Jonah: Hope in hopeless situations
Thomas D. Kock
“This is hopeless! There’s no way out of this, no way to escape! There’s nothing good that can come of this!”
Who had the most reason to make statements like the above? Perhaps Adam and Eve right after they’d eaten that forbidden fruit? Oh, how hopeless their situation!
Another group who thought it was hopeless were Jesus’ followers as they saw him being put to death and laid in a grave. Think of Mary Magdalene as she talked to the One she thought was the gardener. Hopeless!
Jonah’s “hopeless” situation
What about Jonah?
Remember, God had said to Jonah, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me” (1:2). But Jonah rebelled! He got onto a ship headed away from his task. God caused a mighty storm to come up; Jonah knew he was the reason for it (cf. 1:7-10,12). Jonah told the sailors to throw him into the sea, which they did. How did he feel as he plunged into the raging sea? Hopeless? I’d guess! After all, it appeared his life was about to end, and it was because he’d blatantly rebelled against God!
Not so much.
“Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17). Chapter 2 of Jonah records a prayer of Jonah and ends by telling us that the fish, at God’s command, “vomited Jonah onto dry land” (2:10). Was Jonah’s situation hopeless? Not at all!
Jesus’ hope-filled promise
And, had Jesus’ followers paid better attention, they would have known that their situation wasn’t hopeless either. Jesus had said, “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). Jonah came out of the fish; Jesus would come out of the grave! And he did!
Because Jesus came out of the grave, you and I will never face a hopeless situation, ever. That’s true because ultimately, we know where our journey is heading—to heaven! We know we’ll enter eternal life because Jesus died paying for all sins, even the sin of overt rebellion like Jonah’s. Then Jesus rose, proving that his payment for sin was all-sufficient! We who deserved hell are now journeying toward glory! So no matter what we might be facing, no matter how “hopeless” our situation seems, ultimately we will journey through that situation to eternal glory!
Hopeless? Never. Not for you! You know where you’re going!
Contributing editor Thomas Kock, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Atonement, Milwaukee.
This is the third article in a 12-part series on the minor prophets.
Background: Jonah, the son of Amittai of Gath Hepher (land of Zebulun, cf. Joshua 19:13), was a prophet at the time of about 700-650 B.C. (cf. 2 Kings 14:25).
The book’s major truth: “Salvation comes from the LORD” (2:9). God’s love is undeserved; God’s love is for all.
Interesting note: The book is full of ironies. For example, unbelievers pray while the prophet sleeps; the most rebellious of the Old Testament prophets is, humanly speaking, the most successful.
Unusual fact: Jonah was swallowed by a fish!
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Author: Thomas Kock
Volume 105, Number 4
Issue: April 2018
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