As a prophet of God it’s not that I have trouble hearing from the LORD. I heard him just fine. But what he asked me to do…I just couldn’t. I truly hate those Ninevites. Why would the LORD want to save them? Why warn them anyway? They won’t change.
With Nineveh decaying to the east of me, I headed west as fast as I could. I selected Tarshish for its remote location. In a fit of insanity I boarded a ship heading far away from God and his plan for me.
Once at sea I buried myself deep into the ship and succumbed to exhaustion. Next thing I know men are shaking me, their faces flush with panic. We were being thrown about by the raging sea. I could hear the ship groaning and threatening to splinter with each surge. Lots were cast and all eyes were on me for an explanation as to the cause of this storm. I told them what I had done and that God was angry with me. I told them to throw me overboard to calm the sea, but they wouldn’t have it.
Soon they discovered that it would be necessary to rid the ship of me in order to save themselves. They all cried out to the LORD for mercy as I was heaved over the side. Engulfing waters swirled and seaweed wrapped around my head as I gasped my final breath.
I struggled to choose between drowning and swimming but the LORD made the choice for me. At once a huge fish appeared, moving right at me with an open mouth. I thought— I would rather drown than be eaten. The fish swallowed me whole. Just as I thought I could not hold my breath for another second, my shoulder hit something solid causing me to exhale and gasp impulsively. That’s when I realized I was no longer submerged.
I breathed in deep and was overcome by the stench of…I don’t know what. I tried to open my eyes when I realized that they were already open. I was buried alive in the belly of this fish! The blackness that surrounded me was heavier than I could bear. Breathing, crying, blinking—nothing helped. I was banished from the sight of my LORD.
Day 1 – I’m not feeling at all well. Death seems inevitable, yet…why am I not dead? Those wicked Ninevites are to blame for this. LORD, how could you choose them over me? I cry out to the LORD but he will not hear me from my stinking grave. Still exhausted from the trauma of my near drowning and the terror of this darkness, my only option seems to be sleep. And so I sleep.
Day 2 – Not aware of the change from day to night and back to morning, I can only guess that another day has passed. My stomach is grumbling. I’m not sure if I shall die of starvation, suffocation, or loneliness. Has my LORD forgotten me here? Oh, what have I done? Would it have been worse to obey than to endure this death?
Day 3 – Hunger pangs wake me and remind me that I have no hope. Oh, LORD! I have sinned against you. Hear my prayer and rescue me! With a song of thanksgiving, I look toward his holy temple. My salvation shall come from the LORD! I make a promise to him that I will do as he asked me. If he will rescue me I will go to Nineveh and give them his message.
After three days and nights in the belly of the fish, my heart had changed and the LORD heard my cries. My host became restless. Something was different, I could feel it. It was still pitch black, but my ears were sensing a change in the pressure. The membranes that surrounded me began to spasm and contract forcing my body to react uncontrollably.
Like a baby being born, I emerged from the fish with a violent thrust. As I tumbled onto the sand, the light blinded me. I laid on the shore with my eyes closed absorbing the warm sunshine into my shriveled skin and eyelids. Eventually my eyes opened and I offered sacrifices to the LORD who saved me from sure death.
I still hate those filthy people of Nineveh but I will do as the LORD commands and tell them to change their evil ways—or else.
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