Monday, August 30, 2010

The Whale Got Jonah - but It Doesn't Have to Get You!

Help! I’ve Been Swallowed by a Whale!
by Barbara Henderson

‘If one whale doesn’t swallow you another one will!’ BH

There he was, living in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. It was too awful to imagine. It was pretty much the end of the road for Jonah. THEN, the navy arrived, caught the fish, pulled Jonah out to safety, and Jonah thanked the fearless leader of the military vessel for coming to his rescue.

Or maybe that is not quite what happened. In fact, the only thing from that scenario that actually happened was that Johan spent three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish. When Jonah finally got over his terror, his anger, his frustration, his foolish idea of running away from the Lord, he began to pray. And he said, ‘When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. (8) They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. (9) But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD. (10) And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.’ Jonah 2:7-10

Jonah spent three days and three nights in torment before he looked to God for help.

There was also a great king named Nebuchadnezzar. This king was really proud of his accomplishments. He believed he had gained all that he had by his own might and intelligence. He was one special fellow. He was warned by the prophet Daniel that trouble was coming his way, but he ignored the warning. Daniel chapter 4 tells that sad story. The arrogant king became insane for seven years. He lived in the field like a beast. Thankfully, he had the best psychiatric help available. Doctors worked round the clock year after year to help restore reason to the man. Even though the king didn’t bathe, cut his hair, or even clip his toenails for seven years, the doctors saw progress. They decided that living like a beast in the field was ‘right for Nebuchadnezzar’ and that if he was happy, although quite smelly, then they should just let him be himself. Case closed.

That isn’t exactly what happened of course. The Bible tells us that ‘at the end of that time (seven years), he (Nebuchadnezzar) lifted up his eyes to heaven, his understanding returned to him, and he blessed the Most High God. Then his reason returned to him and his kingdom was restored.’

There was also once a very fine young man, probably quite handsome, personable, and someone who would one day inherit a great deal from his father. The only problem was the father had to die before the son could inherit. The young man was impatient; so impatient in fact that he told his father, ‘Look, you might live a long time, and I want my inheritance right now. Just give me everything that I will inherit when you die now, and I will be off to see the big world and enjoy my life. So, the father, though broken hearted, gave the son his inheritance. The son went off with a smile on his face to face the world. Sometime later, he put his brain back in gear only to find he was totally bankrupt and living with the pigs! He decided to go home and beg his father to just hire him on as a servant. The father had been watching for the son to return. He welcomed him with open arms and held a celebration because of his return. (Luke chapter 15).

What these examples have in common is the individuals were all suffering and in torment. Jonah was disobedient. Nebuchadnezzar was proud. The prodigal son was impatient and immoral. Yet, each was blessed with relief, and their situation was dramatically changed when they acknowledged that salvation comes from the Lord.

Now, fast forward to the present day and time. We are living in uncertain and perilous times. The world is filled with people like Jonah who are disobedient to what they know to do. Others are proud, not giving God the glory. Others are impatient, seeing their own time table as the better than God’s time table. They have all brought suffering to themselves.

Yet, suffering also comes to those who ARE consistently obedient, humble, and patient. A Bible example of such a man is Job. He suffered terribly though he had done nothing to bring the suffering on himself. Job questioned the Lord about why all those terrible things had happened to him, but in the end he said, ‘I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. (5) Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:5-6) Job may have been relying somewhat on his own righteousness prior to this experience. I hesitate to criticize the man on anything, except to say that as a human being he naturally was not perfect.

Today, there are many people who are suffering like Jonah, Nebuchadnezzar, the prodigal son, and Job. Some have brought it on themselves. Others have not. Regardless of why the suffering, the solution is the same. Salvation is of the Lord.

Each of the people in the examples went through situations that were trying to say the least. Each of them considered their problem(s) from all angles. They possibly tried to justify themselves and their actions. They probably looked for ways to solve the problems themselves. It is very likely that they caused themselves additional suffering and turmoil by being slow to get to the final solution. Salvation is of the Lord. That was the answer to their dilemmas. That is the answer to whatever dilemma you or I may be facing today. We have the same choices these people had.

We can spend time trying to justify whatever actions or circumstances have brought about our current dilemma.

We can spend time acting like we are somehow superior to others like Nebuchadnezzar.

We can spend time ‘having a good time’ to try to forget our sorry state like the prodigal son.

We can spend time trying to figure out why we are in such dire circumstances when we don’t deserve it because we did everything right like Job.

Or, we can cut straight to the core of the solution. We can acknowledge that God is in charge, and that our only hope of help is in Him.

I don’t know your personal situation. I do know that some reading this are in trouble. Financial trouble is so common today that if you aren’t in financial trouble you are the exception. I don’t have the expertise to advise you on how to get out of a financial mess. There are some rules and programs you can follow that will be helpful. However, the ultimate help is from the Lord. I don’t know if He will help you pay for the home you and the bank co-own. I don’t know if He will lead you to a smaller and more modest way of living. I don’t know who or what circumstances He will use to help you. I do know for sure that your salvation in this area is from the Lord.

Are you facing an illness? I don’t know what medical help the Lord will provide for you. I don’t know what the ultimate outcome will be. I am positive that your help comes from the Lord.

Is their trouble in your family? You definitely need to take steps to address whatever problems you are facing. Christian counseling is good. Straight Bible principles for living are good. Ultimately, the ‘electricity’ that makes your efforts work will be the goodness of God blessing you.

Have you ever wondered what if:
• (What if) Jonah had cried ‘salvation is of the Lord’ on day one instead of day three? Would the fish have vomited Jonah out then? Need he have suffered the three days?
• (What if) Nebuchadnezzar had acknowledged the God of Daniel as the One who had set up his kingdom in the first year, would he have suffered the seven years?
• (What if) The prodigal had come to his senses before he spent all his money and found himself dining with the pigs? Would he have lessened his suffering and humiliation?
• (What if) Job had not spent so much time questioning why all that evil had come upon him and instead just immediately cried out for mercy and help?
How much worry, suffering, stress, heartache, and pain could you or I avoid by going straight to the Lord for help instead of spending time wallowing in the mire?

If God is dealing with you about a particular sin in your life, of course that must be dealt with. Don’t waste time trying to justify yourself to God. Repent! Turn from wrong actions. But even that requires help from the Lord. He is the one who gives you grace to turn away from wrong behavior. The point is to do it as quickly as possible.
Don’t spend three days in the stomach of a fish when you know the way to get out.
Don’t spend seven years in madness when you know the cure.
Don’t spend every bit of your material possessions trying to fit into the world.
Don’t spend time trying to get God to explain Himself to you.

Whatever unpleasant circumstance you are facing, the solution is the same. Salvation comes from the Lord. What a relief.

Satan works to keep your eyes upon your sorrow, trouble, and tribulation. His purpose and desire is to keep you discouraged and in despair. Jonah, Nebuchadnezzar, the prodigal, and Job all spent a lot of time looking at their problems. Satan had them right where he wanted them. And then – they looked up! They looked above their problems. They looked to the Lord for help.

We need to look to the Lord for help, too.
It is simple really. When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we too, like Peter, can ‘walk on water’.
When we look at our problems instead, we are overwhelmed and begin to sink back into despair.
What I think happens that strengthens us to look up is that a life overwhelmed with troubles and problems simply becomes too much to tolerate. At some point we cry, ‘Help! I have to have some relief!’ Then we look up and our help comes to us from the Lord.

I know when my sister died I was overwhelmed. I started to look up for some relief. For a long time it felt like my neck was on a swivel. First I would look up to the Lord and get a few seconds of relief. Then I would look back at my loss and be overwhelmed again. Gradually I started looking up more than I looked down. That is how I got through it. There was no solution to that dilemma except to make an adjustment to a new normal without my sister.

As difficult as that was, there was no uncertainty about the outcome. I knew she was dead and that my family and I had no choice but to make the adjustment. It may be that events with an uncertain outcome are more difficult to deal with. For instance, if a job is lost people don’t know what is going to happen. Will they lose their home? Will their retirement fund and life savings be eaten up? What if someone gets sick when there is no insurance? Will they even be able to pay the electric bill and the water bill? What is going to happen? A million different worries attack from every side. The situation is dire, and no one should make light of it. Likely there will be some very difficult days ahead for those facing job loss. The solution is still the same. Look up! Help comes from the Lord. That is the only place from whence it comes. God may route His help through a variety of earthly means, but the actual help is still coming from the Lord.

If you take everything collectively, Satan is constantly attacking you personally, your family, your church, your job, your country, and every single person, place, or thing you hold dear. If one whale doesn’t swallow you another one will! The circumstances are dire. Things really are bad! It is time to look for help! Don’t waste your time soaking in your trouble like you soak in a hot tub after a stressful day. Look up! God will either deliver you from your trouble, or walk with you right through the middle of it.

Psalm 121 is a rock for those facing trouble. This is Matthew Henry’s commentary on this chapter.
The safety of the godly.
We must not rely upon men and means, instruments and second causes. Shall I depend upon the strength of the hills? upon princes and great men? No; my confidence is in God only. Or, we must lift up our eyes above the hills; we must look to God who makes all earthly things to us what they are. We must see all our help in God; from him we must expect it, in his own way and time. This psalm teaches us to comfort ourselves in the Lord, when difficulties and dangers are greatest. It is almighty wisdom that contrives, and almighty power that works the safety of those that put themselves under God's protection. He is a wakeful, watchful Keeper; he is never weary; he not only does not sleep, but he does not so much as slumber. Under this shade they may sit with delight and assurance. He is always near his people for their protection and refreshment. The right hand is the working hand; let them but turn to their duty, and they shall find God ready to give them success. He will take care that his people shall not fall. Thou shalt not be hurt, neither by the open assaults, nor by the secret attempts of thine enemies. The Lord shall prevent the evil thou fearest, and sanctify, remove, or lighten the evil thou feelest. He will preserve the soul, that it be not defiled by sin, and disturbed by affliction; he will preserve it from perishing eternally. He will keep thee in life and death; going out to thy labour in the morning of thy days, and coming home to thy rest when the evening of old age calls thee in. It is a protection for life. The Spirit, who is their Preserver and Comforter, shall abide with them for ever. Let us be found in our work, assured that the blessings promised in this psalm are ours.

Barbara Henderson

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