Jonah Chapter 2: Repent (Part 1)

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So there he is; squeezed into the stomach of a giant fish that God had prepared for him. He had been running from God, but all along, God was running after him. He sent the great fish (representing grace) to save him from the storm (representing God’s wrath.)

This is phase #2 of the story. Repentance is the theme of the chapter as Jonah moves from religion and rebellion to repentance.

Now, repentance is the first step of a bigger process called spiritual breakthrough. It’s best described as moving to a new level of relationship with God. You might have experienced this very thing at summer camp as a teen, a holiday service, or a spiritual retreat. Maybe you were convicted. You knew what you needed to stop doing and what you needed to begin doing instead. Jonah had that moment here.

But it wasn’t a walk in the park. This breakthrough came as a result of a seriously painful, even life-threatening, experience that brought about repentance. Don’t be fooled by the cartoon depictions of this moment. Jonah wasn’t walking around inside a stomach. He wasn’t playing on the ribs like a xylophone or playing with the others fishies in there. He was more likely squeezed inside this disgusting, wretched smelling digestive system. Literally being burned by the stomach acids as it tried to digest him. He was raw, he was slimy, he was stinking horribly, thirsty, hungry, lonely, awkward, and broken hearted.

There is a week in the Navy Seal training known as, “Hell Week.” On average, only 25% make it through this part of training. Imagine, on the first night, you are awakened from your sleep with guns firing inside your bunker, and concussion grenades exploding to make your head spin. All that can be made out in the yelling is orders to crawl on your belly across pavement and sand into the ice-cold sea. Thus begins Hell Week, and from that moment on you’re given only minutes of sleep at a time for the rest of the week.

You are ordered constantly to perform hundreds of pushups, sit ups, and pull ups. You are made to perform torturous water training for hours at a time. Swimming. Army crawling. And more swimming. On the first day of Hell Week the sergeants make you take all of your clothes from your suitcase, soak them in the ocean and drag them through the sand and neatly put them back in your suitcase, so your skin is rubbed raw by the sand and water. You’ll have blisters, scabs, and open wounds the entire week and just when it couldn’t get any worse, you’re thrown into the salty ocean for the thousandth time.

There is a constant yelling, whistling, shoving, insulting, and testing to build your commitment. Soldiers are made to carry boats and huge logs and even each other with literally no sleep in days. Several men have actually died during this training week.

But what makes all of this unbearable is the constant temptation of donuts, coffee, and blankets offered to you if you just quit. Basically, Navy Seal training is created to make the strongest men cry. They want to weed out the weak links. But in reality, what they’re doing is strengthening their soldiers. Because the drill sergeants know that if these soldiers are going to be effective in combat, they have to be strengthened. They must be brought to a point of breaking, so they can be built back up.

Sometimes God allows us to go through extreme circumstances to break us. And we’re given a choice. Choice #1. Quit on God. Which usually involves getting angry, getting depressed, getting deeper into sin, and therefore staying broken. Or choice #2. Have an experience of repentance where God is allowed to build you back up the way He wants. See, God was preparing Jonah in the belly of the fish. He wanted to break Jonah, not so that he would quit and give up, but so he would repent and have spiritual breakthrough.

Sometimes God puts us through terrible circumstances to bring about spiritual breakthrough, starting with repentance.

There were some lessons that Jonah learned in the belly of the whale that radically changed his life and moved him to a new level of spirituality. In my next few posts I’m going to investigate the lessons learned in the digestive system of a fish.

James Robinson has been the Youth Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, TX since June 2014. He was drawn to work with students because he believes teenagers are in a highly moldable stage of life where it is absolutely imperative they allow the Gospel to identify who they are. As a Student Pastor, James says he has the inexpressible joy of regularly speaking that life-shaping Gospel into the students' lives.