1-2 Jonah called God. We have pagers and Ham radios, cellular phones and satellites but I don't know of anybody who has a phone that can make a call from inside a whale in the bottom of the sea. Jonah called God's personal number, and our kind helpful ever present God answered him. They had a L-O-N-G TALK. After that Jonah was never the same. Prayer changes things, mainly us!

Jonah, the world's first submarine passenger, thought his greatest need was to escape this underwater Alcatraz, but God knew his greatest need was a new heart. Through prayer Jonah found a saving relationship with God.

Jonah's prayer chapel was smelly, damp, dark, and dingy. You can pray wherever you are, in your car, at work, at home. Jonah should have spent more time in prayer at home by the sea of Galilee. How much easier it would have been if he had remembered to pray before he stepped up to the ticket booth at Joppa. It is never too late to pray. When you have gone down to the very depths of life, God will still listen.

JONAH 2:3-6 To the roots of the mountains. How deep did Jonah go? How deep is the Mediterranean sea? 14,436 feet! I don't know how deep that underwater taxi took Jonah, but it was deeper than any living human being had ever been. You can be well below the bottom of the barrel and if you repent, and ask, and trust Him, God will save you.

Verse 5 says the seaweed was wrapped around his head. Jonah was adorned with a TURBAN of smelly seaweed. The Claustrophobia was terrible. Breathing was very hard. He was at the end. What do you do in such a circumstance?

Jonah prayed. It is vital here to understand WHAT Jonah prayed. As I studied his prayer, I made an amazing discovery. This is fantastic! As far as I can tell, Jonah did not use one original thought or one original request in his whole prayer. Jonah simply prayed the Word of God! He prayed the scriptures. Almost a dozen times in these 8 verses he quotes from the book of Psalms.

Friend, can you see what Jonah was doing? He was STANDING ON THE PROMISES! Jonah had hid the WORD in his heart. He prayed the scriptures. He had memorized much of the Bible and in this time of crisis, it saved him. Without the Bible our prayers have no direction.

Why are some of our prayers unanswered? Could it be that too few of us have been alone with God and His Word long enough to retain anything from Him on which to Stand? If you are not spending time with God your storm is coming and when it does, what will you have to cling to?

Jonah was in the Whale. Job was on his dunghill, Joseph was in the pit, David was in a cave, Paul and Silas were in jail, chained to prison guards, but at midnight they sang a song that opened prison doors. Acts 16:25-26. Here we need to learn. When you are locked into the belly of a big crisis, there are two things that will help get you out. One is prayer, and the other is PRAISE. I can picture Jonah singing down in the belly of the whale. After he gave his heart to God, he had peace. He praised his Creator.

If you have been swallowed up by the giant troubles of life, do not allow yourself to wallow in self-pity. Remember to pray to God. Begin to praise Him. When you sing a song in the dark, things will begin to change. Never give up.

I THESSalonians 5:18---Give thanks in all circumstances. We are not especially to thank God for the Whale's belly, but we can certainly thank Him IN the whale's belly!

JONAH 2:9----Salvation comes from the Lord.

What a glad day when we stop trying to deliver ourselves. Folks, we serve a God Who is in the Delivery business. You see advertisements that say: "WE DELIVER". God delivers! Unless God comes through, we are sunk. There is no rescue apart from Him. The only way out of this whale was God. Jonah could no more save himself than we can save ourselves.

Jesus today wants to save each of us. Give your life to Jesus right now. Don't wait till the giant sea monsters of life have swallowed you up. Come to Jesus now. Accept Jesus now as your personal Saviour.


Next week: RUNNING WITH GOD. We hope to get Jonah out of the Whale and on the way to the wickedest city in the world. Don't miss this interesting and vital message.

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