Belly of the whale

I was doing well with keeping up on my food blog. So well, in fact, that I couldn’t even remember the URL to link to it in the previous sentence, and last post was a month ago.


We can only do so many things well, right?

So, instead of actually altering a recipe or making anything life-changing, I just grabbed my favorite fancy pancake recipe from Minimalist Baker this morning. I have a favorite basic pancake recipe, but this one is just really tasty and pretty healthy, so it has a place in my repertoire.

Those chocolate chip banana oatmeal pancakes are fabulous. I didn’t use a flax egg though, because that sounded a little too vegan/hippie/granola/weird to me. I used a regular egg. I’m a rebel, what can I say?

Speaking of rebels, I’m reading through the minor prophets (and so is my sister… which was totally not planned and proves that we actually are twins somehow despite the three year age gap) and just finished Jonah. There’s a rebel for you. Jonah’s a prophet, and he gets word from God that he needs to proclaim to a Gentile city that has been living godlessly that they need to repent or they’ll be destroyed.

God says, “Go warn these people that I’m not having their debauchery and destructive behavior anymore. Tell them their wickedness must end.”

So Jonah gets on a ship and heads the opposite way. Smart, Jonah. God just warned a city that was disobedient that they needed to get their act together, so you think now is a good time to disobey?

You know this part, most likely. There’s a storm, and the sailors cast lots to figure out whose fault it was (it must have been a pretty bad storm, obvious that it was more than a natural phenomenon but a spiritual thing). Who should the lot fall on but Jonah, our little runaway friend? They’re afraid and ask him what they should do to make the storm stop. He say, “Throw me overboard.”

But they don’t want to be responsible for murder, so they try to row back to land. It doesn’t work, so over the side Jonah goes.

I wonder about this part. Did Jonah jump? Did they actually throw him? Did he sink for a long time before the big fish swallowed him?

There was a big fish, and when Jonah gets swallowed, he prays. His prayer recounts recent events,

You hurled me into the deep,

into the very heart of the seas,

and the currents swirled about me;

all your waves and breakers

swept over me.”

(vs. 3)

Then he says something interesting, considering that he’s still in the nasty belly of a fish.

To the roots of the mountains I sank down;

the earth beneath barred me in forever.

But you, Lord my God,

brought my life up from the pit.”

Those who cling to worthless idols

forfeit God’s love for them.

But I, with shouts of grateful praise,

will sacrifice to you.

What I have vowed, I will make good.

I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.”

(vs. 6 and 8)

He’s still in the whale. He hasn’t been thrown up on the land yet. He’s been saved from drowning, but I bet that it wasn’t like those cartoon drawings of him where the whale is super spacious and basically sanitary and he’s able to kneel and pray, with ample light for him to see.

He’s in the belly of the whale (even though the Bible doesn’t actually use that word), which is a term literature folks use often for the part of the book where things are darkest. He hasn’t even seen the extent of God’s salvation yet – not in being thrown up and not in watching an entire city of “more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who [could] not tell their right hand from their left” repent and turn to God, who does not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

There are a couple ways he could be thinking of this: 1) Not being tossed about in the water right now. Not struggling to stay afloat. Not drowning. He’s been saved from that. Sure, maybe it was out of the frying pan and into the fire, but he hasn’t died yet. 2) He knows that God sent the big fish to be the vessel to carry him safe to shore. He’s recognizing that God is determined to have his word preached to the Ninevites, and that nothing will thwart his plan. Maybe he even realizes that God will make the fish spit him out on the land right by Nineveh – which is strange since it’s landlocked (if the Nineveh I found on Google, located in Iraq, is the right one).

I wonder if this is a model for us when we find ourselves in the belly of the gigantic fish. I wonder if – even though running from God should definitely not be our MO – this is a pattern of praise for the deliverance before it happens. Not a name-it-and-claim-it mentality but praising God in the middle of the trial, waiting period, or dark time because we know that when he acts, it will be good.

I wonder about that. I wonder if that’s what Jonah was doing.


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